Virtual reality theme park will give visitors 'Matrix'-like powers

The Void makes virtual reality a little more real through a series of customizable rooms that add another dimension to gaming.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

In The Void, small gestures can have a major impact on your virtual world. Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

With Oculus Rift virtual-reality headsets ready to ship to the general public early next year, 2016 looks to be the year the technology could really take off. Adding to this prediction is the fact that a Utah man is building a series of seven 60x60-foot rooms in which players will don VR headsets (he's making his own, not using Oculus Rifts) and wander around immersive worlds, wielding powers that would even impress Neo from "The Matrix" films.

Known as The Void, the theme park is set to debut in 2016 in Pleasant Grove, Utah, and is meant to be the first of many such centers around the world. The rooms are continuously reconfigurable and can even have their surfaces changed. This means that if your VR headset has you hiding behind a tree, you could feel its rough bark. If you're trying to open a spaceport, you could feel the metal beneath your hand.

In addition to syncing up real-world touch with VR magic, the rooms can add "fourth dimension" components like blasts of steam from exposed pipes or cords that feel like the strands of cobwebs. There will also be motion simulators that can make you feel like you're in a jet fighter or a raging race car.

Each room will hold up to 10 gamers who could work as a team to survive different worlds or fight against each other to try to become the sole survivor. According to The Washington Post, the man creating the virtual reality playgrounds -- former cybersecurity business owner Ken Bretschneider -- plans to form partnerships with outside gaming studios to create completely different gaming experiences for visitors to The Void. He hopes to change the experience every three months.

"There isn't any way to be able to go out and create the full potential of virtual reality in the home market," Bretschneider told the Post. "It became really apparent to me that we needed to build a facility where people could come to and not have to worry about hooking up virtual reality, making it work and trying to run around inside their house."

Bretschneider has put $13 million of his own money into the project, an amount that's helping pay his team of 30 to create the suits, gloves and headsets attendees will wear inside The Void as well as to perfect the motion-tracking software, a critical component to the success of his system. He hopes to open The Void in Pleasant Grove in the summer of 2016 by offering visitors experiences lasting a half-hour each. While he hasn't divulged the cost of the experiences, he has said that they will be "affordable."