It's just one of the magical treasures you don't often stumble upon on your regular life adventures. Who knew a day at the movies can turn into having fun inside a giant ball. Yes, all because I saw this giant sphere at the corner of my eye walking around at The Gardenwalk mall near Disneyland. It was an immediate impulse for me to check it out, but who wouldn't? There I found a neat little incomplete store... center(?) called Innersphere VR -- I say incomplete because all they had was a dream and Virtusphere -- but dreams do have to start somewhere.
The goal of Innersphere VR is to bring a different type of gaming to people; PC stations with augmented reality glasses, multiplayer Virtuspheres, and unique console devices much like Xbox One's Illumiroom. It's a unique take that I totally support and would like to see get bigger. It reminds me of the days when stuff like Lasertag and Mega arcades were popular despite having available gaming consoles at home.
Honestly, this was quite a refreshing find having attended GDC Next but not seeing what I was initially there for which was the Oculus Rift. It's funny because this store had it there to try out which just screams destiny. At the moment, the store is kind of just a room but their main and totally functional selling point is their giant Virtusphere device which is currently in its demo phase. I'm a huge fan of what's to come with virtual reality gaming and the Virtusphere is quite the concept to go together with the current push for gaming goggles/augmented reality glasses. Mind you, the whole device wouldn't be something you'd purchase for home-related things but is really cool for events and other niche' markets.
So first of all, the Virtusphere is a giant hollow sphere which I assume is around at least 12 feet around but don't quote me on such -- it was really big regardless. Think a hamster ball except for humans. Once you go inside, everytime you move an optical sensor would track the motion of the ball and your character in the game would proceed to move as you do. Inside this contraption is a pair of virtual reality goggles... now the pieces are starting to fit together. VR Goggles, motion ball; yes, basically, it tries to emulate you actually being in the game (without the paintballs of course).
For the sake of the demo, there were handrails inside the sphere but in a perfect world, at least according to what I was told, you'd go in with a backpack, goggles, some knee pads, and no "real" support for the best possible experience. Now, if you play a lot of Call of Duty or Battlefield, you'll probably suck because most gamers are used to moving where their cursor is centered. The virtusphere however, basis it on actual movement so even if you turn your head sideways, you won't move in that direction, you'll face one direction but continue to walk sideways because that's technically "straight" which can be quite the trip.... or headache, whichever comes first.
The most surprising thing was the motion was quite fluid and felt rather natural despite being in a cage of ABS plastic. It took awhile to get used to taking the appropriate steps but once the ball got going, and with proper handling on the outside, everything was great. As far as shooters go, you'd take a flash gun inside the ball with you and use that to shoot -- motion was of course done by your body so the immersion is there.
Unfortunately, not enough developers are willing to put the drivers in to support the device with their games quite yet but I can definitely see the project take off in some areas of the industry. For now only two demos were available where I only got to try Alien Invasion. That should change when people see how enjoyable this sphere is. I mean, I was in the room for hardly any time at all and a handful of people, most certainly gamers, found everything about the concept cool and were willing to try it out... I mean, it's a giant ball. You can't help but to stop and look.
Anyways, if you're interested in checking it out, the Virtusphere is only available to the public at the Gardenwalk in Anaheim inside Innersphere VR:
321 West Katella Avenue
Anaheim, CA 92802
I recommend it. I had fun and slowly got lost in the immersion as I began to toy around with it.