Merging Dimensions: How VR Could Change Escape Rooms Forever
What the heck is a "VR"?
VR, also known as Virtual Reality is essentially a computer generated simulation of three dimensional objects that players can interact with through tracked controllers or gloves. Like most gaming, VR engages the senses of sight and sound, and occasionally uses haptic feedback to even simulate touch. VR is different from normal digital gaming in that it immerses you in a 360 degree 3D experience.
How does it work?
VR, in all its shiny newness, still seems like magic, but there are several tangible tricks that VR devices use. One of the most popular Virtual Reality Headsets is the HTC VIVE developed by HTC with technology by Valve Corp. It uses Lighthouses placed on opposite sides of a play space to track the movement of a Head Mounted Display (HMD) and motion controllers. Each eye renders at different positions with-in the computer simulation.
How VR could be implemented in Escape Rooms
One of the most immersive ways to integrate VR into an escape room would be to merge the physical space and layout of a room with the virtual layout of a VR room. Basically, when "white boxing" the virtual room before continuing the level development, designers would align the white box development with the real room, merging them into one increasingly immersive experience.
For example, if the physical room is 15x10x9, the replicated virtual room would be exactly the same dimensions, with one foot equaling one unit. White boxing the furniture and other items from physical room into the virtual replica, in the same exact locations to create a better sense of touch and feel, could make players feel incredible grounded and the VR experience seamless. This would be a huge step towards creating 4D virtual realities in which the users not only see the walls, the table, and the chairs in the VR head mounted display, but they can also touch (or bump into!) the walls and utilize the table and chairs.
But is it still an escape room, then?
Virtual Reality, albeit a completely separate and worthy standalone medium, could turn out to be a huge advantage to escape room designers in that things can be created and manipulated in Virtual Reality that aren't practical (or possible!) in real life. Perhaps in the escape rooms of tomorrow we'll be racing against an asteroid to save dinosaurs from extinction rather than performing our two hundredth bank heist. We'll see!