The following is an excerpt from the February 2018 edition of the LF Examiner. Download the full article below.
Atlanta-based Pulseworks has been in the business of supplying motion simulators to museums, science centers, and aquariums for 20 years. The company’s business model is based on supplying turnkey systems on a revenue-share basis, with no upfront cost to the venue. In 2016 it deployed its first VR-enhanced simulator, branded the “VR Transporter,” at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, OH, which also has a GS theater.
Pulseworks has since supplied VR Transporters to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the Saint Louis Science Center. Jackie Mollet, managing director of visitor services for the Saint Louis Science Center, is pleased with how the VR Transporter has added to the center’s business, saying it has “increased our overall sales and had a positive impact on visitor satisfaction. As a free-entry science center, we are always looking for incremental ways to diversify revenues and increase per-cap, and the VR has done that for us.” Pulseworks’ CEO Raj Deshpande adds, “this upsell also works for institutions with a paid admission.”
The system comes with VR content produced by Pulseworks. The first two educational shows, each with running times of about six minutes, are Spacewalk and Dive in Prehistoric Seas. More VR content on natural history and physical science subjects is in the pipeline. The four-seat VR Transporter occupies a small footprint of about 15 feet (4.6 meters) square, and requires clear height of no more than 10 feet (3 meters). (Additional space may be needed for ticketing and queuing). The first few units were enclosed cabins, but Pulseworks has concluded the enclosure is not actually necessary, and has deployed “enclosure-less” systems, too.
Could some or all of a GS theater’s seats be converted to support a VR Transporter experience? Deshpande admits “it could be done,” and his company is “exploring some ideas, [but] the technology is not there yet. We are scaling to 8, 16, 20, and larger seat deployments, but a full GS theater would need something different,” probably an array of many small motion platforms.
What about the cross-media opportunity: working with a GS producer to capture content that can be used in a Pulseworks attraction? “Absolutely,” was Deshpande’s quick response. He added, “it would be great for [the GS producer’s] high-tech profile. We have talked to a number of producers.” But the challenge for such cross-media collaborations is that VR demands high frame rates — 4K at 60 fps capture at a minimum, but preferably 120 fps — and close-ups. “Long shots have no relevance” in VR, Deshpande explains. He’s encouraged that VR camera technology is getting better, as is image-stitching software.