Is virtual reality zombie-themed the new Halloween haunted house experience?

It’s quiet…almost very quiet. Everything is pitch black. You are completely alone, lost in the dark. Once you start to wonder if this whole thing is a huge mistake, the explosion of vision and sound magically lifts you out of the empty void. You have been saved – but what awaits you is much worse …

Or so I thought, as I stared at my surroundings at Deadwood Valley.

Well, actually, I was at the Sandbox VR location in San Francisco to experience their new horrific zombie-themed experience, and what might end up being the future of the traditional haunted house. If your idea of ​​Halloween includes being scared to shreds in a dilapidated house on the fairgrounds, there is another, more terrifying option.

Before we get into all that, let’s go back a little. Virtual reality is virtual reality, an immersive technology that removes you from your physical environment and transports you into an incredibly realistic virtual environment, where you can actually see and interact with your surroundings. How does one emulate – and arguably replace – reality?

Sandbox VR founder and CEO Steve Zhao took a minute from his work in Hong Kong to explain:

Sandbox VR guests in gaming gear (Courtesy Sandbox VR)
Sandbox VR Guests Experience Courtesy Sandbox VR (Courtesy Sandbox VR)

“We have patented motion tracking technology that captures the motions and movement of a player’s entire body around space, so there is no gap between what your body experiences and what you see, hear and feel. We use a customized, high-quality haptic system that provides players with unprecedented realism and complete immersion. It takes development Each experience is about a year, and we invest that time to ensure our experiences are the most exciting and immersive.”

Hollywood-style action cameras, precise 3D body trackers, custom hardware and haptic suits allow Sandbox to create its own realities for our entertainment. From what I’ve tried, though, “entertainment” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

After filling out the required compromises, my friends and I were fitted with motion sensors on our wrists and ankles. Choosing “weapons” for the experiment took more time and thought than expected. Choices and choices. Do I use a saw or a gun? How about a flamethrower? And playing it safe, I settled on a pair of lightweight, high-tech pistols. It soon became clear that this was the right choice, because as my friends later complained, saws and flamethrowers can only do damage once the zombies are already too close to rest!

Sandbox VR guests in gaming gear (Courtesy Sandbox VR)
Sandbox VR Guests Experience Courtesy Sandbox VR (Courtesy Sandbox VR)

Our guide was waiting for us in a completely empty room next door, as he began to equip us, one by one, with equipment. There was a jacket, backpack, weapons and of course the VR glasses. Unexpectedly, this part of the process proved to be almost as scary as the incoming dead zombie creatures. While you’re standing there in your headset, waiting for your guide to fit in with everyone else, you can’t see or hear anything. Think of a sensory deprivation tank, with no idea how long you’ll be there.

Suddenly, everyone’s headphones turned on – and after a short tutorial – we were promptly pushed into the game. It is not free for everyone or zombie shooting group. There is a true story: We are military personnel on a mission to find and rescue the only doctor who has a tale about this endemic epidemic.

Sandbox VR's
Experience Deadwood Valley in Sandbox VR (Courtesy Sandbox VR) (Courtesy Sandbox VR)

Unfortunately, my team failed miserably. We’re sorry to drop the ball at everything preventing the apocalypse, but in our defense, it’s hard to focus on the story when you’re bombarded from all sides by annoyingly realistic, running for your life on a level scary zombie.

It might be annoying, Zhao admits, but that’s what you signed up for, and Sandbox won’t do, if you’re not really afraid for your life.

“If we don’t find something scary, we keep working on it until we do,” he says. “We know we’ve hit the gold, when we’ve had visitors play games in the middle of our crowded office, screaming their innocence.”

Oh, we did. I don’t think I ever heard myself or any of my friends make the sounds we did that day. I’ve played countless zombie video games and visited a lot of haunted houses in my life, but I’ve really never experienced anything like this.

After that, the only thing I was thinking about was…this might be the next big thing. I can’t help but ask Zhao if he thinks virtual reality experiences like Deadwood Valley are the future of Halloween haunted houses everywhere.

He says, “Yes, I do.” “The best haunted houses are the most immersive, with characters and special effects coming at you from all angles. But nothing is more immersive than high-quality, free-roaming virtual reality, where the action is literally happening all around you, 360 degrees. You don’t just watch the action. , but already participating in it. I became one of the stars.”

Sandbox VR's
Experience Deadwood Valley in Sandbox VR (Courtesy Sandbox VR) (Courtesy Sandbox VR)

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