Imagine you are gliding underwater, saving entrapped whales from probable death.
Then you’re in a strange zoo where the giraffe is also a rooster and you can pet alien animals and play ball with luminescent frogcats.
Finally, you’re in ancient terrain trying to retrieve a cursed pearl, ducking through dark tunnels and trying to stay on solid ground.
For the first time outside of the United States, Dreamscapes has opened its doors in the UAE.
The fully immersive, free-roaming and multi-sensory virtual reality (VR) experience — now open at the Mall of the Emirates — will transport visitors into three faraway cinematic universes: Alien Zoo, The Deep Blu and The Curse of the Lost Pearl. Motion sensor technology makes it so players can walk freely and interact with their surroundings through touch, smell, heat, wind and even mist. Yes, you can even high five your teammates — or hide behind them, if you’re easily spooked.
Dreamscape takes experiential entertainment to the next level. Think of a more relaxed and observational version of ‘Ready Player One’ or ‘Jumanji’, with less consequences in the real world.
Backed by household names including renowned director Steven Spielberg and composer Hans Zimmer, Dreamscape Immersive was founded in 2017 by Swiss computer scientists Caecilia Charbonnier, Sylvain Chagué and entrepreneur Ronald Menzel.
Co-chairman Walter Parkes — producer of films such as Minority Report and Men in Black — was in Dubai to launch the new store.
“Sometimes I get worried that every screen I walk past will be able to identify me,” said Parkes. “[But ideally] rather than using experiential just to move merchandise, it’s about creating community.”
Dreamscape should “deliver the emotionality that your audience has come to expect from Hollywood movies,” he added.
As for Alain Bejjani, the CEO of Majid Al Futtaim-Holding, the next goal was to bring the experience close to home.
“I’m looking forward to the day we develop local content on VR. The boundaries are not physical — it’s not about bigger or larger, but more emotionally charged,” he said.
The new Dreamscape location is only the third in existence, after the inaugural Los Angeles venue opened in 2018 and a Dallas branch launched earlier this year.
As one of the first batch of people to test out the Dubai location, we let you know exactly what to expect — from the moment you walk through the doors to the moment you leave.
What happens when you arrive?
• Each title has scheduled timings throughout the day, much like a cinema, and each experience can accommodate six players at one time.
• After buying your ticket online or in person, you will register on an iPad at the front counter. You will have to sign a digital waiver and pick your avatar; there are female, male and non-gendered options of different races.
• Once you are registered, you can sit in a waiting area that doubles as a cafe and bookstore. Here, you can browse faux artefacts from the different VR universes, almost as if you are in a historic museum.
• You will be called upon when your time slot has arrived. In a small gear-up room, there are six pods, one per person. Take your designated seat. At least one attendant will guide you through the process.
• Next, you will put your motion sensor equipment on. There is a specific order to this — start with securing your feet, then pull on the backpack, wrap up your hands, and finally, once you’ve entered the VR grounds, you can slip on your adjustable headset. Ensure you lower the retractable headphones over your ears.
• If you have long hair, move it away from your face to avoid any glitches or trouble with tracking. For those who wear glasses, it’s fairly easy and pain-free to slip the headset over them. Heels are not allowed. The good news is that all this gear is comfortable and you will quickly forget you are wearing it.
• You will be forewarned that you may experience moments of darkness, particularly when one scene transitions to another. If you are having any problems or would like an attendant to tend to you during the experience, raise your hand; they will come and tap you on your shoulder.
• Each game lasts for about 15 minutes. Dreamscape estimates that the entire experience (per single VR title) comes up to about 35 minutes, including checking in, gearing up and gearing down.
What are the three VR experiences you can try?
You will travel to an intergalactic animal sanctuary, where you will come face-to-face with endangered alien creatures that are as strange as they are endearing. There, you can play ball with frogcat hybrids, pet magnificent creatures (the texture is something else!), come in contact with a particularly sneezy insect and, in a heart-racing sequence, band together to fight off the planet’s greatest predator. While it’s distant from the real world, it ends with a grounded message about human behaviour, environmental responsibility and sustainability.
THE CURSE OF THE LOST PEARL: A MAGIC PROJECTOR ADVENTURE
You will feel as if you are in an Indiana Jones film. This is perhaps the most extreme of the three experiences — after a brief but visually intricate introduction, you are taken inside of a movie screen and become part of the script. You must unlock clues, escape traps, and bear a bit of separation from your team in order to unravel the curse of the Lost Pearl.
IN THE BLU: DEEP RESCUE
A co-production between Dreamscape and WeVR, this is the calmest of the three experiences; you and your teammates will hop onto specialised scooters and be submerged underwater, surrounded by beautiful aquatic life, but soon you must rescue a trapped baby Blue Whale so it can return to its concerned mother. When we say you will be swimming side-by-side with these majestic creatures, we mean it.
Level two of Mall of the Emirates, near the Apple Store
Dh75 per person, per experience (excluding 5 per cent VAT)
10+ only. Those below 13 must be accompanied by an adult.