VR is creating new realities for theme parks, consumers, and marketers

As the rapid development of immersive technologies continues to blur the line between real and virtual worlds, it has also stirred the evolution of consumer experience in the marketing world.

John Watkins Jr, The VOID CEO for Asia, a pioneering company that provides immersive VR experiences, Sharon Kwok asks him about how enterprises and consumers will move closer to adopting immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR).

Based in the US, The VOID is located in four countries with six experience centres in the United States, three locations in Canada, one location in Dubai, UAE, and one in Asia. At these locations, The VOID aims to transform what was once an isolated activity into a dynamic and social event.

“At The VOID experience centres, visitors at one second are standing on solid ground, the next they are fending off danger from another realm. This whole experience ensures that visitors are taken a step further into an alternate universe, in particular, using digital worlds mapped over physical stages with immersive and interactive sensory elements that empower each visitor’s journey and places them, moving freely, inside impossible worlds,” he said.

Watkins said the immersive VR experience creates a completely immersive perceived reality, blending the virtual with the physical, which differentiates it apart from any other experiences. This has formed an attractive new tool for marketers and businesses who are looking for new ways to increase consumer engagement and enhance customer experience.

With the immersive VR experience, businesses can encourage customers to become active participants in the storyline, whereby they can see, touch, feel and even smell their surroundings. Entertainment theme parks worldwide are taking advantage of this technology.

“The entertainment theme parks are faced with new challenges due to the rise of consumer demands. Essentially, they need to find new ways to present unique attractions and more real-life immersive user experiences,” he said.


Entrance to The VOID experience centre at Resorts World Genting.

In late 2018, Resorts World Genting, Malaysia, partnered with The VOID and opened a 7,000 square foot experience centre featuring “Ralph Breaks VR”, an original immersive virtual reality experience created by ILMxLAB and The VOID, in collaboration with Walt Disney Animation Studios’ film Ralph Breaks the Internet, alongside other epic experiences such as Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment.

“The creators have successfully merged the hyper-reality experience with big movie brands such as Star Wars which is a great pull for visitors of all ages,” said Edward Holloway, executive vice-president of leisure and hospitality at Resorts World Genting.

According to Resorts World Genting, the Millennial market has a significant interest in virtual reality attractions, most likely due to the adventurous experiences they can provide. This continues to expand with the resort receiving 25.9 million visitors in total in 2018. To cater to this growing demand, Resorts World Genting will be opening new VR centres in addition to The VOID’s attractions.

“Entertainment theme parks must always keep themselves abreast with trends and the demand of consumers. As one of the oldest theme park operators in Malaysia, we have committed ourselves to delivering the best and most cutting-edge trends in entertainment. In today’s market, this means embracing virtual reality, and delivering it in a way which resonates best with our markets.”

Holloway pointed out that when choosing a VR experience, the company will look at the product offering and technology obsolescence, as well as weighing how to present these unique offerings and immersive experiences for the best ROI, visitor take-up and repeat custom.

“It also has to be exciting enough for holidaymakers to pay for, and unique enough for people to want to do it again. After the experience, the gamers will walk back into a world which is as equally immersive, and as exciting as the one they just left in virtual reality. In a sense, it is life mimicking art.”

Resorts World Genting, Malaysia, is The VOID’s first partner in Asia, under its plan to expand to China, as well as other parts of Asia. This new attraction is an investment of about US$2.4 million.

“Through the installation of The VOID at such a popular theme park, we hope that it could help elevate our entry into the Asian virtual reality market. The opening of this attraction at the entertainment hub has so far received a great response from the audience comprising of holidaymakers namely from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and China.”

Apart from retail and entertainment theme parks, Watkins sees an expansion of these technologies into different industries, creating a whole new outlook for them.

For example, the education industry can adapt the immersive VR experience to realise a future school field trip, creating experiences that simulate amazing places around the world, allowing students to visit and interact with different cultures, travel back in time or explore the universe.

“Immersive experiences such as these can drive successful customer campaigns and inspire customers by leaving them with a memorable experience. Cutting-edge technologies like VR and AR are at the forefront of developing new and unique experiences. With the emergence of immersive VR experiences, users are really a part of the storytelling allowing them to truly be a part of the brand journey,” Watkins said.

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