The Virtual Arena: UK’s Hyper Reality Adventure

Exclusive coverage of all aspects of the Out-of-Home entertainment landscape, industry specialist Kevin Williams, in his latest Virtual Arena column – reporting from a visit to the launch of a brand new Hyper Reality Adventure in the heart of Birmingham.

There has been a plethora of new free-roaming LB VR proffered onto the market. The separation from the more common virtual reality (VR) deployments, against the unique VR offerings has been defined under the term “Hyper Reality”. These unique systems employing more advance physical and virtual elements that create a more compelling experience. The UK has seen the deployment of the first of these experiences coming from US and Australian developers – but recently we had the chance to try the first Hyper Reality Adventure developed wholly by a new UK studio.

Located in the popular social entertainment hub of Digbeth in the city of Birmingham is a warehouse that has been converted into the latest VR entertainment venue. Employing the latest thinking and technology towards launching a new offering in this sector. We were invited to visit the ‘In A Box’ location, the flagship site for the Hyper Reality Adventure developed and operated by Atmos VR – and in the final stages of soft-opening before its full launch in October.

The ‘In A Box’ location has taken a vacant warehouse and themed it inside to represent a techno-punk apocalyptic setting. Along with this, a great bar atmosphere has been created, with a unique cocktail and beverage offering; supported with a partnership with the popular brand Brewdog.

But the main draw to the facility is their Hyper Reality Adventure Chernobyl: Hidden Depths. The first in a series of adventures planned for the platform, the multi-player game experience has been written by a Hollywood screenwriter, offering a dystopian environment set beneath the doomed nuclear reactor. The players take on the role of special operatives on a clandestine mission to retrieve secrets and discover the cause of the calamity. Clearly inspired by the HBO drama based on the disaster, but also offering a unique “Retro-Soviet” styling laden with spies and secrets.  

Players don the latest HP backpack PCs and heavily customised HP Reverb G2 headsets that also combine accessories of UltraLeap hand tracking, and a special Olfactory platform from OVR Technology. These mounted effects systems are supported by a host of wind, heat and vibration effects littering the adventure arena. This being one of the most advanced free-roaming (Arena Scape) environments. Atmos VR has installed two arenas side-by-side mirroring the operation to allow for expansion and additional adventures.

The operation is in the final stages of completing development on the VR adventure, and we were able to play the current build. The experience combining elements of teamwork, hidden mystery and jump scares. It was impressive to see such attention to detail by the development team – marking the UK’s entry into the Hyper Reality adventure scene. The Digbeth district of Birmingham has become a Mecca for social entertainment with several bowling, mini-golf, and retro amusement bars. ‘In A Box’ is a perfect addition to the mix, and hopes to offer a repeat visitation element, with future iterations of the VR adventure hoping to expand the universe attracting players to upgrade their characters’ skills.

The VR venue will have its official opening on the 6th of October, and attendees will be able to get their chance to virtually survive the hidden depths of Chernobyl for £35-pp with an experience that lasts up to 60-minutes. The developers are looking to develop additional elements to the experience to build a community and drive repeat visitation. The Floodgate location for the facility is next to where Steven Spielberg filmed elements of the Ready Player One movie, and it is hoped that the new Hyper Reality Adventure at ‘In A Box’ will offer an equally compelling entertainment experience.

This is the latest of a number of new Hyper Reality venues scheduled to open or are operational in the UK – as previously covered plans for a new Sandbox VR venue for London have been revealed. Along with news that the original The VOID hyper-reality brand may be returning to the market after its initial collapse. We will be reporting soon on other developments in this growing sector of the LB VR scene.

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