Lindon—The VOID is saying goodbye to ghosts and taking off for a galaxy far, far away.
The virtual reality company that created the Ghostbusters Experience in New York, Dubai, Toronto and Lindon has drawn hundreds of thousands of guests—and will debut a new experience in December at Disneyland and Disney World.
This time, The VOID will be sending guests to the Star Wars universe in a new experience that has been declared official canon to the Star Wars universe by Disney and Lucasfilm, said Tracy Hickman, director of story development for The VOID at Salt Lake Comic Con Friday.
“For anyone who went to the Ready Player One panel today, we’re there. We’re as close to a holodeck today as you can get. Many people think of us as virtual reality. We are not virtual reality; we are far beyond that. … I have never done anything as important or exciting as what I’m working on today,” said Hickman, who is also a 14-time New York Times bestselling author with more than 70 books in print. “This experience is so far beyond what anybody’s done in this realm that it amazes me still. It delights me still. When this opens, you will be able to step into a galaxy far, far away in ways you can’t even imagine.”
Hickman was tight-lipped about story details of Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, and only offered the single promotional shot featured on this page, but was unbridled in his enthusiasm for the project and the medium.
“The VOID is not just technology. The VOID is not just about hardware,” he said. “Hyper reality is about really creating an extension of our environment.”
Experiences at The VOID involve suiting up in a headset and haptic vest, and entering a series of rooms that have walls, tables, chairs and other obstacles in the very same places the virtual reality headsets show them being. In other words, if you run into an obstacle in the experience, you’ll feel it in real life, too. The experiences also feature gusts of wind, or sprays of mist, or smells on cue with the events being shown in the headset—hence, the company’s preference for the term “hyper reality” verses the more generalized “virtual reality.” Because of the juxtaposition of virtual reality and reality, Hickman said they have yet to have a patron experience motion sickness, which has been a significant problem with other offerings in the burgeoning virtual reality market.
Part of the magic of The VOID, said Hickman, is exactly that: magic. The VOID co-founder Curtis Hickman, who is also Hickman’s son, has a background in performing magic, and has designed illusions for other magicians, including David Copperfield. That sleight-of-hand is evident in the floorplan of The VOID experiences, which feel large but are wrapped in on themselves to take up less space. Although the experiences are highly dependent on the environment, and thus can’t be translated to a person’s house, Hickman said the company views them as being akin to going to a movie theater for entertainment, rather than someone playing video games or watching a movie in their home.
The Star Wars experience will launch in conjunction of a new height of fervor for the franchise; its tenth movie will premiere at roughly the same time. The launch of The VOID’s first commercial launch in July 2016, the Ghostbusters Experience, was also in conjunction with the Melissa McCarthy-led reboot of the film, though it quickly took on a life of its own. It was originally supposed to have a six-month run at Madame Toussad’s; it has now been extended several times, and to date has had more than 100,000 customers.
“I’m not sure where the Melissa McCarthy film is today, but we’re still remaining,” Hickman said.
Although the experience will be located at Disneyland and Disney World, it will be just outside the gates, allowing it to be experienced by people who are not attending the parks themselves. Hickman said the experience would also eventually be launched at the company’s other locations, including Lindon.
For now, though, the Lindon location remains in security lockdown as the Star Wars experience is finished up. Hickman said working on the project has been very much a dream come true, but he’s also excited for future projects, as well, and looking forward to showing more people the “next step” in entertainment. He related a story about a man who went through an experience with his family.
“He came out with tears in his eyes. He said, ‘I’ve been wait for 40 years for this,’” Hickman said. “That’s what we’ve built. There’s so much more to come.”