Covering all aspects of the out-of-home entertainment landscape, industry specialist Kevin Williams, in his latest column, Virtual Arena is one of the first to try out London’s latest immersive experience. Chaos Kart; that pushes the boundaries of high octane mixed reality entertainment.
Much of the idea of immersing a player in a virtual space was achieved through the use of a VR headset. But developments are underway to provide a wider immersive experience for large groups of gamers, where they can all share the visual representation, without the need for bulky glasses or headsets. And recently, we’ve seen an explosion in the launch of “Immersive Display Environments” (IDE) using the latest laser projection technology.
The UK became home to a first such attraction in the heart of the capital and we were fortunate to be one of the first to try this amazing experience. Called Chaos Kart – a group of indescribable speakers, located near Brick Lane in east London, lurk inside a big secret. This is what has been described by operators as “the ultimate karting experience”.
Designed by The Ents Inc., in conjunction with Little Lion Entertainment (known for their work on “Crystal Maze LIVE”), created an immersive kart experience that combines physical electric karts with a play space that is a “Circuit themed racing. ”Achieved in part through the use of over 32 high-end projection systems. The space was mapped, with the physical movement of racing vehicles and their interaction with the virtual elements of the space followed.
the Chaos Kart The experience is achieved through two key elements – the immersive display environment and the racing vehicle. Modified go-karts allow players to navigate the virtual racing circuit, but also interact with the virtual and physical world. Steering wheel mounted buttons allow players to launch collected Power-Ups to the front and rear of their vehicle. With a screen to inform the player of the collected items and their score, as they roll over gems.
This is the closest that can be achieved to actually be scaled down and placed in a real world version of Mario kart. The “gamification” of the traditional karting experience has been masterfully accomplished and so convincing. The current attraction features three immersive themed racing circuits to compete against, with players running, collecting points as well as items they can throw to disable their opponents.
The Chaos Kart site charges players over the age of 13 £ 44 (with off-peak tickets at £ 33), to participate in an hour-long race and play experience. By arriving on the scene and signing (in addition to creating their own avatar), they are then “shrunk”. And in groups taken to the track to play in sessions, experience six races in each of the three different courses. The players are informed of their activities in the race by their Game Master and his computer sidekick “Chipp-E”. The whole experience feels like a big video game, and the developers have worked hard to create a fun and competitive space.
As noted, this is the first UK mixed reality gaming experience of its kind, but Chaos Karts isn’t the only immersive karting experience to roll out internationally. In Europe, nine installations of the ‘BattleKart’ brand have been launched. Again, using map projection systems to create the immersive racetrack, a system that offers a slightly less sophisticated approach, but has proven to be equally popular with its player base.
These are just the first examples of full IDE experiences being deployed in the out-of-home entertainment industry. Projection-mapping systems delivering a level of saturation fidelity and resolution unattainable with current VR headsets, and we can expect to report on the next generation of immersive environment entertainment venues opening very soon.