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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Cheat Sheet: What's the Deal With Location-Based VR

Sorry, skeptics: Virtual reality is growing faster than you thought it would. You’re just looking in the wrong place. Millions of people are leaving their homes for the visceral experience of location-based VR, which has become a billion-­dollar business.

What It Is

Location-based entertainment encompasses theme parks, arcades, entertainment centers like Dave & Buster’s, and even movie theaters. In this context, VR can be as simple as a business buying a few Oculus Rifts and PCs and charging people to play popular games in public. However, companies like the VOID and Dreamscape Immersive have set themselves apart by breaking through arcade walls and creating bespoke, high-end experiences where people can roam freely. Users can even share real-world props that are tracked in VR.

Why It Works

It’s not that people don’t want to use VR—it’s that doing it at home is still the province of early adopters. We likely won’t see fully immersive, fully wireless stand-alone headsets until early next year. And even after that, dedicated facilities will likely always offer more than what you can do in your living room. It’s why people still go to movie theaters, and it’s why location-based VR has been the savior of the industry thus far.

What's Next

It’s not all virtual roses: IMAX recently shut down two sites in its VR pilot program. But the spread continues worldwide, with giant facilities opening in places such as Guizhou, China, and Dubai this year. According to VR research firm Greenlight Insights, the market will balloon to more than $8 billion in North America by 2023. While we’ll all be much more used to headsets by then, we’ll also want something special from time to time—something we just can’t get at home.

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