As a team that works 24/7 with virtual reality, there aren't many VR novelties that get us genuinely excited. Sure, we’re always willing to try out a different headset or experiment with new software that might make our developers’ lives easier, but it’s rare that we come across something that promises to be a real game-changer.
Yet when Positron invited us to come and try their Voyager virtual reality chair, we were enthusiastic about the possibility of finally finding an accessory for VR that genuinely improved the sensory experience, rather than just being a gimmick – and it didn’t disappoint. The pod-shaped seat might feel a bit strange when you first push yourself into the seat – it’s a bit like perching on a velvet-covered eggshell – but once the Oculus Rift headset is on and you’re in virtual reality, you soon forget your surroundings.
The Voyager is a full-motion chair built primarily for cinematic VR experiences. It is able to rotate 360° horizontally, as well as move 35° backwards or forwards. This, combined with the haptic feedback built into the back of the chair, is used to create a sensation of motion that matches up with the content being displayed.
For experiences where flight, zero-gravity or rapid movement is required, the Voyager can simulate motion in a way that won’t leave users feeling queasy like some conventional VR experiences. The idea behind the Voyager is that you only need a little motion in real-life to give the sensation of much greater movement – as long as it is representative to the content being shown on the VR headset.
One of the cool things about is that it regularly refocuses the user on a specific point in the 360° experience. While it’s perfectly possible to look around and see what’s else is being shown, the rotation and tilt of the full-motion chair directs the user’s attention to the most important visual reference, helping to usher the narrative along without this feeling jarring.
Considering it has a VR-ready PC and a haptic unit built into it, the chair has a surprisingly small physical footprint; in fact, it is no bigger than a standard-sized cinema seat. With a single cable coming from the chair itself, it also doesn’t have the litany of wiring that is usually associated with a high-end virtual reality set-up.
The Positron Voyage can also be configured for multiple simultaneous experiences, so a room with several chairs could allow for a group to watch the same thing at the same time – thereby simulating the effect of watching a film with others.
Although initially the principal market for the Postitron Voyager is for VR Cinemas, this is far from the only thing that this could be used for. While most of the content so far adapted for use on the Voyager are VR films, the chair’s motion and haptic effects could also be used to create believable virtual tours, or gaming experiences that focus primarily on story-telling and decision making.
For architectural, interior design and real estate applications, the fact that the Voyager takes away the controller makes it so much easier to guide the viewer through a space, giving them the benefits of virtual immersion while ensuring they see the most important elements of the space you are showcasing. It’s an exciting alternative to a conventional VR experience, and one that we’ll be looking at incorporating into certain projects over the coming months and years.