As this report went out, over 160 professionals were gathered in Las Vegas addressing the future of fun. The Future of Immersive Leisure (FOIL) conference, hosted for the first time at Mandalay Bay, brought together some of the most innovative voices working in virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, projection mapping, cinema, amusement and other forward-thinking industries.
The conference was designed to give a holistic look into the wide breadth of immersive technologies that are emerging, technologies that those present feel will rapidly and completely revolutionize what customers expect when leaving their homes for entertainment. The two-day conference kicked off on Wednesday, Sept. 13, and runs through the end of today (Sept. 14). Attendees were greeted with a truly impressive keynote speaker on Wednesday morning — Douglas Trumbull — known for developing rides and pioneering cinematic formats. Trumble spent his time discussing what he sees as the future of entertainment.
“The cinema sector is in rapid decline,” Trumbull said. “It’s been going down for 20 years, and lost 16 percent this year alone. I believe virtual reality, and subsequent technologies, will be the next step in the human quest for immersion.”
After the keynote, some familiar faces from the amusement industry took the stage to discuss profiting from the resurgence of arcades, specifically VR arcades. The group discussed how perception of the technology had been skewed by Facebook purchasing Oculus Rift in the early stages of VR’s resurgence. According to the panelists, operators should not look at VR as a savior, but instead as another facet of their business. “The novelty is not sufficient to build a business,” said Kevin Bachus, SVP of Entertainment and Games Strategy at Dave & Buster’s.
“For us, the challenge is leveraging what’s good about VR and staying away from the hype. It can and will be a part of a transformation in businesses, but it isn’t a golden bullet.” In a session titled Arena Scale VR – Successor to Laser Tag? presenters came to the conclusion that no, in fact VR was not a successor to the traditional laser tag games, but instead an ally.
A lot of people said laser tag would be a fad, just like people are saying about VR,” said Erik Guthrie of Zone Laser Tag. “I think you’ll see a blend between the two. I see laser tag moving into augmented and virtual reality technologies. But VR is not going to be replacing laser tag.”
During the penultimate seminar of the first day, a panel of experts, including some of the top content creators building consumer VR games, talked about how the growing in-home immersive entertainment market can synergize with location-based markets. Following that, a panel discussed the biggest problems with implementing these technologies into the out-of-home market, everything from hygiene to throughput, and what the future will look like.
“The technology is not what’s holding this back right now, the storytelling is,” said Daniel Prado of YDreams Global. “We haven’t found that killer app yet, that perfect attraction.”
For many presenters and attendees, the main takeaway from the seminars is out-of-home experiences need to capitalize on what a consumer can’t get from the tech at home. More than anything, that means social experiences. “It doesn’t matter how simple a game is. It doesn’t matter if you can play that game on your phone or at home,” said Eric Gradman, CTO of Two Bit Circus. “Once you put people into a social environment, the simplest thing becomes powerful.”
RePlay’s October issue will feature a full report on FOIL 2017, including a more complete breakdown of seminars on the first and second day. FOIL 2018 is already in the works, and this year’s positive reception has been felt. FOIL 2018 will return to Vegas and expand into a three-day event, with tracks focusing on integrating immersive tech into the amusement industry, gaming, motion simulators and more.
“We’ve got to shake more trees and get more people thinking about the future,” said event co-chair (and RePlay contributor) Kevin Williams. “We’re hoping to build off the positivity of this year.”