IMAGINE you're in a futuristic world. Strapped into the front
seat of a spaceship, you are launched into a high-speed chase
through narrow canyons, cities, and the unknowns of outer space.
It feels real, but it's not.
Welcome to "The Other Side: A Virtual Reality Arena."
Here at Boston's World Trade Center, organizers tout the
collection of amusements as the first of its kind, with
state-of-the-art equipment in interactive entertainment, motion
simulators, virtual-reality attractions, computer-generated
environments, and special effects. It can be described as a
combination arcade, amusement park, and science museum.
Although such simulation-adventure and virtual-reality games are
offered in other places, organizers cite this event - which will
begin a national tour in October - as unique.
Rick Velardo just went on a dog sled-snowmobile-bobsled
adventure with "Freedom 6," Omni Film's motion-based adventure
theater. "It's better than I expected," he says. The wraparound
large-format screen, along with the seat platform that sways in
sync with the film, makes the experience realistic. "I got sweaty;
I didn't know if I was going to make some of those corners!" he
Possibly the most popular attraction at "The Other Side" is
"Chameleon," an interactive ride that simulates race-car driving
and the flying of an F-117 Stealth aircraft, right down to the
Marc Ross, chief executive officer of Chameleon Technologies,
says the goal is to "experience something that you would not
ordinarily be able to experience." So it follows that he's not
talking about something as passive as a simulated roller-coaster
ride. You drive the race car or fly the F-117 yourself by watching
a computerized screen. It feels real.
No wonder. Mr. Ross's parent company - Veda International - has
spent nearly 31 years as a contractor for the United States
government and the Department of Defense. "The technology that was
needed to develop 'Chameleon' came out of some of the technology we
developed for fighter pilots - to train them for the military,"
Ross says. Because of military cutbacks, a handful of companies
like Veda are looking toward the leisure-entertainment market to
"The more realistic the simulator, the better," Ross says,
noting that some so-called virtual-reality experiences can get
boring if the person eventually figures out what's going to happen