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Virtual Reality Experiences Are Coming to Utah Soon

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Originally slated to open in July 2015, Evermore Park was supposed to be a theme park that brought visitors back to the Victorian Era. The would-be destination was set to occupy 45 acres in Pleasant Grove, Utah, and to focus more on experiences than rides. Unfortunately, because it's such a big undertaking, construction of Evermore Park has been put on hold indefinitely. 

The good news is that the company behind it has decided to take one aspect of the park, a virtual reality gaming experience, and make it a stand-alone attraction. This program, called THE VOID, will take advantage of new developments in virtual reality. Like something out of a science fiction movie, players will be able to move around in and interact with a virtual world. 

"Our technology allows us to create the illusion that the player is exploring miles of terrain or incredibly tall structures without ever leaving our game pod,” the website says. “The end result is a physical connection to the virtual world and a sense of exploration never before possible." 

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THE VOID imagines worlds where players can cast spells, fight dragons, and board alien spaceships. (This does not seem to be in line with the Victorian Era theme, but regardless, sounds incredibly cool.) Think of it as a high-tech game of laser tag.

After players are equipped with gear, they'll enter a special gaming pod. Within the pod, participants, wearing haptic vests, will be able to "feel" the environment around them, including elevation changes, moisture, heat, and smells. Players will be able to pick things up and press buttons, and will be given the option to explore different environments, from a haunted house to a dinosaur safari. 

You can get a feel for what the experience will be like by watching the video:

THE VOID has plans to open Virtual Entertainment Centers in big cities all over the world, starting with Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s still in production stages, but the lucky few who have gotten to try it out have written mostly positive reviews so far. You can follow the project's progress on the company's Facebook page

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Design Firm Envisions the Driverless School Bus of the Future
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Engineers have already designed vehicles capable of shuttling pizzas, packages, and public transit passengers without a driver present. But few have considered how this technology can be used to transport our most precious cargo: kids. Though most parents would be hesitant to send their children on a bus with no one in the driver's seat, one design firm believes autonomous vehicle technology can change their rides for the better. Their new conceptual project, called Hannah, illustrates their ideas for the future of school bus travel.

As Co.Design reports, Seattle-based design firm Teague tackled both the practical challenges and the social hurdles when designing their driverless school bus. Instead of large buses filled with dozens of kids, each Hannah vehicle is designed to hold a maximum of six passengers at a time. This offers two benefits: One, fewer kids on the route means the bus can afford to pick up each student at his or her doorstep rather than a designated bus stop. Facial recognition software would ensure every child is accounted for and that no unwanted passengers can gain access.

The second benefit is that a smaller number of passengers could help prevent bullying onboard. Karin Frey, a University of Washington sociologist who consulted with the team, says that larger groups of students are more likely to form toxic social hierarchies on a school bus. The six seats inside Hannah, which face each other cafeteria table-style, would theoretically place kids on equal footing.

Another way Hannah can foster a friendlier school bus atmosphere is inclusive design. Instead of assigning students with disabilities to separate cars, everyone can board Hannah regardless of their abilities. The vehicle drives low to the ground and extends a ramp to the road when dropping off passengers. This makes the boarding and drop-off process the same for everyone.

While the autonomous vehicles lack human supervisors, the buses can make up for this in other ways. Hannah can drive both backwards and forwards and let out children on either side of the car (hence the palindromic name). And when the bus isn’t ferrying kids to school, it can earn money for the district by acting as a delivery truck.

Still, it may be a while before you see Hannah zipping down your road: Devin Liddel, the project’s head designer, says it could take at least five years after driverless cars go mainstream for autonomous school buses to start appearing. All the regulations that come with anything involving public schools would likely prevent them from showing up any sooner. And when they do arrive, Teague suspects that major tech corporations could be the ones to finally clear the path.

"Could Amazon or Lyft—while deploying a future of roving, community-centric delivery vehicles—take over the largest form of mass transit in the United States as a sort of side gig?" the firm's website reads. "Hannah is an initial answer, a prototype from the future, to these questions."

[h/t Co.Design]

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Google Home Is Finally Able to Multitask
NBD Photos, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
NBD Photos, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The hallmark of any great assistant is a talent for multitasking. Now, CNET reports that this ability is now a part of Google Home. The voice-activated device can finally process and execute two tasks that are said in a single command.

With earlier versions of the software, if you wanted to ask Google Home to cancel an alarm for a certain time and set a new one, for example, you would need to speak the first command, wait for it to be completed, and then say the second. The new feature allows you to string together both requests without pausing. This is the case for tasks that are related, like playing a song and turning up the volume, as well as those that are unrelated, like checking football scores and asking for cake recipes.

To save even more breath, you can combine this tool with Google Home’s Shortcuts feature. Shortcuts lets you assign short phrases to more complicated commands (like replacing “play workout playlist on Spotify” with “workout time”). Now you can use Shortcuts to have Google tackle multiple tasks at once by saying just a couple words.

The home assistant’s new ability is limited: Three tasks is still too much for it to keep track of, even if you’re pairing a two-task shortcut with one straightforward command. So after asking for a time and weather update, you’ll have to be patient before asking Google the answer to the universe.

[h/t CNET]

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