If it feels as though the whole of London is turning into one giant immersive experiment, with so many popping up all over the place, then Sandbox VR London will confirm your worst fears. Although it looks pretty good.
Opening this summer, (sign up here for early access) this virtual reality environment and self-styled ‘social space’ is in the heart of Covent Garden rather than on some remote industrial wasteland that barely sees a bus or tube from one day to the next, and it’s aimed fairly and squarely at grown-ups. You’ll feel like you’ve walked straight out of Urban Outfitters and into ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (always an attractive exchange, and probably less disorientating than the other way round) and there’s the additional lure of a state-of-the-art robotic bartender that can make 80 drinks an hour. Foul queues at the bar, begone!
Despite being so central, it has capacity for 300 people and, in a UK first, it boasts free-roam team games with full-on haptic suits. Translated into English, that basically means that you get to feel everything, whether that’s being cold, being warm, and even – slightly scarily – being shot. Still, given this is a gaming environment, that’s why you’re there: to have the full ‘Ready Player One’ experience.
Now, on to the techie bit of how they do this: using advanced technology, Sandbox VR creates a social gaming adventure that puts players inside interactive worlds as if they were living inside a game or movie. Using new-gen Hollywood motion capture cameras, 3D precision full-body trackers and those nifty feedback suits, it creates an experience of touch, vibration and motion for the wearer. Basically we’re pretty sure it’s even more exciting than those massage chairs you get at airports.
You can also physically interact with each other in-game, exploring all sorts of universes, including Star Trek: Discovery and Unbound Fighting League.
Because we’re adults and Londoners, at some point we’re going to need a drink and a bit of a sit-down. And another drink. Luckily, that aspect doesn’t disappoint either. There’s a fully immersive, futuristic lounge area where you can sit back and rewatch your gaming highlights, while enjoying drinks from the bar, courtesy of the UK’s first permanent robotic bartender, IG-1, aka the Makr Shakr, who will be expertly shaking, stirring and muddling those cocktails at an astonishing rate while taking fresh orders from guests using in-built table terminals. He’s been seen at the Barbican before, so he’s not some kind of prole, either.
The unique cocktail menu features specials like the Samarian Sunset, based on Star Trek: Discovery, and the Zombie Apocalypse from Deadwood Mansion as well as cocktails from mixologist Bottle Proof. There are also London-based food brands, so you can refuel after getting hot, cold and shot.
Now that’s a night out that will give you kudos with your friends the next day, provided of course your wild descriptions of spaceships, alien worlds and robots serving drinks doesn’t lead them to dismiss it all as some kind of Samarian Sunset-spun dream.
Sandbox VR, The Post Building, Museum St, WC1A 1PB. From Jul 28, Mon-Thu 11am-11.30pm; Fri-Sat 10.30am-midnight; Sun 10.30am-10pm.
Can’t get enough of that immersive stuff? Take a peek at Phantom Peak.
And then there’s Dreammachine to check out.