In anticipation of his presentation at Future of Immersive Leisure in Las Vegas, September 13-14, 2017, we asked Erik Guthrie, VP of Sales and Marketing at Zone Laser Tag, Inc., a few questions about the immersive entertainment ecosystem. Check out his interview in relation to his Future of Immersive Leisure presentation entitled, Arena Scale VR—Successor to Laser Tag?
Q: The use of immersive technology in the entertainment sector away from the home, what are the issues?
A: Costs to the consumers, costs to the investor and return on the investment. Throw in obsolesce by the time product hits the market in some case and you have substantial pitfalls.
Q: The use of digital media in attractions, what are the key issues?
A: Syncing the media to the experience in a way that is natural and part of the immersion. Media almost always has a slight lag that just makes the experience feel “not quite right”.
Q: Is the new audience for attractions and experiences a harder audience to entertain because of the amount of technology in their lives?
A: That is a good question. This generation has grown up in a multitasking environment. The attraction has to hit stimuli levels beyond what would be ordinary and common. The quality of video games, for example, is so good that anything immersive has to be beyond what they can download on Steam or purchased at GameStop.
Q: Is the loading and unloading issues with VR technology impacting the experience?
A: If you mean does the throughput issues impact the experience, absolutely! It hurts the experience for the end user or the customer and it impacts the return on the investment from the investor opening a retail outlet or built structure. The consumer desires a near seamless integration without much of a reality jolt from reality into immersion. The smoother this transition the greater the impact of the experience and the greater of the perceived value and therefore the higher chance of WOM marketing occurring.
Q: How can the digital out-of-home entertainment industry stay ahead of the home entertainment scene?
A: I believe that it is already ahead of the home entertainment scene. It is the high-end commercial applications as well as the willingness to invest in cutting edge technologies that end up provide its market advantage. It is only once the early adapters have embraced an idea or concept does the mass market accept it, such as the home entertainment scene.
Q: Why is there no officially recognized qualifications in development skills in this industry?
A: It hard to create a standard for qualifications due to the rapid development of new technology or the hybridization that occurs by merging technologies. This is an industry that draws its strength from the fact that it is not limited or confined to an “accepted” way of thinking. How do you qualify or quantify radical thoughts and ideas?
Q: What other immersive technologies beyond VR are you looking at?
A: I don’t feel VR is the Holy Grail which may put me at odds with many of the FOIL attendees. The true question is how to stimulate multiple senses for that tactile, auditory, and sensory experience. We are looking at augmented reality applications along with sound and odors triggers that have the customers embracing the entertainment experience as opposed to “Here’s a headset, enjoy our dinosaur hunt or zombie shooting video game.”
Q: Is it essential to have new immersive attractions and experiences every few years to survive?
A: It is vital to the family entertainment industry for new attractions to become developed and placed in the market every few years. The SOSO (same old, same old) model is the perfect recipe for financial and guest experience failure.
Q: Could VR be more important in the out-of-home sector than in consumer application?
A: It “could” become more important if the experience is greater than the price point of the attraction. If the out-of-home sector can exceed the consumers expectations that VR could be more important than a consumer application.
I am not a digital expert. My background is 20+ years in the family entertainment center industry and specifically laser tag and its universal game appeal. I may be a bit contrarian to the collective mindset of FOIL. I look forward to those lively conversations.