The first steps you take in a virtual space are still a little uncertain; your sense of balance must first get used to the unfamiliar environment. We walk down a rocky path to the carriage that’s supposed to take us back to Geneva in 1850. It smells of horses, I hear them snorting and I’m in awe – my virtual reality glasses and the sensors on my hands and feet allow me to travel quickly back in time. My companion looks like a young lady from the 19th century, wearing an elegant hat and holding in her hand the invitation that allows us entry into the city of Geneva.
Virtual reality without limitations
In reality, I traveled to Geneva by train. I received the invitation from the Sunrise partner Dreamscape that converted an old cinema in downtown Geneva into a modern VR adventure center. This is where I meet Caecilia Charbonnier, co-founder of Dreamscape. She recalls the early days in 2015. «Back then, there were a lot of limitations in the virtual world,» she recounts. «You had to be seated, you were alone, and you couldn’t see your figure or touch things.» Caecilia wanted to change that. Together with her colleagues at Artanim, her foundation dedicated to developing motion capture technologies, she invented a technology that allows people to enjoy completely new VR experiences. Step inside a movie with other people, move around it freely, communicate, touch things, see your own body in a different form and experience it with all your senses – Caecilia’s dream has become reality.
We have barely arrived in 19th century Geneva when dusk sets in. We grab oil lamps to continue exploring our surroundings. A cat brushes against my legs. The stars are shining above us, we’re standing by a river, the scenery is magical – until we suddenly hear an explosion. For a moment we can’t see a thing; someone shouts at us to flee. Right now, I can’t tell you the miraculous way in which we managed to escape and make our way back to the present day. All I can say is the 25-minute experience was over in a flash.
What happened next with Artanim’s invention? «We presented the new technology at a number of film festivals and got lucky: we met some Americans who shared our vision. Namely, to revolutionize the entertainment industry,» says Caecilia Charbonnier. The Americans became partners and producers at Artanim and they created «Dreamscape» together. This led to the opening of the first Dreamscape Center in Los Angeles. More centers in the USA and Dubai followed, with Geneva being the first location in Europe.
Enjoy the action as you ride a dragon
As well as «Geneva 1850», you can currently also choose the movies «Alien Zoo», «The Clockwork Forest» and «Dragons». I choose Dragons because I really want to know what it feels like to fly on a dragon. I’ll then be able to recount the experience to my daughter, whose current favorite series happens to be «Dragons».
My companion in this film is Sunrise employee Clarence Arnold who works in the shop just above Dreamscape and is brave enough to set out on a dragon hunt with his fourteen-year-old cousin. Customers keep asking him about Dreamscape and he’s excited to finally experience it for himself. The decision to choose «Dragons» was a good one: flying at a fast pace and with the wind in my hair, I steer my dragon through amazing worlds, where I really want to take a closer look at all the fabulous details. The dragons ridden by Clarence and his cousin are alongside me and then ahead of me again. Great fun – although less so for my stomach. Despite this, I’d love to go on another adventure right away.
Meanwhile, Caecilia and her team are already working on new experiences. And what is it that she particularly likes about Dreamscape? Without hesitation, she says: «The limitless possibilities! You can experience things here that would never be possible in real life.»
Dreamscape: what you need to know
Location: Geneva, a 10-minute walk from the main train station
Price: CHF 25.– per experience. 2 for 1 with Sunrise Moments
Languages: French and English
Age: 10 years or older