Three years ago, I flew to a remote part of Utah to visit a new company called The Void, which was building attractions for an ambitious virtual reality (VR) theme park.
Here’s the idea of The Void: Instead of buying an expensive VR system for your home, you visit a physical location — maybe it’s a standalone building, or in a shopping center — and pay a little bit of money to have a totally unique and completely immersive VR experience, with a level of polish that’s impossible to replicate in a living room.
The actual experience of The Void consists of walking in a maze-like room with black walls, very similar to a laser tag arena. But when you don The Void’s VR headset (with a backpack to power the device), you might think you’re walking through Mayan ruins in South America, or an alien laboratory in outer space, or standing atop the Empire State Building.
Every experience can look and feel completely different, even though it’s using the exact same physical space. The Void uses clever engineering tricks to accomplish this feat, including subtle effects like temperature, wind, humidity, and rain to make you truly believe you’re somewhere else.
When I tried The Void back in 2015, it absolutely blew me away. And the company has only gotten better at its craft since then. Over the past three years, The Void has successfully expanded out of Utah: You can now try the company’s Ghostbusters VR experience at Madame Tussaud’s in New York City, and now, the company has teamed up with ILMxLabs and Lucasfilm to produce a unique Star Wars VR experience for Disney’s theme park locations.
That experience — called “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” — debuted in early January. I was unfortunately unable to attend the grand opening, but since my older brother Michael lives in the area, The Void was kind enough to let him visit, try the experience himself, and take some pictures.
I’ll let Michael take it from here, in his own words and photos (thanks Mike!):
On the morning of January 5, 2018, I jumped in my car to make the 40-minute drive to Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California. Since the ribbon cutting was at 8 a.m., all press was asked to get there by 7 a.m., which meant I was getting my butt out the door by 6 a.m.
As you can see, the sun hadn’t even risen yet. But I was greeted by a “starry” California night.
Once I arrived at Downtown Disney, press was corralled just outside the security gate. I’ve never been to the Disneyland Resort this early before, and it was surreal to see how empty it was.