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To call "Immersion" the advancement in virtual reality we have all been waiting for would not be an understatement. VR has had a presence in the campus market for more than 20 years, and Mike Seymore of CEP Inc. has been there every step of the way. The term virtual reality is loosely defined as any technology that uses one or more of the five senses to create an environment users are entrenched in that doesn't actually exist. In early generations, users wore visors that showed very simplistic geometric shapes to represent an environment. The visor contained a screen that would adjust the view according to the users' focus, creating a 3D virtual world. If you turned your head left, you would look to the left in the game.
Immersion has taken the same concept to an entirely new level. A large part of it is the leaps and bounds in graphics and control response since the early days, but one major drawback of the initial generations of the technology was that users were still completely static. This meant that while they could look around the virtual world by turning their heads, all forms of locomotion and action in the game were controller based. Meaning you stand or sit in a single position and do all the action with your standard couch-potato style game controller.
What "Immersion" has done is to integrate a special style treadmill, that along with the far more advanced optical system and a rifle style controller, plunges users fully into the experience. This treadmill has no belts on it; there is a circular pad users stand on and are strapped into a harness to hold them in the unit, and a shoe and track system that allows them to actually walk, run and jump in place, with sensors on the hips and feet to track movement. This means players are physically in the game. When they take three paces forward, so does your character in the game. When you look any direction, so does your character. When you raise and fire your weapon, actions on the screen are likewise.
Combine this special equipment with ultra-powered multi-PC units linked in series. Multiply it by 5 players and add in smash-hit games like "Halo," "Call Of Duty: Black Ops" and "Counter Strike" and you are going to have a big hit on campus.
Mike gives us an inside view on this game and the technology involved, as well as some background on virtual reality and simulation in the campus market in general.
"I've always liked the term 'immersion' and we finally have the technology available to us to make the show truly live up to the name. This show represents a paradigm shift in putting people into a virtual world, not only visually but physically. A lot of folks are aware of the Oculus Rift, which is the top of the line virtual reality visor and we already use it in our current programs on anti-texting and drunk driving. When when you put the Oculus on. It's like being there. You can do this on a couch or in a chair at a computer, but what the Immersion system does is adds in the element of moving and walking, not to mention jumping and ducking. It brings the experience to a whole new level. If you can get a game that is in PC format, it can be used with the 'Immersion' system."
This isn't your basic laptop PC type of setup, however. "It's pretty high tech," he says. "We have a number of PCs that work in unison to create the 360 degree physical worlds the games take place in. I am not the most technical guy to explain the specifics on the processing power or computer equipment. I am more of the creative idea guy, and we go to first-class coders, programmers and engineers who help us figure out how to make it happen."
CEP, Inc. is known for leading the way in the novelty field, not content to carbon copy the flavor of the week, but to truly innovate their product line on a consistent basis. Their AWARE TXT driving simulator has been on tour sponsored by AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign for the last few years because of Mike's consistent diligence in keeping up with the virtual reality field. It's something he's been interested in and actively working with in the campus market for quite some time.
"This is so incredibly exciting for me because this is such a huge leap in this genre of entertainment. The ability to move your body in real time has been the only real impediment to complete immersion. Of course we haven't gotten to the point of smells and tastes," he jokes, "which is probably a good thing, Though virtual reality has been around since 1992, before we were only able to immerse ourselves visually and through audio into the concept. You are still sitting somewhere on a couch. By physically transporting your body into the scenario, it feels incredibly realistic. You aren't pushing buttons any more, but quite literally performing the exact same actions as you are in-game."
This is am absolutely brand new show. CEP is taking dates now for limited fall 2015 dates and spring of 2016 and your campus could be one of the first to have this exclusive new attraction for students. For a visual sneak-peak, CEP will have video up and ready this spring. This is a huge leap in technology beyond what's been previously available, and Mike Seymore is one person who has been waiting anxiously for this development.
"The 'Immersion' system physically transports your body into the experience. It feels so realistic, you are literally walking through the scenario, looking around at the world surrounding you. It really has to be felt to be understood. Even with just the visor on, if you are sitting on a couch, you are still just sitting there pushing buttons. The difference between that and being able to run around, spin 360 degrees, duck and jump over an obstacle - is hard to relay in words."
The format of this show can pit 5 players against each other in tournament-style combat for the full show, or can be set up individually for budget or space requirements. But, the full version of this can really turn it from a user-exclusive experience to a tourney that can engage an entire crowd. "Each unit is set up with its own 50-inch mounted display that shows the rest of the crowd in the room the feed from each player's Oculus. So the participants that are waiting to experience this will be able to see what the players are seeing instead of just watching them randomly run, duck and shoot.
"We can set them up in a number of ways as well. We can have FIVE completely different experiences happening at one time, or we can link all of those 5 units together for the players to have a heads up match in a 'Call of Duty' game or whatever their choice is."
One thing that can be tricky about high tech roadshows is the rough nature of the road and keeping the systems operating smoothly through hundreds of performances a year. "That is something we specialize in. Taking computers and simulators on the road safely and securely is something we have done for years. We have very high end road cases and trained and well-qualified technicians that keep everything working the way it should. We are very well-versed in getting very high tech equipment from point A to point B."
That's another fine point to bring up about working with a first class novelty company. Even when the conditions are ideal, you still need a fallback. "It would be unrealistic to think you could operate without backup equipment. Equipment fails, so we make sure we always have backups. For example, we are in the second year of the 'Toyota Teen Drive 365' program, which uses our simulators, we have about 280 shows a year that bounce coast to coast from day to day. That show uses a 70" touchscreen monitor, and we have a backup for that. We are a professional production company that operates on a national level, so we make sure we always have our bases covered for ourselves and our clients."
The Immersion experience is one you can get only from CEP exclusively and you can trust everything to be professionally done and working properly in the process. They continue to bring high quality and innovation to the marketplace and this is an absolute first-look chance to get in on this show and have an experience on campus for your students that is like none other they have seen.
ANY game that can be found in PC format can be played on this system, including "Halo," "First Strike," "Call Of Duty" and any more that your students request.
Contact CEP Inc. at (866) 288-8126 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on bringing Immersion to your campus.