Over the past 10 years, escape rooms have skyrocketed in popularity across the U.S. The unique experience involves locking a group of players inside a themed room to solve puzzles and find clues that will lead them to a way of unlocking the room. But what if you could raise the stakes to make the experience even more immersive? Ohio-based company Objective Reality Games is doing just that by combining the traditional escape room concept with virtual reality technology.
“We found out about the VR escape room concept in 2018 and decided to go through the process of writing a business plan and looking into it further,” co-owner Colin Rose said. “We did a bit more research and got in touch with Ubisoft to see what the process was. They were looking for entrepreneurs to help them grow this industry, so we signed up with them, and now we have 15 different virtual reality escape rooms.”
The technology used to power virtual reality escape rooms operates at a much higher capacity than at-home VR consoles. The headset is the commercial-grade VIVE Pro, with 4K resolution and retina tracing. It connects to a high-powered gaming PC that runs the escape room experience. The result is higher resolution, more in-depth environments, and a greater variety of puzzles and challenges that heighten the user experience.
“The worlds they create in these escape rooms are just mind blowing,” co-owner Sara Rose said. “You’re not just unlocking locks, you’re shooting bows and arrows, lighting stuff on fire, which are all too dangerous to do in real life. It’s a much more immersive and cinematic experience, and everybody has their role to play in order to move forward, so nobody gets left out.”
Even though the technology at the escape room center is more advanced, the Roses are passionate about sharing that high-tech experience with all gamers. They developed a game streaming platform called AbstractVR, which is designed to bring the power of virtual reality escape rooms to users’ homes, no PC required.
“We’ve partnered with NVIDIA and Amazon to create a cloud streaming platform where users at home can stream these experiences to their headset without the need to purchase a $5,000 gaming PC or a $2,000 headset,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to get other developers on board with creating cool experiences that aren’t limited by at-home rendering capabilities.”
AbstractVR is the Roses’ current big project, but they also have plans to expand their brick-and-mortar escape room location into other regions of the state. There’s no doubt that the gaming industry is booming, but virtual reality is still a niche market within the overarching community, one that the Roses are capitalizing on and carving out a space for in Ohio.
“Ohio has really become a mecca for tech,” Rose said. “Along our path in the gaming startup space, we were told that we should move out west for this kind of work, but we’re getting engagement here from companies like NVIDIA and Amazon. I think that shows that Ohio is really at the forefront of this technology.”