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The Virtual Arena

The Virtual Arena: The Virtual Game Space

Kevin Williams ditches the VR headset for a new mixed reality experience.

Covering all aspects of the Out-of-Home entertainment landscape, industry specialist Kevin Williams, in his latest Virtual Arena column is one of the first to try London’s latest immersive experience Chaos Kart; which pushes the boundaries of hi-octane Mixed Reality Entertainment.

Chaos Karts

Much of the thinking of immersing a player in a virtual space has been via using a VR headset. But there are developments being made to offer a wider immersive experience to large groups of players, where they all can share the visual representation, without the need for glasses or cumbersome head-mounted displays. And recently we have seen an explosion in the launching of “Immersive Display Environments” (IDE) using the latest laser projection technology.

The UK became the home of a first of its kind attraction in the heart of the capital and we were lucky enough to be one of the first to try out this amazing experience. Called Chaos Karts – a group of nondescript enclosures, located near Brick Lane in East London, hides inside a big secret. This is what has been labelled by the operators as the “ultimate Go-Karting experience”.

Chaos Karts

Engineered by The Ents Inc., working with Little Lion Entertainment (known for their work on the ‘Crystal Maze LIVE’), have created an immersive go-kart experience that combines physical electric go-karts with a game space that is an “Immersive Themed Race Circuit”. Achieved in part, through the use of over 32 high-end projection systems. The space has been mapped out, with the physical movement of the racing vehicles, and their interaction with virtual elements of the space tracked.

Chaos Karts

The Chaos Karts experience is achieved through two key elements – the Immersive Display Environment and the racers vehicle. The modified go-karts allow the players to race around the virtual race circuit, but also interact with the virtual and physical world. Steering wheel mounted buttons allow players to launch collected Power-Ups forward and backward of their vehicle. With a display to inform the player of collected items and their score, as they drive over gems.

Chaos Karts

This is the closest that can be achieved to actually being shrunk down and placed in a real-world version of Mario Kart. The “Gamification” of the traditional go-kart experience was masterfully achieved, and so compelling. The current attraction offers three immersive themed race circuits to compete on, with players racing around, collecting points along with items that they can launch to disable opponents.

Chaos Karts

The Chaos Kart venue charges £44 for players over the age of 13, (with off-peak ticket prices at £33), to take part in an hour-long racing and gaming experience. On arriving at the venue and signing, (along with creating their own avatar), they are then “shrunk”. And in groups taken to the track to play in sessions, experiencing six races in each of the three different courses. The players are briefed on their activities in the race by their Game Master, and his computer sidekick “Chipp-E”. The whole experience feels like one big video game, and the developers have worked hard to create an enjoyable and competitive space.

As stated, this is the first UK mixed reality gaming experience of this kind – but Chaos Karts is not the only immersive go-kart experience being rolled out Internationally. In Europe, nine facilities of the ‘BattleKart’ brand have been launched. Again, using projection mapping systems to create the immersive racecourse, a system that offers a slightly less sophisticated approach, but has proven equally as popular with its player-base.

These are just the first examples of complete IDE experiences that are being rolled out into the Out-of-Home entertainment sector. Projection-Mapping systems offering a level of fidelity of saturation and resolution that are unachievable from the current VR headsets, and we can expect to report on the next crop of immersive environment entertainment venues opening very soon.   

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