How VR is updating our favorite childhood experiences: movies, arcades, amusement parks

Virtual reality (VR) has made substantial progress in a relatively short amount of time. People can now strap on headsets and seemingly get transported to the mosh pit at a rock concert, a destination they’ve always wanted to visit or even to revisit the experiences that defined their childhoods. VR allows for heading to the cinema, achieving your best score on an arcade game or zooming down a roller coaster track — all without leaving home.

Cheer on the Acrobats and Laugh at Clowns’ Antics

When the circus came to town, you probably begged your parents to let you buy a ticket and marvel at the enormous animals and performers with their painted faces and daring assortment of tricks. Once you became a young teenager, you might have gotten interested in Cirque du Soleil instead.

It dazzles audiences with plenty of colors, extravagant stage setups and acrobats wowing everyone with unforgettable tricks. Going to a Cirque du Soleil performance is a bit surreal — and now you can indulge in it whenever you’d like.

Cirque du Soleil’s VR app allows getting immersed in one of several performances and feeling what it’s like to sit in the front row at a show in your town — cotton candy and popcorn not included.

Experience VR in Malls and Movie Theaters With Your Friends

A shopping mall seems like paradise for a middle-schooler itching for more independence. Think back to the Saturdays spent at the mall when you were a kid and you’ll probably recall how they were consistently exciting even if you never bought anything. That was often because the mall was a place where you could gather with friends and not have to worry about teachers or parents.

Some marketers want to bring back the communal enjoyment of shopping malls by installing VR equipment that lets people navigate the virtual worlds together instead of doing it alone in their living rooms.

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Mall managers struggle to give people reasons to keep coming back, especially if they can buy things on Amazon and get them delivered that same day in some cases. However, they believe that VR experiences in shopping malls could boost traffic levels and interest.

Movie theater representatives are doing the same by giving people the opportunity to try VR headsets when they see movies and thereby enjoy experiences that are richer than traditional screenings for about the same price.

VR is hitting its stride in the film industry. This year at Sundance, Oculus debuted five VR-enhanced films at the famous festival. It may not be long before a theater full of people wearing VR headsets is a common sight.

Make a Beeline for VR Arcades for Virtual Fun Without the Investment

The arcades of the past featured people who eagerly lined up to try and get the highest scores when playing PAC-MAN, Pong and Mortal Kombat, among others. People still remember those games fondly, but the arrival of VR has made them experience arcades differently.

VR equipment is getting less expensive, but it’s still out of reach for some people on tight budgets. So they head for VR arcades, which are becoming increasingly prominent. There are eight in New York alone. The arcades let people test out VR equipment and get acquainted with their favorite games without splurging on the gear.

Kids are the target market at some VR arcades, and the establishments cater to them by hosting birthday parties. However, if you’re interested in checking out an arcade as an adult, don’t worry. You can do grown-up VR activities at arcades, too, such as using the headsets to paint pictures.

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Take a Seat on Your Favorite Thrill Ride

Theme parks around the world consistently look for ways to lure in brave and daring thrill seekers who adore roller coasters and similar heart-pounding diversions. There are aficionados so devoted that they travel specifically to give their opinions on the latest rides as soon as they launch to the public.

Soon, they may not have to travel at all. Theme park engineers often incorporate VR into aspects of real rides, such as by encouraging people to use the VR equipment while sitting on a boat that floats through a themed setting. SeaWorld is one of the examples of a famous brand using VR in its rides that way.

In Denmark, people sit on actual roller coasters but travel through virtual worlds. Then, they get all-encompassing, memorable experiences that excite their senses.

Then, if you need any more proof that VR has a significant presence in the theme park industry, consider that there’s a place in China that solely offers VR rides for its customers.

Visitors can enjoy 35 rides at the 330-acre park, known as Oriental Science Fiction Valley. It’s the only one in the world that has VR within every attraction, but the destination may not have that distinction for much longer if other theme parks believe it’s a marketable approach.

Feel Like a Kid Again

There’s an old saying that you’re only as old as you feel. Unfortunately, though, schedules filled with demanding career workplace obligations, cranky youngsters and other stressful characteristics make it hard to rekindle the carefree spirit of our childhood years. Thanks to VR and the experiences it offers, you can revisit your youth.

About the author

— Nathan Sykes

Nathan is a technology and business writer interested in the impacts of new technologies on enterprise and society. Check out his blog to stay up to date with his latest articles.

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