Though Rocksteady Studios' Batman: Arkham series has already allowed us to feel how great it is to fight as Batman, Batman: Arkham VR literally puts you inside the cowl for the first time. It's so many dreams come true.
Regardless of how invested you are in the Star Wars universe, there has been a time in nearly every person's life when they imagined swinging a lightsaber around. The iconic weapon of the Jedi is such a cool piece of technology, it's hard not to want to be able to use one yourself in real life. Though you can buy replicas for fans of any age ranging from simple toys to expensive recreations, at the end of the day, they're just facsimiles. With ILMxLAB's Trials on Tatooine virtual reality experiment, you may only get to hold a HTC Vive controller, but it's undoubtedly a much more authentic lightsaber experience.
We stepped into the world of ILMxLAB's Trials on Tatooine at Star Wars Celebration Europe this weekend, after waiting for many months to finally give it a go. Announced earlier this year, the experiment serves as a tech demo of sorts, letting ILMxLAB and the team at Lucasfilm try out some techniques to see what works and what engages the audience. In it, you're stranded on the home planet of Anakin and Luke Skywalker as a test of sorts for your Jedi training. That means you get a lightsbaber, and with it all the excitement it entails.
Since I was a kid, nary a day has gone by that the dream of being an actual, for real Ghostbuster hasn't crossed my mind. Growing up with the franchise, my household was a treasure trove of almost all the Ghostbusters goods you could imagine. Never got that Firehouse playset, but I did have that sweet role-play proton pack, trap and Ecto goggles. I don't quite fit into those anymore though, so it's a little hard for me to pretend without investing the time and effort into building my own proton back and kit as a number of similarly aged Ghostbusters fans have already done. Until now, that was pretty much the only way to indulge the fantasy. Then The Void came along with its new hyper reality experience.
Teaming with Sony and Madame Tussaud's, The Void opened up Ghostbusters Dimensions as part of the new Ghostbusters Experience at the Times Square location of the wax museum franchise. While virtual reality is breaking through in a large way this year, Void ramps things up by completely immersing you in not just a visual experience, but a completely interactive one. Once you suit up with your headset, backpack and blaster, you are in the world of the Ghostbusters, and it's up to you to explore the space and eliminate the spectral menaces inside. All those hours of running around my neighborhood blasting phantoms was finally going to pay off.
For nearly as long as Star Wars has been a pop culture phenomenon there have been video games trying to give us the experience of being there with Luke, Han and Leia during the galaxy's most troubling times. Advances in gaming hardware have gotten us pretty far some thirty years after the release of Star Wars, and last year's Star Wars Battlefront is arguably one of the most beautiful games to ever take place in that galaxy far, far away. But as gorgeous as the landscapes are to look at, you're still just looking at them on a 2D plane via your television or monitor. The outside world still creeps in around the edges, even if you're playing in the dark.
That's where virtual reality makes all the difference. With the release of Oculus Rift and Valve/HTC's Vive coming this year, VR is set to have a massive impact on the gaming landscape. It's already started to actually, with developers having teased titles and experiences for the past year in the lead up to the consumer release of these new headsets. At this week's Game Developer's Conference, Lucasfilm and ILM debuted a new experience set in the Star Wars universe that finally puts us on the sandy wastes of Tatooine like no game ever has before.
It doesn't seem possible that consumer-friendly virtual reality is on the verge of breaking through the shackles of science fiction and into the real world, but we're entering into a brave new world of immersive interactivity with the release of Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear and even Google Cardboard. While each of those VR platforms has its own strengths and weaknesses, that there are multiple manufacturers vying for your attention in the same space (with more like PlayStation VR, SteamVR and StarVR still to come) speaks volumes about how viable virtual reality has become in the last few years.
Aside from the potential gaming aspects, virtual reality presents some interesting opportunities for narrative immersion as well. We've already seen Star Wars take advantage of that a bit with its recent Jakku tour, but the landscape is wide open for the likes of movies and animation to give fans and viewers an even closer look at the worlds being created on screen. Such is the case with the upcoming Ghost in the Shell VR short, Ghost in the Shell Virtual Reality Diver. Set in the world of Ghost in the Shell: Arise, the short will be an on-rails experience that lets you tag along with Major Kusanagi through some select scenes curated for VR.
Ever since virtual reality became a thing people were talking about back in the '90s, I have had exactly one question: When will it allow me to leave all you losers in the dust and just hang out with Batman? It's my fondest wish, a dream that I didn't think would ever come true, but now, it seems like we're one step closer.
This week, Warner Bros., DC Entertainment and OTOY Inc. announced that they were working with legendary artist and animator Bruce Timm to recreate the Batcave from Batman: The Animated Series that viewers will be able to enter and explore through technology like the Oculus Rift -- and, in the future, without the use of glasses at all.