Is The Future Of Cinema Fully Immersive And Multi-Sensory?

The VR Voyager Motion Chair from LA-based Positron is ushering in a new, fully immersive way to experience films, spectacular locations, and experiences.

What Is The Positron VR Motion Chair

Positron’s VR Voyager Motion Chair combines cutting edge technology from different fields. It…

Has unlimited 360-degree rotation and 47-degree vertical forwards and backwards tilt

· Spins, swivels, and releases up to 6 different scents in a film

Has haptic pillows that provide fully immersive audio, and sensations like the feelings of wind, or cars whizzing by

Has customizable LED mood lighting in each pod and tethered 4K VR headsets

· Has been tested against motion sickness and claims to be “barf-proof”

Is disinfected after each screening, for sanitation

Positron is pioneering VR Cinema with fully immersive, original content films on topics ranging from King Tut’s tomb, to perfume, to climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Movies range from 5 to 37 minutes long, and the average ticket price is $20. The eclectic mix of venues average 20-25 chairs each. Current locations include San Francisco de Young Museum, Melbourne Australia, Milan Italy, Toronto, Canada, Los Angeles, California, and the Yosemite Cinema in Oakhurst, California. Yosemite Cinema, with its 16 Positron Voyager motion pods, became the first permanent XR cinema in North America. Other locations are expected to include museums, tourist attractions, cruise ships, malls, repurposed warehouses, retail spaces, and movie theaters. The company expects to be in 20 cities by late 2023.

Cross-Disciplinary Innovation

Founder and CEO Jeffrey Travis combined his technical knowledge as a biomedical engineer who designed motion platforms for simulators, with his film-making abilities. Travis previously directed films, animation shorts, TV, and commercials. He saw an opportunity to enhance great storytelling and content with multi-sensory VR experiences. Having worked as an SVP at Disney, I know how critical great storytelling is to the success of a film. Gimmicky technology alone, won’t cut it.

Highly Unique Content

Oscar winning, Indian music composer, singer, songwriter, producer, director, AR Rahman, with support from Intel and others, created the 37-minute VR film, Le Musk, about perfume, to be shown in the Positron chairs, with motion, music, and scent integrated into the storyline. It was shot on 14 different cameras and enhanced by 10 visual FX houses. Le Musk premiered at the Cannes XR program in May 2022 and is currently being shown in two Positron XR Cinemas, one in Los Angeles and one in Toronto.

Other Positron films include multi-sensory, “in real life” feelings of being on top of Machu Picchu in Peru, climbing Mount Everest, and a 17-minute Yosemite Experience narrated by Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad. According to Yosemite Cinema owner Matt Sconce: “You can experience hiking Mount Everest, flying through Yosemite, and climbing El Capitan… Things you can’t do in the real world because of danger and cost. Here you can have those adventures without leaving the cinema. Visitors to Yosemite experience angles and heights they can’t see on a normal visit. They smell the pine trees and campfire, as Teddy Roosevelt talks to John Muir and see the cave paintings as they fly through the valley with the mist and waterfalls.”

They developed the short film Myth: A Frozen Tale from Disney, and The Secrets of Tutankhamuna 12-minute immersive VR journey that takes viewers closer than ever before to the ancient tomb, artifacts and mysteries of King Tut.

To encourage growth and innovation in VR filmmaking, Positron established the Positron Visionary Award in partnership with the Cannes Film Festival, where VR film makers receive awards for Excellence in Cinematic VR.

The Business Model and Economics

Positron leases its VR theaters in partnership with premium venues that have established foot traffic, in exchange for a percent of ticket sales. They produce original documentary and narrative film content for the chairs, and license and distribute it. No home viewing chairs are available yet, but most likely will be in the future. In September 2020, the company launched an IP licensing program that allows partner companies to use the patents, designs, and the software to manufacture and sell their own customized VR chairs. An important partner is Taiwanese company, Brogent, that operates on-location immersive VR entertainment experiences all over the world and can help Positron expand globally and particularly throughout Asia.

The fully equipped pods cost approximately $50,000 each. At $20 per ticket, assuming an average of 20 viewings per day, 7 days a week, breakeven would occur after 18 months, not including real estate space costs. If the chairs take off, economies of scale could kick in, lowering the costs.

Why It’s A Unique VR Pioneer Worth Watching

Positron merits keeping an eye on for several reasons:

It’s a great example of cross-disciplinary innovation and collaboration

· It demonstrates how important storytelling is to technology, and how technology can make storytelling more engaging, immersive, memorable, and intensely experienced

It’s where the Metaverse is going and the company is way ahead of the curve. Beyond just a 3D visual experience, it’s multi-sensory, with movement, scent, and intensely exhilarating feelings

The question will be how quickly they can scale, and if the economics will allow it to do so quickly. The average $20 dollar ticket price seems reasonable, and they have a significant head start on combining all the necessary technologies with a pipeline of award-winning VR content they have the rights for. The quality content and venue partners are great for gaining positive influence advocacy an early adopter word of mouth.

Special thanks to Rithik Puli, my research assistant, for his help researching Positron.

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