Sixteen years ago, James Jensen had an idea.
The light bulb turned on for him while working on the set of “Red Riding Hood.” It was the first time a tracker could be put on a camera to show directors where the actor was positioned in the computer graphic generated world. The technology was groundbreaking. And that’s the moment James began dreaming of mapping digital worlds over physical spaces.
James Jensen, chief visionary officer at THE VOID, is a passionate technologist, entrepreneur and designer who believes his company is going to save virtual reality (VR).
Earlier this year, the Huffington Post and TechCrunch published pieces addressing the challenges of in-home VR including lack of content, significant cost, and motion sickness to name a few. The coverage caught Jensen’s attention because of similar concerns he’s had for the future of VR.
“A number of people that I have been on panels with have said they have one of the at home virtual reality systems and it’s still in its box because they have no space or time to set it up, and those are people that are actually VR enthusiasts.”
CONVINCing THE MASSES
Jensen thinks VR tech is not only too expensive, but still too much of an unknown for most people.
“I feel like VR has always gotten ahead of itself. If you look at what’s happening today, you have companies that are building this amazing hardware and tech but they’re trying to sell it to people that have no idea what it is. They don’t know what the benefit is, and the experience has to be amazing or they’re not going to put down the money for it.”
He compares the current situation to if a 20th century salesman were to travel back in time to the old west.
Salesman from the future: Hey! You should buy this awesome plasma screen TV, it’s amazing! Trust me, it will be the best purchase you ever make and it only costs 2,000 bucks.
Cowboy: I don’t know about your “TV,” I’m happy with my black and white pictures. I’m not going to pay that absurd price. I have more important things to do and ways to spend my money.
Jensen says THE VOID replaces people’s need to buy their own tech in order to experience VR.
At THE VOID there are no barriers to entry, people don’t have to worry about buying the machine or head mounted display (HMD). It’s just like going to an amusement park or movie theater. They buy a ticket and have the most incredible experience they have ever had.
James believes that THE VOID will be the instigator for people purchasing at home VR systems.
“We don’t see ourselves as competitors in the the home market at all. In fact, for most people THE VOID will be their first experience in VR and eventually it will drive them to get a system at home. We hope to develop great relationships with all the at home VR companies since THE VOID plans to extend its gameplay and experiences to the home market.”
THE VOID’S RAPTURE GEAR WILL DELIVER
While the CVO personally owns every piece of VR equipment on the market, he believes that most of it isn’t fully immersing the user. In order for people to truly enjoy the experience and come back for more, they need complete sensory and emotional immersion, which James said is achievable with THE VOID RAPTURE hardware.
“We have a directional haptic feedback vest that also houses a gaming computer, we have the HMD. We have localized microphones and 3D audio that let you interact with other players and even our experiences themselves. And you’re untethered as you explore these new worlds.”
And that untethered piece? That’s the part Jensen says is crucial.
“The untethered part of it is key for us to take people completely into that world. When people are tethered to something and they can’t move about, or there are boundaries or they can’t trust the system because they think they’re going to trip or fall on something, you can’t go to that place completely and all the way mentally… into the world that you’re seeing.”
And that’s what THE VOID is all about – creating experiences where you can fully trust the system.
“Having trust in the system allows your mind to explore other things and accept that what you’re seeing within the system is real. Being untethered, being able to have physical items that match up with the real world add trust. And then being able to render all that out for each individual in real time is extremely important.”
In February, Mark Zuckerberg surprised attendees at a Samsung launch event after they removed Gear VR headsets from their faces to see him standing up on stage. While the reaction to his attendance was well received, the reactions to this image of Zuckerberg walking past hundreds of oblivious people were not.
Many people fear VR is going to isolate people from one another. But James envisions something much different.
“Who says it has to be that way? At THE VOID people go in together as a family or with friends and experience this epic adventure and then go to dinner afterwards and have a lot of really fun things to talk about… We as human beings want to share our experiences together and THE VOID is allowing people to do just that.”
NOT FOR THE AVERAGE STORYTELLER
Creating content that is compelling and unique is also crucial as VR continues to grow and evolve. While some see THE VOID as a theme park for gamers, James says each hyper-reality experience will entertain a much more diverse crowd.
“THE VOID has the opportunity to create a real storyline and real worlds that people can explore just like they explore the real world. It’s not just a shooter, although we will have ways where you can earn points.”
While Curse of the Serpent’s Eye, which debuted at TED 2016, and Ghostbusters: Dimension, which opened at Madame Tussauds on July 1, 2016, both have linear storylines, other experiences currently in development will eventually run on stages four times the size with multiple storylines and open worlds to explore.
It’s not about us creating more content, it’s about us creating the right kind of content for a general audience.
Tracy Hickman, head of story development believes that THE VOID is creating content that works for VR because it is breaking down the fourth wall — a term used to describe the wall that separates the actors on stage, or the actors on screen, from the audience.
“A lot of people like to think that virtual or augmented reality breaks down that fourth wall, but it doesn’t because in VR or AR you are still separated from the activity, maybe not visually or aurally, but in every other sense. In hyper-reality, the fourth wall disappears because we become the story. It is our story, it is our acting. It is our place of being.”
THE VOID JUST MIGHT SAVE VR
While VR still has many improvements to make, Jensen is optimistic about the future and sees his company as the answer to many of the challenges facing the industry. THE VOID’S hyper-reality experiences don’t require consumers to invest in expensive tech, and the out-of-home experiences give consumers the chance to better understand VR while also creating memories with the people they love.
When James was first asked to share his thoughts on the current state of VR, his creative wheels started to turn. Before the company knew it, it was involved in a photo shoot he had set up to visually demonstrate where James pictures THE VOID in the VR space.
“The picture is a whole bunch of people kind of standing behind this leader and they all have their different versions of how people are trying to experience virtual reality and THE VOID is leading because we’re doing all of the things that everybody wants.”