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The VOID returns to TED, Ghostbusters style

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Two years ago, a prototype VR experience re-imagined the way we interact with virtual reality by interweaving the digital and physical space — and one year ago, it held its lines-out-the-door premiere at TED2016. Today, THE VOID has locations in Times Square, New York; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Salt Lake City, Utah (where it was conceived) — and plans to expand.

At TED2017, THE VOID brought attendees into the future by giving a nod to our pop-culture past. In groups of four or fewer, participants walked through a Ghostbusters-themed experience, fighting ghouls and avoiding ectoplasm in a ghost-infested mansion.

“Ghostbusters is the breadth of what THE VOID is capable of and a really good team experience,” says Curtis Hickman, chief creative officer and co-founder. “It’s a good way for people to interact with each other.”

What makes the THE VOID different from a regular VR? The creators like to bill it as “hyper-reality,” a “4D” experience that engages every sense through interactive surroundings, elements and special effects. Wearing a VR visor, headphones and a haptic feedback vest — untethered by wires — people can experience the feeling of going up in an elevator, be rattled by the sensation of a ghost passing through them and even get a whiff of roasted marshmallow.

VR gear and haptic feedback vests are ready to help guests step into The VOID at TED2017: The Future You, April 24-28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

For some, coming out of THE VOID takes a little recalibrating and reorienting once the suit comes off. Is this real life?

What is the creators’ secret sauce to developing such an all-encompassing experience? It’s deceptively simple, dealing heavily in magical theory — a combination of visual, physical, psychological misdirections, says Hickman, which when combined create deep sense of astonishment.

If attendee and press reactions are anything to go by, it achieved that goal.

The entrance to The Void at TED2017: The Future You, April 24-28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED