Last month at the Asian Attractions Expo in Singapore, UK-based Holovis showed off its rideable real-time robot experience (R3ex) project. R3ex combines four/six-axis robot arm amusement ride technology with tailored VR experiences. Holovis claims its R3ex project offers users a level of superior interactivity, giving them ‘complete agency’ over the experience. This includes real-time control of the motion profile.
R3ex is an alternative/supplement to the VR-enhanced roller coaster. While it cannot replicate a roller coaster's sense of acceleration, R3ex has several advantages. First, as Holovis stated, is the greater degree of control. It is not possible to change which way a roller coaster moves, whereas the robotic arm's path can be altered (by programmer or user). Second, and here is where the potential to blur industry segmentation occurs, is the space requirement. These robotic arms, while still requiring a great deal of open room, do not demand space in the way that VR-enhanced roller coasters do. They conceivably could be operated in large warehouses (like the kind currently in use by The VOID and Zero Latency).
These robotic arm coasters (KUKA Coasters) are not cutting edge technology. This particular model was unveiled in 2015 and earlier designs have been in theme parks since 2003. So far, they have been novelties - lacking the quickness and height of regular roller coasters. Holovis' platform is giving this design new life and sparks the potential that other theme park tech can be adapted/reinvigorated for VR.
Like VR-enhanced roller coasters, software for the KUKA coaster needs to sync up to the machines physical movements perfectly. Holvois' specialized platform accomplishes this. In addition, it uses Leap Motion to provide hand-tracking so that users may interact directly with their environment. During the experience, vehicle control will be handed to each of the users in turn.
In this way, R3ex can potentially solve another of LBVRE's hurdles: a lack of specialized software. This experience is not possible in the home space but can be made available in any LBVRE location with enough open room. Holovis' software is not being ported from any existing build. It has been fully customized for the KUKA coaster rig.
Holovis is designing the experience to be hardware agnostic but current builds use an Oculus Rift headset. Experiences are designed to be between three and five minutes long. Expect more details between now and November, when the final version becomes available.
For more on the development of the LBVRE industry, read Greenlight Insights' 2017 Location-Based Virtual Reality Entertainment Market Report.