Dreamscape Immersive: A VR Experience Like No Other
In March, I checked out the first virtual reality (VR) offering from Dreamscape Immersive, Alien Zoo, and flipped for it. I wished it could stick around longer than its limited-time run. After the pop-up experience ended, the company went quiet, but they weren’t gone. Just preparing to come back bigger and better–and now they have.
My patience was rewarded with the announcement that they’d secured a permanent home for their flagship in the same Century City mall and would open with Alien Zoo and two additional attractions! I couldn’t wait. The new adventures sounded perfect for me–an undersea quest to help a whale, and an archaeological cinematic adventure. If they were anywhere close to the quality of Alien Zoo, I’d be thrilled.
The new location is a slick storefront on the second floor of an upscale mall, complete with an oversized sculpture of colorful frogcats (from Alien Zoo) out front. It’s immediately fun and enticing, in order to pull people in from shopping. The lobby is like a combination of movie theater and futuristic spaceport. Travel-inspired posters advertise the possible destinations and screens display which adventures are “Now Boarding” or “Next Departure.” Tickets look like boarding passes and prominently display 3-letter codes that look like familiar airport shorthand. While waiting, you can browse artifacts related to each adventure enclosed in wood and glass cases, as if in a museum
Under the Sea
I scheduled a trip to The Blu: Deep Rescue first. The loading bays are cozy chambers where two rows of three guests face each other. Instructions are given for the gear, which is very intuitive. Slide the foot sensors over your shoes, put on a backpack, slide the hand sensors on, and adjust the headset to your preference. It’s fast, easy, and relatively comfortable. Unlike the pop-up, that tried to preserve the behind-the-scenes mystery, you now walk into the VR space with your visor up, so you can see the blank walls, sensors, and railings. This takes very little away from the experience, but I do wonder why they opted to make the “guts” so visible.
The Blu: Deep Rescue places you on an ocean dive team, submerging to a dormant tracking station and looking for a missing whale. I love scuba diving, and whales are my favorite animal, so it was immediate love. The visuals are stunning, watching sea life swim around you, and seeing the rocks and shipwreck change colors as you point your flashlight at them. I missed an early interaction because I was too busy admiring the scenery, and then we all hopped on our individual submersible jet skis. All 6 of us were no longer in the same location, but each had our own individual ride, with different movements and angles. It was a great example of showing how VR environments can be customized to each person’s unique point of view, even while the overall adventure is the same.
The message of Deep Rescue is about the majesty of nature, of course, and my first question after it was over was “What is the youngest age that can participate?” I thought it would be great to take my niece! She’d love the fish and colors, while learning an important lesson about the ocean. However, the youngest is 10 years old (for logistical reasons like wearing the backpack), so it looks like I’ll have to wait to introduce her to VR. For adults, it’s full of wonder and beauty, but it’s also the most passive experience. I enjoyed it very much, but it may not get the adrenaline pumping enough for thrill-seekers.
Enter Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl, which has a fun premise. A lost invention from the 1930’s that allows people to step into motion pictures has been rediscovered! Guests play intrepid explorers in search of a fabulous artifact in a jungle-covered pyramid. It’s Indiana Jones-type stuff, without the baggage that comes from that particular brand. This one is much more active, with puzzles, explosions, skeletons, and a wild finale. It utilizes multiple forms of interaction and is the one most likely to get repeat visits. I liked it enough to do it twice while I was there.
The Magic Projector concept lends itself perfectly to future titles and could be Dreamscape’s brand for active adventures. It was my favorite, although I did Alien Zoo again on a whim, and it holds up well in terms of fun factor. Even Lost Pearl is family-friendly, which is a good move for a new venture. I sat down with CEO Bruce Vaughn, former Chief Creative Officer of Disney Imagineering, and co-founder Walter Parkes, former head of Dreamworks Motion Pictures. One topic we discussed was the potential for older-skewing adventures. They’re already working on that concept, including a neat idea involving different versions of the same experience. For example, the standard version of Lost Pearl could run during the day, with evening time slots bringing scarier graphics. Maybe they add more skeletons, your computerized colleague has saltier language, or maybe they could even increase the haptic vibrations for a greater jolt.
Welcome to the World of Tomorrow
That’s just one idea to grow the audience, besides the obvious possibility of designing brand new experiences for an older crowd. With three new adventures scheduled to debut in 2019, Dreamscape knows innovation and variety will be key to keeping the business a repeat destination. They have room for more than their current offerings, but at some point, they will have to start rotating them. Experiences can be swapped in and out based on things like time of day, seasonality, or current events. They do not have any licensed content yet, preferring to launch a new business without having to play by other companies’ rules. However, they are not opposed to the right fit of Intellectual Property with their technology, and at least one of the 3 new adventures next year will be an established brand.
In the same way I think it would be fun to take my niece, I also feel my parents would enjoy it. Or really, anybody who is still a VR skeptic. I believe Dreamscape offers the best first experience with virtual reality that is currently available. Everybody should experience something as high-quality as Alien Zoo, Deep Rescue, or Lost Pearl for their first time. Dreamscape knows how to showcase the beauty and potential of this new entertainment format. Significantly, they also know how to make it easy to use and accessible. If they are so successful already, surely the OASIS of “Ready Player One” can’t be far off!
Need to Know
Dreamscape is located in the Westfield Century City, at 10250 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90067. They are open every day with varying hours. Check out their website at dreamscapeimmersive.com for exact times and booking availability. Adventures depart every 10 minutes. You’ll want to arrive about 15 minutes early to sign the waiver, choose an avatar, and examine the cool displays. Each adventure is only $20 for all ages (must be 10 or older).