I'm just back at the hotel after spending the most amazing 15 minutes of my life inside a couple of small rooms with nothing but black walls. The VOID has successfully created the kind of virtual reality experience that we all imagined it would be like a decade ago. The future is here.
"What is the VOID?" I can almost hear you asking. It's a fast-growing virtual reality experience that puts you in the drivers seat of the most intense experience you could have without being in a real place. Recently, the company teamed up with LucasFilm and ILMxLAB to create Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, in which you get to be a member of the rebel alliance (not the resistance) disguised as a Stormtrooper trying to steel secret plans for a dangerous new weapon.
They had me at Star Wars.
When I first heard about Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, I bought my tickets right away, without even researching what it is or what its about. All I knew was that it has to do with Star Wars and it was to take place right outside of Disneyland — my two favorite things.
After I bought my tickets, I did a little digging and discovered it is a VR experience. "Oh, well," I thought. "It'll probably make me nauseous, but it's Star Wars, so I'm willing to suffer," (standard VR experiences make me dizzy and I feel like I've got motion sickness).
What I didn't know then, but I'm happy to report now, is that I never got nauseous or felt any sense of motion sickness.
What makes the VOID's immersive experience so amazing (other than how amazing the experience is) is that they set the whole thing up so you don't get that disoriented feeling when you put on the VR headset. You're moving while the environment around you stays still.
It's kind of like going on Star Tours, except instead of sitting down while the "shuttle" does all the moving, you are the one doing the moving around. You walk from one room to another through a series of hallways. I didn't break the magic to see what it looked like IRL, but my significant other did and said it's really small. Just a few rooms and some hallways.
Let me walk you through the details
You arrive at your reserved time (they do take walk-ups, but you might have to wait a little while) and get a special QR-code wrist band. You then walk into a room where you do a little virtual prepping (I'm not going to spoil this too much). You're ushered into a suit-up room where you put on a vest and a VR headset. The vest and headset are fully adjustable so most people will be able to fit comfortably in both. Once suited up, you walk into your first VR room where you're asked to pull the headset down and test everything out. Can you see the person across from you? Can you see your hands in front of you (in your VR costume)? Yes? OK. Let's go!
A doorway opens (this doorway wasn't there before you put the headset on) and you walk into the story. I'm not going to go into the details because I don't want to spoil it for anyone that is going to experience it themselves.
The VOID hits the mark on almost every sensory perception
What I will tell you, though, is that the vest adds an additional sensory feature in that you feel things, not just see them. So, if you get shot, you feel a little buzz. It uses haptics, not just vibration, too. So you almost feel the effect of something trying to penetrate your armor. It's amazing.
The vest isn't the only remarkable sensory feature. As you move from one area to another, you'll feel the sensation of heat or cold. The ground seems to rumble under your feet or you get the sensation of moving downward like in an elevator.
There's one particular part of the Star Wars:Secrets of the Empire experience that I will spoil right now but it won't ruin anything for you; There's a moment when you must walk across a virtual melted hole in the wall. When you step on the blob of melted ground, you literally feel the sensation of sinking into the mound.
It's worth $2 per minute
The entire thing lasts about 15 minutes, which was way too short for me. I wanted it to last all day. It's such an incredible experience that it's worth the $30 per person entrance fee. I can't wait to go back and do it again.
I'm a huge Star Wars fan (I'm a human being, after all), so my emotions ran high through the whole thing. I screamed out loud, laughed uncontrollably, and literally cried, that's how happy I was.
You can too!
Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire is currently set up at Disney Springs in Orlando,FL through April 30, Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA through March 6, and Westfield London in London, UK through March 7.
If you're able to visit one of these three locations before it's over, I highly recommend giving it a go. Even if there aren't any reservations available, try walking in. They may be able to fit you in without too long of a wait.
Visit the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire website to find out more and reserve your tickets.
May the Force be with you.