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Sandbox VR to Launch “Star Trek” Location-Based Reality Experience (EXCLUSIVE)

San Francisco-based virtual reality startup Sandbox VR has teamed up with CBS Interactive to launch a new “Star Trek” virtual reality (VR) experience this fall. “Star Trek: Discovery Away Mission” will allow up to 6 friends to enter the world of the series, complete with phasers and tricoders, and a holodeck to boot.

The new location will first be available at existing Sandbox VR locations in Hong Kong, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, and come to new locations in New York, Austin, San Diego and Chicago soon after.

In many ways, working on a “Star Trek” VR experience has been a dream come true for the Sandbox VR team. President and chief product officer Siqi Chen told Variety during an interview this week that the company had long been inspired by the series. “We wanted to make a 0.1 version of the holodeck,” he recalled.

Sandbox executives brought up this vision when they met with CBS some time ago, and the broadcaster suggested that they should do just that: build a real-life holodeck for a “Star Trek” VR experience.

The result is an experience that tasks players with investigating a distress signal from a lost spaceship, which involves visiting an ice moon and locating the ship — a mission that obviously starts with using the VR holodeck. “It’s probably a lifelong dream come true for ‘Star Trek’ fans,” said Sandbox VR’s creative director and head of experience Michael Hampden.

The experience is being guided by “Star Trek Discovery’s” starfleet officer Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), and lasts for close to 30 minutes. There are some combat situations, but Hampden said that it would focus more on collective problem solving than just single-person shooter scenarios. “We are trying to recreate the ‘Star Trek’ experience,” he said.

Sandbox VR is one of a number of startups looking to take VR out of the home, and into malls and other locations. One of the differences to VR operators like The Void is that Sandbox puts less of an emphasis on physical cues. There are no real doors to open, and you won’t bump into props as you roam the ice moon.

Instead, players will be able to see themselves, and their friends, in VR — complete with the ability to look at one’s fingers, or give each other high-fives. “We do full body motion capture,” explained Chen. “You are tracked from head to toe.”

This allows Sandbox to run multiple experiences at each location, and effectively function a bit more like a movie theater that may show different films back-to-back in the same theater. “All of our experiences are available at all of our locations,” said Hampden.

That vision seems to resonate with investors, who earlier this year gave the company $68 million for its global expansion. Altogether, Sandbox VR plans to have 16 location up and running by the end of the year.

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