• The Void, a company that makes “hyper-reality” VR experiences, is working with Lucasfilm and ILMxLab to open a new experience near Disney’s parks, called “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire”
• The new experience will open near Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California, and near Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida
• Business Insider talked to The Void’s CEO Cliff Plumer to learn more about the collaboration and how it came to be
Two years ago, I flew out to a small town in Utah to try the world’s first virtual reality theme park.
It was an extraordinary experience.
The Void gives you a VR headset and a backpack with a computer, but unlike other VR setups where you’re chained to a large computer, The Void lets you explore your environment: a warehouse-like maze, reminiscent of a laser-tag arena, that’s specially designed by The Void, complete with lasers and cameras that can track your backpack and headset.
Though the environment is actually just a series of blank walls and objects, your VR headset (plus some environmental tricks) makes you think you’re in the virtual world of The Void’s choosing — maybe it’s a decrepit laboratory on an alien planet, or gorgeous Mayan ruins, or even just the streets of New York City. By mixing VR with clever tricks like heat, cold, vibrations, audio cues, and puffs of air, The Void can make you believe you’re just about anywhere.
Trying The Void’s unique take on the future of entertainment and storytelling, and getting to know the company’s team of designers, artists, and engineers working tirelessly to make it all possible, was an unforgettable experience.
And since then, The Void has only grown:
- Last year, the company built a Ghostbusters hyper-reality experience (in time for the new movie, of course) that lets you live out your dreams of busting ghosts. You can try it right now in New York City and Toronto.
- Earlier this year, the company hired a new CEO: Cliff Plumer, notably the former CTO of Lucasfilm and ex-CEO of VR experiences company Jaunt.
- Last month, The Void joined Disney’s Accelerator Program, which helps companies building the future of entertainment get access to Disney’s resources and support.
That last bit is important, and has to do with the company’s latest news: The Void will soon open two new “Experience Centers” near Disney’s two theme parks in California and Orlando, which will let people try an all-new hyper-reality experience called “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire.”
Though there’s no specific information regarding when people can expect these new Experience Centers to open, they will be located at Downtown Disney near the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, and in Disney Springs, near Disney World’s resorts in Orlando.
For “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire,” The Void collaborated with Lucasfilm and ILMxLab, which is the collaboration between Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Skywalker Sound that’s solely dedicated to creating “immersive experiences.”
Cliff Plumer, The Void’s new CEO as of January, tells Business Insider that “Secrets of the Empire” was truly was a collaboration with the Lucasfilm story team. “They spent time with us understanding our process and looking at how we go about creating our experiences, and they had a storyline in mind,” he said. “It’s been a great collaboration since day one.”
Plumer first experienced The Void early last year at Sundance — he said he was “immediately blown away by the experience,” and that “the things I’d done at Oculus and Jaunt were exciting at the time, but what The Void was doing was next-level.” Now that he’s joined The Void as its new CEO, Plumer says the company is putting a ton of effort into making sure customers are wowed even before they don their VR headsets and backpacks — taking a note from Disney, which keeps guests entertained even while they’re waiting in line.
“There’s a lot we’ve learned working closely with the Walt Disney company, which pretty much wrote the book on guest services,” Plumer tells us. “So when you come to The Void entertainment center, the entertainment immediately begins. It’s not just what happens in the virtual world; it’s that whole journey that we’ve worked really hard on, and we’re excited to launch that part of it with the ‘Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire’ experience.”
Plumer tells Business Insider that he goes through the new “Star Wars” experience every time he’s at The Void’s studio, and he says he’s “confident every Star Wars fan is going to love it.”
“They’ll feel like they’ve stepped into the universe,” Plumer says. “This Star Wars experience — I wanted to be in the film industry the moment I saw the original ‘Star Wars’ in 1977. I was fortunate enough to work with Lucasfilm on the original trilogy, and the second trilogy with George. I officially grew up with Star Wars, as well as my kids. And this experience, being in that Star Wars universe, engaging those famous characters, is amazing. That’s what I’m excited about. A new form of storytelling.”