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The Future is Virtual

Virtual reality experiences offer exciting ways to engage with destinations. We look at emerging VR technology and the best ways to experience it.

WORDS Seamus Byrne

What would it feel like to be right there at the finish line of a Melbourne Cup? Or in the thick of it at the MCG as your team wins the AFL Grand Final? We can’t all be lucky enough to be on the scene for every amazing moment, but with virtual reality, we can feel the magic of these moments as if we were there.
After a long history of ‘maybe one day’ promises, it’s been an exciting decade of evolution for virtual reality. In 2012, the Oculus Rift was first revealed, paving the way for a range of increasingly powerful VR headsets that have become lighter, smarter, more and more wireless, and higher in quality with each step forward.

Today, there is a wide range of virtual reality experiences and devices, no matter what you’re looking for. There are personal headsets from companies such as Oculus and HTC for home and mobile use. There’s large-scale virtual reality gaming from Australian owned Zero Latency, a VR centre where you run freely around a warehouse with friends. There are pod-based experiences that let you seamlessly immerse yourself into amazing real-world moments, such as Melbourne Skydeck’s Voyager Theatre, and that’s just to name a few.

One of Australia’s leading producers of virtual reality entertainment is Dominic Allen, Director of Reddogs VR – the company that created the film shown in Skydeck’s Voyager Theatre. Reddogs VR rose to prominence with Carriberrie in 2017, a VR documentary that celebrates Aboriginal song and dance, with 150 dancers from around the country shot at nine locations. It has featured at museums and art galleries, as well as at Cannes Film Festival.

“We specialise in live action virtual reality, which is different to 3D computer-generated virtual reality,” says Allen. “The live action stuff allows people to be transported to geographical and other places that they would not be able to access and brings them face to face with people they wouldn’t otherwise get to see. With Skydeck Voyager Theatre, we aimed to heighten the visitor experience and give people a memorable, high impact entertainment event that will stay with them long after they leave.”

Skydeck Voyager Theatre takes participants through 25 locations across Victoria. Along with those amazing MCG and Melbourne Cup moments, you’ll be on court with Rafael Nadal as he wins the Australian Open, sitting in a convertible driving the Great Ocean Road, visiting Bell’s Beach, and riding on a Luna Park roller coaster.

“It gives an enhanced sense of reality, taking you to people and places you just couldn’t do any other way,” says Allen.

“It gives an enhanced sense of reality, taking you to places you just couldn’t do any other way.”
Skydeck Voyager Theatre VR also features motion pods by Positron, with movement, vibration and scents that match the virtual reality moments you’re experiencing. And you can do it all alongside your friends and family. “The key thing about these location-based venues is that they can be social events,” says Allen. “VR at home tends to be a more private experience, whereas these venues offer the ability for a group of people to share a trip into virtual reality. You can enjoy it together and then talk about it afterwards.”

Reddogs VR has also created another VR experience within Melbourne Skydeck, where you ‘walk the plank’ at the top of the building and then zipline your way through the CBD – definitely the kind of thing you’ll never get to do in real life.

Having a wide range of destination VR experiences makes it accessible for everyone, without having to invest in expensive hardware or learn how to set up your own headset at home. But things are moving fast and it won’t be long before VR, and its close cousin augmented reality (AR), could be part of our daily lives.

Like when it revolutionised the smartphone with its iPhone, Allen sees Apple releasing its own AR or VR headset as a particularly big moment he thinks could come as soon as 2023. “This time next year it could be a very different space,” says Allen. “When there’s talk of headsets replacing handsets in coming years, it’s looking like a big future.”

Melbourne Skydeck’s Voyager Theatre takes guests on an immersive 360- degree cinematic journey travelling through 16 iconic Melbourne experiences with 6-D sensations. Ride Luna Park’s roller coaster, smell coffee as you explore Melbourne laneways and watch the Australian Open courtside.

Tickets to the Voyager Theatre are $41 for adults and $32 for children. Or upsize your visit with the Ultimate Skydeck Experience – tickets start from $42; melbourneskydeck.com.

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