Third Street Promenade (File photo)

By Lily Richman

Most people are already familiar with the cutting edge concept of virtual reality technology. The Third Street Promenade’s new venue, The VOID, however, hopes to introduce Santa Monica to “hyper-reality.”

Situated between J.Crew and Chipotle, The VOID invites customers to buckle on a vest, pull on a helmet and step into a new, virtual space.

“Our goal is to show people that it is now possible to send you into this beautifully realized, different world,” said The VOID Santa Monica General Manager Mike Lee.

At The VOID, each VR experience is referred to as a “dimension.” The venue is currently offering customers two main dimensions: “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” and “Ralph Breaks VR.”

The former features several familiar-looking “Star Wars” droids and stormtroopers and introduces a new plot line centered around the retrieval of an ancient Jedi lightsaber. Teams of up to four collaborate to successfully complete the mission.

“You can watch a movie, or you can go to a theme park and ride an attraction, but I really believe this is the first time that you really get to say ‘I was in the world of ‘Star Wars,’ and I saw it, I touched it, I smelled it and it feels real,”’ Lee said. “That’s pretty amazing.”

“Ralph Breaks VR,” meanwhile, is intended to inspire friendly rivalry. Up to four players vie for points while warding off kittens and bunnies with milkshakes and pancakes. Users compete against one another and against time to escape the internet unscathed.

Both “Star Wars” and “Ralph Breaks VR” were developed through a partnership between The VOID and Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB, which works to create experiential VR and augmented reality (AR) activities.

In the coming months, The VOID’s Santa Monica location also has plans to offer “Ghostbusters: Dimension” and “Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment,” an original horror experience designed by The VOID and inspired by the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Each so-called dimension is equipped with high-definition VR graphics, interactive targets for shooting and lasts almost fifteen minutes. What elevates the The VOID to a “hyper-real” level, however, is its superior sensory experience. While approaching molten earth in “Star Wars,” actual heat is emitted, and one can smell ash. While standing on a balcony overlooking the world of the internet in “Ralph Breaks VR,” wind blows to make the experience feel even more realistic.

“Ghostbusters: Dimension,” launched in Time’s Square in 2016 via a partnership with Madame Tussaud’s, was the first dimension publicly offered by The VOID. Today, Santa Monica is The VOID’s 11th location. Six other venues are located within the United States, with two more in Canada, one in Malaysia and one in the United Arab Emirates.

The company’s primary investors include Fidelity Management and Research Company, Qualcomm Ventures, Verizon Ventures and Disney.

Customers’ reactions to The VOID’s new location have been overwhelmingly positive, according to Lee.

“The best part of my job hands down is getting to see people come through and experience The VOID for the first time,” Lee said. “A really, really absurdly high number of folks in the United States have never tried virtual reality before, unfortunately.”

Lee said that one of The VOID’s main goals is to facilitate the spread of knowledge about VR.

“Our mission is to try to expose more people to this amazing tech,” Lee said. “I think everybody’s goal is to be at ‘Ready Player One’ in a few years.”

The VOID is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for approximately $33 per dimension on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m for $35 per dimension weekends. For more information, visit: https://www.thevoid.com/locations/santamonica#.

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