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Utah Will Soon Have an Imaginary Theme Park

In 2016, virtual reality fanatics will step into a VR “VOID”

This architectural drawing shows the VOID that will soon take over suburban Salt Lake City. (The VOID)
smithsonian.com

Deep in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, gun-wielding treasure hunters shoot predators and dodge dangerous bullets. It’s not the world’s most dangerous theme park—but it is slated to be the world’s first fake one. Rachel Metz of the MIT Technology Review reports that Salt Lake City will soon have its own VR wonderland called The VOID.

Short for “Vision of Infinite Dimensions,” The VOID will mix virtual reality with real-life effects like handheld weapons, heat and wind, and other objects that turn its simulations into immersive worlds of their own. Metz writes that the park is the creation of Ken Bretschneider, an entrepreneur who has translated his interest in physical-world adventures, including an annual haunted house, into virtual ones.

The park, which is being compared to “a real-life Holodeck,” is currently in beta testing. Hosted on a sixty square-foot stage, participants will don VR helmets, gloves and a vest filled with wires and feedback monitors. Then they enter a themed world complete with scenarios that encourage group play. During the experience, participants can pick up real-life objects and feel sensations of heat, cold, water or wind that make it all the more real.

The VOID recently sold a limited number of beta test experiences in a nearby stage that’s half the size of the real thing. Testers chose between two experiences—combing through a mysterious, futuristic research facility and exploring a temple for long-lost treasure.

Clearly, the planned park won’t be just a game of more complicated laser tag. Its equipment will be far more expensive and complex, and the experience highly customizable. On The VOID’s website, the company states that, starting in late 2016 when doors open, players will be able to experience “everything from haunted castles to dinosaur safaris to futuristic battlefields.” 

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