‘Artainment’ rises worldwide on evolving immersive display technology

6 min read

The growth of social entertainment has spawned a surge of global interest in immersive rooms and what are called "Immersive Display Environments," also known as IDEs.

Many of the developments in immersive digital experiences have been evolving from the development of what some have dubbed "Cinema 2.0" — an attempt to create a successor to the movie theater experience.

Taking the lead in the heart of London, the Outernet London, an immersive media and entertainment business, offers both live performance space and a 2,000-square-foot 8k LED display enclosure.

Along with showing specially commissioned experiences, the building will be used as a licensed music venue and exhibition space, able to accommodate over 2,000 guests. The space has been designed to accommodate music, film, art, gaming and retail experiences.

In summarizing this approach to IDE, we need to also include the investment in what has been dubbed the "artainment" (museum and gallery) sector, utilizing this immersive environment approach to create a narrative engagement with audiences. The ability to create an exhibition, based on a digital representation of the subject or artist, can be easily installed in a suitable space and offers the wonders of IDE. These benefits have boosted the concept's popularity.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth, U.K. has seen the opening of the "Immersive Mary Rose Exhibition" — a projection-based portrait of the historic sinking of the Tudor warship in the Battle of the Solent in 1545. Developed in partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the Mary Rose Trust, the exhibition is supported by interactive touchscreens along with multimedia displays.

Interaction with on-screen characters

Back in August, an interactive audience screen platform called "Magic Screen" debuted that allows real-time interaction with on-screen live characters. Developed in a joint venture between Alevy Productions and Super 78 Studios, the system employs the world's first interactive platform for audience-based, animated and live content. The system is proposed to be deployed in cinemas and other out-of-home entertainment attractions.

The platform has been supported by Microsoft, NVIDIA, Unity and several other technology providers, producing Super 78 Studios' live-character animation based around its "Geppetto" system — seen in park attractions such as "Smurf's Village Playhouse" at Motiongate.

The "Magic Screen" platform will build on this experience to create a cloud-based content delivery platform for interactive live-character audience experiences, distributed by the MetaMedia Entertainment Network with live-streaming experiences.

The interactive approach

The immersive wonder of a fully-projected environment can also be seen with Illuminarium in Las Vegas and "artainment" in a passive approach; it can be seen in the deployment of highly-interactive and active applications.

One such example is from technology and development house Hello.io, with its chain of "Hello Park" venues, with some 30 interactive digital parks internationally. The company, working in partnership with indoor adventure playground company Kidspace, has launched its "Oceanarium" — an immersive, interactive, 3D adventure at the bottom of the ocean.

It uses projection and motion tracking elements to create an experience for multiple guests to play and explore within the space, along with being able to interact with the sea creatures moving on the walls and floor within the virtual aquarium. It is the first of this kind of experience to open in Europe, offering a compelling and interactive take on the IDE approach.

Immersive sports games emerge

We have also seen an explosion in development of game spaces, or enclosures, for tracked sports game deployment. This is best illustrated by X-Golf, with 25 locations in North America, offering a social entertainment venue with golf simulation enclosures, using the latest digital screens and ball tracking – offering a host of courses and mini games.

This concept was recently joined by Topgolf Swing Suite, offering its own interpretation of the virtual golf simulator and hospitality model.

In addition to shooting golf balls, virtual shooting simulator experiences using IDE technology have been rolled into the social entertainment landscape, such as the launch of the Point Blank venues.

Building on the same approach seen with the social darts and mini-golf emporiums, the three Point Blank sites offer cocktails and meals for groups, with the entertainment provided by a state-of-the-art shooting range.

Minimum one-hour sessions using a selection of realistic laser-shooting weapons at large projected screens in each booth offer a unique entertainment experience. Owner Point Blank Shooting is currently operating three sites in the U.K., at Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Variety sports facilities

Another example of venues embracing separate attractions employing IDE has been seen with Bandai Namco Amusement's rollout of its VS Park facility. Called "variety sports facilities," these are spaces that offer highly physical game experiences based on sporting activities using large digital screens and player and object tracking.

Bandai Namco's recently opened fifth location, a 3,000-square-meter facility at the Seven Park Amami, Matsubara City, Osaka, offers a highly eclectic environment which emulates the players taking part in a zany Japanese variety TV show. Of the 24 activities, IDE experiences include "Atetare! Football," "VS Handball," "VS Archery" and "Nigekiru" – having the guest attempt to run faster over a given distance against digitally represented characters.

Sports experiences which employ IDE have been in development for some time, and the fruits of these developments are starting to appear internationally. Most recently came the news of Toca Social, a soccer-themed entertainment space which brings social entertainment to a 30,000-square-foot location.

Kick the ball!

The first of these are opening in The O2 venue in London this year. The space will see 17 virtual soccer simulator enclosures, allowing groups of guests to improve their skills in a few soccer-based game experiences. The ball is tracked as it is kicked at the targets on screen. This is also all supported by an extensive food and drink offering in a concept developed by Toca Football, a sports training and fitness operation that has now taken this concept into the social entertainment sphere, with plans to roll out more sites based on initial reactions.

The sporting and highly-active element of this approach is reminiscent of what has been achieved by Valo Motion with its projected augmented reality climbing wall (ValoClimb), along with trampoline experiences (ValoJump).

Other sports-based interactive experiences to enter the market include the "Neo-One" from NeoXperiences – an immersive projection enclosure that tracks the players' movements to create a combination of sports and entertainment.

The system offers a versatility that can be deployed in shopping malls, school environments, sports and leisure centers and at live events.

One of the new social entertainment entrants that has also heavily embraced the concept of IDE is Electric Gamebox. The company has developed its multi-player, projected, immersive gaming pods concept with a selection of games and a unique tracking system (via players' hats), first opening in London in 2019.

The operation opened its first U.S. facility in Dallas in 2020 and has plans for Chicago and Los Angeles sites. In addition, the company is expanding beyond its own standalone venues and recently partnered with entertainment facility brand Gravity Active Entertainment to open a "Gamebox" within existing locations as an additional attraction. Electric Gamebox is looking at a rollout of some 1,000 locations by 2026.

Specialized IP

The market is also seeing the entry of specific IP being created to offer a unique platform for entertainment.

Technology developer YDreams Global announced a partnership with global play and entertainment company Hasbro. YDreams is licensing the rights for brands "Peppa Pig," "PJ Masks" and "Play-Doh" to create immersive playgrounds based on the properties, initially for the Brazilian market.

The partnership will develop immersive spaces for children and families, to be rolled out in shopping malls throughout Brazil, utilizing these brands. This is a project directed at the new generation of shoppers, feeding of the demand for "retailtainment" by the mall sector.

Here come the 'chaos karts'

The ultimate example of an immersive entertainment environment, employing projection systems to superimpose a synthetic digital game experience into a game space, received a London premiere for the latest incarnation. Called "Chaos Karts" and opened near Brick Lane, the concept is a mixed reality go-kart adventure — what the developer, Ents Inc., called the "ultimate go-karting experience," seeing up to eight electric go-karts racing within a digitally created raceway.

This places the players into an interactive game space, as if living the "Mario Kart" video game. It is engineered in partnership with Little Lion Entertainment, known for its work on creating the "Crystal Maze Live Experience," creating a compelling event space.

The concept employs two vital elements, the first being the projection mapped racecourse, employing some 32 high-resolution projection systems to map the space. The second component is the inclusion of special electric-go-karts, negating the need for helmets and coveralls, comprising tracking that helps to place the vehicle in the virtual environment, as well as the collection of virtual items to add to players' scores, or to deploy as "Power Ups" to hinder the progress of fellow competitors.

Similar approaches have also been seen with the "Battle Kart" projected track experience, in partnership with RiMO electric kart. As well as from Zamperla, through its new business division Z+, recently demonstrating the "BumpArcade" product which mixes physical bumper cars with a projected environment experience.

More to come

The ability to place the guest into the heart of the game experience will see other forms of entertainment attractions and amusement given the immersive display treatment. Along with the deployment of projection systems in projection mapped applications, the use of MicroLEDs will allow for more compelling enclosures to be completely wrapped in the display medium.

The only real limitation to this application is the imagination of the graphic design studios employed to create the immersive experiences displayed on these versatile screens. As with the OOH industry looking at forced perspective 3D digital advertising, the entertainment scene will hope to enthrall a new audience with a brand new way to be part of the game!

(Editor's note: Extracts from this blog are from recent coverage in The Stinger Report, published by KWP and its director, Kevin Williams, the leading interactive out-of-home entertainment news service covering the immersive frontier and beyond.)


This article was written by Kevin Williams from Kiosk Marketplace. News Features and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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Kevin Williams