I recently visited CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood, which is not too uncommon for me. But this time around, a new experience was there that I was unaware of: Holoride.
I was approached by a man asking me to take part in a virtual reality experiment. I kindly explained that VR isn’t really my thing.
He continued trying to persuade me by explaining it would be like living in a video game – I was even less interested in video games. He then went on to tell me that this VR experience was unlike any other, because it would take place while being driven around the parking lot in a car. Right then, my interest piqued.
I’ve experienced a lot of promotional VR at movie theaters, motion VR at places like Dave & Buster’s, and even super-immersive VR at The Void, but I’d never even heard of VR in a moving vehicle. I decided to give it a try.
I learned that this virtual reality experience was created by a company called Holoride, and that they were teaming up with Universal Studios and Ford for this original experience. I hopped into the Ford, where the driver explained to me how to use the remote control and then told me to put on the VR headset.
Once I was ready, the vehicle began to move – not only the vehicle I was actually in, but also the virtual vehicle I was seeing in my headset. The game I was partaking in was called “Universal Monsters Presents: Bride of Frankenstein Holoride.” Sitting across from me in the virtual ride vehicle was the Bride of Frankenstein herself. She explained to me that she needs to get a message to Frankenstein’s Monster, and that she needs help defeating the monsters we’ll meet along the way.
As I previously mentioned, I am not a gamer at all. They generally stress me out and it’s simply not my thing. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised by the gameplay aspect of this VR experience. There was one trigger and it was a very simple point-and-shoot system. There were no complicated button combinations and it was essentially idiot-proof. So for me, a guy who does not enjoy video games, I actually had fun with this one.
The aspect of this experience that really intrigued me was the idea of being driven somewhere while having the motion in your VR headset matched with the motion of the car.
I will preface this by saying that I have a fairly strong stomach when it comes to motion sickness – every once in a while it’ll get the better of me, but for the most part, I’m okay. Admittedly, when we first started moving, it took a little bit of getting used to for me. As soon as the monsters appeared and I had them to focus on, I had no issues whatsoever. If you have a weak stomach, you might feel differently.
After about a five-minute ride, we return to the starting point in the real world and make it to Frankenstein’s Monster’s castle in the virtual world. I was impressed by the experience overall, and talked the ear off of one of the Holoride representatives afterward.
The representative told me that there had been a similar test of the technology in Las Vegas, and that the experience has the movements programmed to a specific path, but that the future plan is for it to follow wherever the driver turns – and that they could see this technology being used in theme parks, as well as possibly for Uber or Lyft rides.
That last statement is what really got me excited. If Holoride is interested in having this be part of a theme park as well as ride-sharing, there is one very obvious use for this technology.
Walt Disney World’s Minnie Van service seems like the perfect fit for this type of VR system. Imagine being picked up at your Walt Disney World resort hotel and having the option to enjoy a virtual game, featuring your favorite Disney characters, that is synced to your ride, whether your next destination is a theme park, Disney Springs, or the airport.
I believe this is a great use for this technology and I would be surprised if we don’t see this tech rolled out as part of the Minnie Van service in the future. This is simply an opinion on my part, and I have no insider knowledge to back this up. It’s just a gut feeling and frankly, something I would love to see happen.
As I had mentioned, this experience at Universal CityWalk was part of a test, so my ride was followed up by a questionnaire. Along with the obvious questions, they did ask how I would feel about paying for this service. Would I be willing to pay an upcharge to experience this in a rideshare? Would I be alright with it being paid for by advertisers? Where would I like to see this technology used?
Overall, this VR experience that I happened to stumble upon really impressed me. I like the new spin on the virtual reality experience, and I am excited about the possibilities of its future use.
Jeff DePaoli is a voiceover artist and producer living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your free gift of “America’s Hidden Mickeys: Lesser Known Disney Destinations Around the U.S.A.” at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.