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World's First VR Theme Park Coming Next Year

Playing video games with virtual reality technology is all well and good, until you remember that you're still sitting in your room with a controller in hand. A new technology known as a virtual entertainment center (VEC) looks to change that by meshing real-world architecture and virtual storytelling. If you've ever wanted to star in a real-life video game, new VR hardware known as The Void should make it possible.

The Void will partner with a technology firm known as Optimal Design Partners in order to bring VECs to life. The concept is simple in design, but ambitious in execution: Create a real-world, brick-and-mortar theme arena, complete with corridors, walls, interactive panels and even vehicles. Then, design a VR simulation that syncs 1:1 with its real-world counterpart.

A video on The Void's website demonstrates how the technology could work. A player wearing a VR headset known as the Rapture HMD (head mounted display) works his or her way through the VEC environment. The player doesn't see unadorned walls and plain floors, but rather pixie-inhabited fantasy forests, stark, computerized sci-fi panels or whatever else the VEC's designers create.

Thanks to other peripherals like vests, guns, swords and lanterns, players can theoretically experience everything from dueling fire-breathing dragons to exploring haunted houses beset by monsters. A proof-of-concept video even demonstrates hanging streamers from the ceiling to mimic the feel of walking through spider webs.

The first VEC is slated for summer 2016 in Pleasant Grove, Utah. There's no word on what kind of adventures it will offer, how much it will cost or whether the technology will come to other locations yet. Still, blending virtual reality with real-world topography sounds like a surefire recipe for immersion.

Marshall Honorof is a senior writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at mhonorof@tomsguide.com. Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.