Freefall (2019)

Jump off a building in VR... and in real life

I wrote the software and show control, and helped design the mechanical rigging for lowering guests.

Freefall was an one-night installation at the 2019 XPrize Visioneering conference at Paramount Studios backlot in Hollywood.

Participants would don a full-body harness and ascend the steps to an elevated stage, where they would be clipped to an overhead rope and stand with their toes hanging over the unguarded edge. There, we would affix a VR headset to their face. In the virtual world, they were looking out over a vast city from the top of a highrise building. And then, because we are sadists, we would ask them to jump.

Well… it was more of a lean. As the guest’s body passed over the edge of the building, they plummeted hundreds of feet to land on a small couch virtually placed at the base of the building. In reality, the overhead rope would take up the slack and lower them slowly to the landing pad below mere feet below. But the illusion was intense, aided by high-powered fans that blew up in their face while they were airborne.

We ran over one hundred people through the experience over the course of the night, which was impressive considering the high-touch nature of the engagement. It was fun to see guests throw on a full-body harness over their fancy clothes and jump at the chance to jump off a building.

Under the hood

This activation was built with Oculus Quest, which was brand new at the time. I was thoroughly impressed with these headsets. The activation required the coordination among multiple headsets, indicator lights to signal the winch operators, giant relays to control the fans, and a tablet to operate the experience. I built in on the Walnut framework. This was my first foray into using Walnut for VR, and it worked great!

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