Step inside the action cube, where the floor can move, and you’re transported to a different world. That’s the excitement that AI Solve wants to create with its foray into VR: WePlayVR. The self-contained cube is a modular experience, meaning it can be changed freely to support an arcade operator expanding as necessary.
This is a big deal for game centers, which have become something of the public face for VR. But it’s also a big deal for home VR users because it uses a lot of the same technology we have access to. Here’s a look at the tech behind WePlayVR to stimulate some thinking for your own home gym.
The WePlayVR Kit
Let’s begin by taking a look at the backpack they use, and then we’ll dive into specifics that are important to be aware of.
You might recall we had previously suggested users avoid these devices, but the experiences of WePlayVR are showing how backpacks have improved. Still rigid and a little clunky, but better-cooling systems improve mobility. “Advanced Silent Cooling System” almost certainly points to water cooling. The MSI VR One uses water cooling and is fairly silent in practice.
It’s important that the content is created for WePlayVR. Thinking out loud, one starts to wonder how well a water cooling system would hold up doing squats in Hot Squat or flailing around in Thrill of the Fight or Gorn.
The backpack is powered by an i7 and a GTX 1070, about on par with what we would expect for a high-end VR experience designed for the Vive. The headset is the Vive, and that no doubt influences the size and structure of the modular play area as well.
The backpacks also give operators at least two hot-swappable batteries. Battery life is the single greatest challenge that wireless or untethered VR faces right now, and WePlayVR looks to be running about 1.5 hours before swapping is necessary. In our opinion, this should be more than enough time for anyone of any fitness level to maintain a steady workout session in VR. However, batteries do wear over time. Replacements would ensure sessions are uninterrupted and the operating time remains steady.
Props and Extras
There are also some game-specific 4D props that include wall paneling for a fuller sense of immersion. Each tile can move individually, providing a 4D experience of ground moving or unsafe spots like traps. Players can also feel a sense of “movement” or transport via elevators or platforms in game. You may recall similar techniques were used in the Trailscape experience from Merrell.
There isn’t really a home equivalent to this kind of locomotion. This raises the question of why more developers aren’t tailoring experiences for rooms of a certain size. The answer is most likely market size, but even smaller experiences packaged within a larger game could provide a fuller sense of immersion for those going un-tethered.
AI Solve offers a setup with four racing chairs and an additional cube, suggesting they may be looking at how to combine all of these units within a single experience. There’s a lot of untapped potential here, but the downside is the system can be a costly investment (with reports ranging somewhere around $55,000 for a basic setup, and $10,000 per year in licensing fees).
Bringing the Experience Home
Outside of the bespoke content, and some of the 4D hardware, it’s largely possible to duplicate this experience at home. Roomscale has come a surprisingly long way for a sense of exploration and immersion, and some of our readers enjoy just getting lost in a VR world on off days to get the blood flowing.
The trend we notice in these games is an emphasis on a non-violent yet still thrilling experience. This suggests kids and parents will play together, and we think that’s a big sell for VR in your home. Not only do you get the fitness benefit, the intuitive controls mean everyone can play together.
Expect WePlayVR to get more visibility in Q2, but there are a handful of locations currently hosting the device. You will most likely find one at a Dave and Busters style game center, so be sure you give this immersive VR experience a try. While not as high on the fitness value, you do get to sample untethered VR (which is incredible, if not a little awkward).