Masefields & AtmosVR – The UKs first 4dimensional VR experience
Even on paper, this was an ambitious, high-concept brief. Create an immersive, multi-space environment that looked, sounded and even smelt like a post-apocalyptic world, where ‘players’ were set different challenges and tasks as they explored an extraordinary ‘world’.
In 2021, Masefields were commissioned by VR specialists AtmosVR to lead the planning and building regulations approvals on In A Box; the UK’s first, fully immersive VR experience in Birmingham.
Set at Chernobyl Reactor 4, pitted against a covert black op, players must rely on their wits to solve challenges and escape.
Much of the ambitious design for this unprecedented game environment was in the client’s head. As trusted technical designers and architects, Masefields collaborated closely with the In A Box team to interpret the creative vision, meet the creative aspiration – and ensure that the experience was safe, compliant – and buildable. Proper access and escape routes were particularly important with visitors wearing VR headsets in a confined space. Plus, the space itself had to be visually stand out, with all technical design elements and materials in sympathy with a convincingly post-apocalyptic feel.
The technical challenges arising from this complex concept were unique. At one point in the ‘game’, players experience a moment of freefall as they ‘fall’ from a high building. The original concept was to excavate the concrete floor of the existing building to create a space so that the floor would literally drop away beneath players’ feet as they ‘fell’. This was not technically feasible, so sprung wooden floors were designed that drop only a few centimentres. The effect, when combined with the VR footage of falling, felt convincingly realistic. The ventilation systems were designed to blow out warm air to further enhance the feeling of falling 30 feet through space.
To complete a feeling of total immersion, the technical plans also incorporated systems that could emit water vapour or the smell of burning and charred wood, to achieve a hyper-real experience.
InABox was a truly bespoke project, that highlighted the Masefields teams’ design and technical strengths. In October 2021, post-completion, the technical team revised the site for personal ‘road-testing’ – and were delighted to report that the ‘experience’ was truly as terrifying as everyone intended!