Meow Wolf founder discusses the evolution of immersive entertainment

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

For many years, theme parks and attractions worldwide have used Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) elements to enhance guest immersion, but innovative Santa Fe-based arts and entertainment company Meow Wolf has consistently been on the cutting edge of immersive entertainment.

Meow Wolf - Convergence Station
Photo by Jess Bernstein, courtesy of Meow Wolf

Since 2016, Meow Wolf has been creating incredibly immersive installations across the country that have become “must-visit” attractions — House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe (2016), Omega Mart in Las Vegas (2021), and Convergence Station in Denver (2021). All three experiences allow guests to create their own adventure through puzzles, games, projections, and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology that unlocks secret storylines as they move through the space.

We asked Meow Wolf’s Founder and Director Vince Kadlubek to discuss how immersive technologies elevate the audience experience and what he envisions for the future of AR/VR in art, entertainment, and attractions. 

Theme parks incorporate immersive aspects into rides and attractions, but Meow Wolf has certainly “upped the ante” by creating experiences that are immersive from start to finish. Why do you think that’s so important?

The trajectory of a human’s (or humanity’s) relationship to story has clearly been towards an increase in immersion. Theme parks were a big step in that direction when Walt first set the theme park revolution in motion 60 years ago. But the world has evolved quite a bit since then, primarily with the advent of video games and the internet, both of which provide people with agency and endless discoverable content.

At Meow Wolf, we realize that it is not enough to simply provide an immersive environment as a secondary component of a ride. We believe that fully immersive environments, created through art and capable of allowing for personal choice, are much more aligned with modern interests.

Many people use AR/VR technology in their daily life, so it’s no surprise that it’s also become a tool in themed attraction design. What do you see as the next step in the evolution of that type of art and entertainment? Are there new ways Meow Wolf plans to incorporate AR/VR in future installations?

Spatial computing will transform all of our lives and in every aspect of our life. Digital storytelling that is anchored to physical space is a natural progression of the trajectory storytelling has always been on. In the future, you won’t simply sit down on your couch to experience story. Instead, you will opt-in to a story world that is happening all around you, whenever and wherever you choose. This next evolution of storytelling is made possible by spatial computing.

Being an independent company, Meow Wolf has the luxury to push the boundaries on themed/immersive installations and attractions. What’s next for Meow Wolf? And do you expect popular IPs will be incorporated into Meow Wolf experiences?

Meow Wolf is home to some of the most brilliant artists and makers and storytellers in the world. We have very little interest in producing work based on popular IPs; it is actually one of the most disheartening aspects of the Themed Entertainment world. We generate our own IP, characters, and worlds that are discovered anew. This is not only way more attractive for the artist, but I believe the consumer as well.

Meow Wolf will continue creating unprecedented location-based experiences in many cities around the world, but we also are excited about expressing who we are through many different forms. Sometimes that may be traditional media, or directly through contemporary art, or social-impact initiatives. The next phase for us is all about getting back to our true roots and empowering the entity of Meow Wolf to create in all sorts of ways from an authentic place.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We are incredibly excited to welcome Jose Tolosa to the team as our new CEO. Jose is a big strategic thinker who wants to push the boundaries of what is possible, while most importantly, being anchored to a mission-driven focus. We feel incredibly grateful for his leadership into this next phase.

Click here for more information about Meow Wolf immersive entertainment, and check out our video tour of Omega Mart below:

Report from Inside Meow Wolf Omega Mart, Area15 Las Vegas

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