Retail technology

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.


Olympic pixel tablets create giant 360? screen, inspire live events worldwide

From The Queen’s cameo alongside James Bond to the reunion of the Spice Girls, there’s no doubt Danny Boyle’s approach to the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics, was sheer creative genius. As Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport, said, it proved the occasion to be “as much a celebration of creativity as sport”.

But so too was it a feat of technical brilliance. Thousands of participants, dozens of vehicles and endless video cameras, but better yet, some 230 miles of cabling to enable 70,500 tablets, and a total of 634,500 pixels, to turn the audience into one enormous digital screen.

Yep, in case you hadn’t realised, the digital animations that appeared as though overlaid on the spectators throughout both ceremonies, were in fact the result of high-powered paddles attached to every seat.

Created by Tait Technologies, each one had nine full colour lights that, when controlled by custom-designed programmes from digital solutions company Crystal CG, sent multiple images around the bowl-shaped arena. In doing so, they not only achieved Boyle’s vision of wanting those in attendance to feel more involved in the action, but also created the world’s biggest ever screen; a 360? and seemingly “human powered” one.

During the closing ceremony, more than 75 minutes of digital animations were seen in this way. One example was a psychedelic 1960s sequence that took over 500 hours to produce. Do watch the video below to see some of it action.

“No longer limited by large flat screens, we were presented with the challenge of creating animations to bring the stage and the spectators together,” said Will Case, creative director at Crystal. “We delivered. The live audience and those watching at home were drawn into the action. We are witnessing the death of the traditional video screen – this will transform the way event content is presented in future, becoming a more immersive experience.”

Boyle added: “Every Olympic Ceremony aims for a major technical breakthrough. Our remarkable audience pixels have opened up amazing new images, effects and spectacle, but most of all they have enabled our live stadium audience to be part of the ceremony in a way that’s never been possible before.”

What fantastic crossover that could have for the fashion industry, let alone live events around the world full stop. Imagine catwalk stands that instantly become immersive displays for the collections as they come out; a reflection of the season they’re in, or the inspirations cast by the designer. As the late Alexander McQueen said back in 2009 in reference to live-streaming: “This is the birth of a new dawn. I am going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible.”

Let’s hope so…


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