Ghostbusters: Dimension Showcases the Magic of The Void, The World’s Most Immersive VR Setup

by Blake Harris • July 1st, 2016

When I was seven years old, I distinctly remember walking into my mother’s room and asking if I could form a Ghostbusters club. “What would this club do?” she asked. “Oh,” I replied, a bit surprised that it wasn’t obvious. “Everyone picks a character [from the movies] and then, when we all get together, we’ll be those characters.”

My mother said yes and, just like that, the West Orchard Road Ghostbusters Club was formed. Unfortunately, 20+ phone calls of “recruitment” later, the club’s membership tally was only two. As such, I disbanded the club. But—as evidenced by my dressing up as Egon that Halloween—I don’t think I ever gave up that Ghostbuster dream. Instead, like so many wishes and wants that we come to believe are nothing but fiction, I just merely forgot about the ambition…until yesterday. When, twenty-five years later, that childhood dream actually came true thanks to The Void’s extraordinary and extraordinarily immersive Ghostbusters: Dimension experience.

Ghostbusters: Dimension, touted as “the world’s first ever hyper-reality experience,” opens to the public today at Madame Tussaud’s New York (located on 42nd street, between 7th and 8th). Clocking in at around 10 minutes long, the experience—set in a ghost-riddled Manhattan and powered by Unity—is exciting, exhilarating and excellently paced.

It begins in a small on-boarding area where you and two others (be it friends, family members or strangers) gear up with a backpack, headset and proton-pack shooter and prepare for an untethered experience. For a moment, the whole thing feels a lot like preparing for a game of laser-tag until a switch is flipped and suddenly—whoa, wait, what just happened?—the world around you is transformed into a hyper-realistic videogame world where ghosts will soon be lurking through Manhattan. And, importantly, you are not alone. You’ve transported with those two others; not as themselves, but dressed as locked-and-loaded Ghostbusters with whom you can communicate via headset.

For a semi-embarrassing moment, because your counterparts now resemble Ghostbusters, you momentary forget that these people are fellow humans. Until you accidentally bump elbows—oh yeah, you’re a person!—and soberingly remember that you are one too. But that last gasp of simple, experiential dichotomy (we are real, this world is virtual) is dashed over the next minute as a couple things happen that elevate this from a savvy, high-end virtual reality experience to, well, something else.

The first is the door. To begin the narrative experience, you (or one of your cohorts) must open a door. And of course—through your headset—what you see is a game-rendered door. But when your fingers touch the knob, you actually feel a knob. You feel metal. You feel an actual door. And that’s when you realize that you aren’t just moving through an open-world sandbox but rather through an environment in which you should expect moments of sand-like physicality.

That’s also the moment when I—having written about The Void a couple months back—remember that it was created by illusionists. And I start thinking about the three parts of a magic trick. There’s “The Pledge,” where the magician shows you something ordinary. And then there’s “The Turn,” where the magician makes that ordinary thing do something extraordinary. And then there’s…but I can’t remember the third thing because the Ghostbusters: Dimensions experience becomes too engrossing.

Ghostbuster Dimensions Void VR Screenshot UploadVR In Game

You find yourself in a room overflowing with cuddly-turned-cruel neon pink ghosts. And you must zap them with your proton pack (careful not to cross streams, of course). So ramble through the room—aiming and firing—and then that’s when the second thing happens, that other “something else.” Because inevitably, as these neon critters multiply, one of them is going to go through you. And when it does, your chest will tingle with haptic feedback. Wait, what just happened? Did a ghost just go through me?

And your answer comes as it happens again and that’s when you realize—in that beautiful, deeply internalized way that doesn’t even feel like realization—this is hyper-reality. This is the prestige. This is—whether you ever tried to start a Ghostbusters Club or not—the fulfillment of a long-held dream.

In deference to the magicians who cooked up this must-see experience, I won’t spoil any more about the experience. So instead I’ll end by returning to the ill-fated (albeit mother-approved) West Orchard Road Ghostbusters Club. Looking back, I had always thought that my desire to start this club was—as I had told my mom as a seven-year-old—because I wanted to be someone else. But after experiencing Ghostbusters: Dimension yesterday, I realize that was only partly it.

And perhaps a small part at that. Because, as a kid, I always had a strong imaginative spirit. Meaning that with or without the Ghostbusters Club, I was already spending hours as Egon, Slimer or Peter Venkman. So the idea of the club had to be about more than that. And as I thought about it further, I finally figured it out. It wasn’t just about being someone else; it was about someone else in a shared space with others. Because then—even if it might appear to the untrained eye as equally as imaginary—sharing an imaginative experience somehow makes it much more real. So I think the Void not only for helping me figure that out. But for giving me that experience I had forgotten about wanting so badly.

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  • unreal_ed

    How long will it be at Tussaud’s?

    • blake j. harris

      no end date planned yet (or in sight)

  • Jordan Harvey

    They told us it will be there for at least a year and a half. Today was plagued by huge technical issues. People were waiting 2.5-3 hours just to get in. During the 3 hours I was there, only 10 people got through. It was a tough day for them, but as a first day, you kind of expect trouble! I hope they get it tied down right, because it was a fun experience. It seemed like everyone on the way out had smiles. After being in it, it is legitimately a cool thing. I still don’t believe they’ve created anything that really fools my brain on a level that is ground breaking, but they’ve managed to tie together a few different pieces of technology that deliver a pretty great interactive VR experience that you can do with other people. That says more than anyone else right now.

    Pros: opening and closing VR doors is cool. Touching walls and feeling the wind in your face is a really great addition to VR!
    Cons: Aside from the technical glitches, I still couldn’t see myself, but I could see others. The quality of the content left me with more to be desired, not just on a graphics aspect, but on a story aspect as well.

    All in all, congrats to the guys at the Void. I’m sure it will be a couple weeks of hard work, but I see the experience overall a huge push forward for those of us who believe in VR.

    • THE VOID

      Jordan! Seriously thank you for the honest feedback. It’s been a crazy ride putting Ghostbusters: Dimension out in the wild for the public to experience and put through the ringer. We’re dedicated to ironing out all the bumps you experienced and blowing you away with better and better quality. Soon it’ll be smoother than a fresh jar of skippy. Upwards and onwards!

      • Jordan Harvey

        Thanks for taking the time to follow up on that. It shows the dedication The Void has to making sure the customer experience is the best. Looking forward to seeing more from The Void, hopefully in Utah some day. Best of luck to you guys. I’ve no doubt Ghostbusters will be a long standing and amazing experience!

  • shane redmond

    hyper reality or hr just sounds cool compared to mixedreality . Cant wait to see what apple has planned rumoured to also be called hyper reality due to there 2009 patient where they mentioned ” a 3d hyper reality experience ” only time will tell.

  • Pistol Pete

    Looks amazing! Makes me want to take a trip to NY just to try it out.

  • Cooe

    Love me some awesome local exposure, and even more evidence that the Wasatch Front is rocketing like a bat out of hell into being “the” next West Coast tech hub (centered right in between Salt Lake City and Provo on the so called “Silicon Slopes” where Intel, Micron, Adobe, and many other “who’s who” tech heavyweights already have, or are currently building giant facilities & campuses. That + all the bajillions elsewhere on the WF, inc. huge local startups like Qualtrix). These guys are based in Pleasant Grove (their building is freaking awesome looking!!! :D), not far from there, and practically a stone’s throw from my parents house. Personally can’t stand the area though haha, afa Utah goes imo, it’s SLC or nothing. It’s shocking to outsiders but not locals hard-left bubble status (almost all city officials are democrats and our mayor’s openly lesbian) and exploding urban core is infinitely more appealing to me than the surrounding “Mormania” sprawl. And try as I might, I can’t seem to stay outside Utah for long. That “Greatest Snow on Earth” is vastly more addictive then the world’s best heroin :P)

  • JAM

    I visited on a Friday. Wait time was at least an hour due to restarts, “battery charging”, and other issues.

    When we finally got our chance we also experienced lots of technical problems — frequent reboots, image stuttering and lag, guns de-syncing, etc. Several times I simply lifted my visor to avoid sickness and admired the physical room setup instead. During our 12 minute adventure, I would estimate everything was working for a total of perhaps 5 minutes.

    BUT… THOSE 5 MINUTES WERE AMAZING. 🙂 When everything is working it’s truly an experience. Untethered VR in a rooms (plural) scale environment. Combine that with the “hyper-reality” elements — wind in your face, the smell of toasted marshmallows, haptic (via the vest) and physical feedback (e.g. opening doors)… truly amazing.

    Thank you to everyone involved for taking the risk to make this experience available. We have a Vive at home so we were patient with all the glitches. The people staffing the attraction maintained a positive attitude and good energy despite all the problems; they are to be commended for that.

    Definitely go and experience this.