Westfield launches immersive and theatrical VR experience

"Alien Zoo" by Dreamscape and Westfield VR experience

The “Alien Zoo” VR experience by Dreamscape and Westfield

Westfield Century City in Los Angeles has partnered with Dreamscape Immersive Inc to launch a pop-up virtual reality (VR) experience that invites visitors to explore an imaginary world.

The 13-minute “Alien Zoo” experience invites guests to walk aboard a spacecraft, select their own avatars and interact with different creatures from across the universe.

The aim was to combine the thrill of an epic theme park attraction with the awe and wonder of a great film, according to the team. The “extraterrestrial journey”, as it’s referred to as, allows viewers to witness first-hand the galaxy’s most endangered species.

“Walk side by side massive beasts, play with adorable and exotic creatures, and not only fight for survival against the most deadly predator in all the cosmos, but prove that there is still hope for humanity in our exciting, yet unpredictable, universe,” the write-up explains.

“When you think of VR, you tend to be in the world of gamers and high-tech and we try to take the virtual out of virtual reality,” Walter Parkes, Dreamscape co-chairman, said. “So let’s make it as real as possible, make it tactile. All of the animals we’ve created have deep histories. We could actually write a book about what planets they come from. It’s a narrative-rich approach to VR and much more inclined toward our backgrounds. Texture’s everything.”

As malls in America continue to struggle with the advent of e-commerce, large brick-and-mortar retailers are expanding their remits to engage with experience-hungry consumers through new types of environments. Converging retail, entertainment and technology is a primary focus to drive footfall.

“We’re at a time when movies and malls are getting a lot of competition from digital distribution. So one way to counteract that is to offer irreplaceable, unique experiences and that idea was certainly embraced by our studio partners and our retail partners,” said Parkes. “That’s why the malls that are doing well are as much entertainment centers as they are retail centers.”

As he explains, you can’t get anything at a mall that you can’t get online, thus creating environments that offer more is key.

Following the Westfield pop-up, the company plans to take the concept to other markets, envisioning its final version as true VR multiplexes, where different rooms can offer different experiences, much like a cinema.

Dreamscape Immersive has a number of big names backing its vision of VR for entertainment – in December, it closed a $30 million Series B round that included investors from Nickelodeon and VR Sense Solutions Ltd, while companies such as Warner Bros, 21st Century Fox and Westfield Corp are among its initial investor pool. Executives on staff include Parkes, a film producer, and CEO Bruce Vaughn, a Walt Disney Co alumni.