Pods of Wonder: mk2 pioneers turnkey virtual reality spaces



There seem to be more acronyms than ever to keep track of these days. If you’re not in the know, you likely need an online search engine nearby, or perhaps one of those new-fangled voice-activated devices by Google, Amazon and others many of us are snapping up for our homes at a rapid clip, despite tales of spying and eavesdropping.

In the world of entertainment, virtual reality (known by the easy-to-recall abbreviation VR) is rapidly gaining steam. Members of the cinema and theatrical exhibition ecosystems are beginning to dabble in and explore ways to utilize and, ideally, monetize VR.

One of the up-and-coming players on the scene is mk2, a leading European VR experience provider. The company recently unveiled the first plug-and-play solution for professionals: the mk2 VR pod. This announcement comes approximately 12 months after the debut opening of mk2 VR, the first and biggest permanent virtual reality venue space in Europe—located in Paris, to be precise.

According to mk2 CEO Elisha Karmitz, “Providing state-of-the-art technology to fill the void of white-label solutions in the virtual reality space will be a catalyst for making VR a requisite part of consumers’ entertainment expectations.”

mk2’s inaugural space was designed (in partnership with the Bonsoir Paris studio) and built to deliver immersive virtual reality experiences and the very latest technologies. Its event programmers offer a constantly changing selection of dramas, documentaries, simulations and videogames to consumers.

On the cinema front, the company currently operates approximately 26 movie theatres, with a collective footprint of about 200 screens. mk2 presently offers 12 virtual reality pod offerings featuring three technologies (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR) and two full-body immersive simulators: the Holodia rowing machine and Birdly®.

Birdly combines robotics with VR to create a unique experience for humans: simulated flight. SOMNIACS is creator of this attraction, which allows people to leave the cares and stresses of everyday life behind. Users are offered a brief, tantalizing taste of what it feels like to soar like a bird, with the freedom to explore the skies.

“SOMNIACS is excited to team up with mk2 to create high-class VR experiences with and for Birdly,” stated SOMNIACS founder and chief technology officer Max Rheiner. “mk2 knows how to combine sophisticated storytelling with innovative technology and strong design. Their full focus is always on the complete audience experience. That’s exactly what makes the difference between empty VR promises and real cultural impact.”

By including all the necessary technology within an aluminum-ballasted structure, mk2 promises that its VR pod can be installed anywhere, including within movie theatres, in just a few hours.

mk2 sold its first production run of VR pods to a group of premium partners around the world, signaling the inception of its distribution network. This includes leaders in the movie theatre business such as Nordisk in Scandinavia as well as exclusive partners in Brazil (Arvore) and Asia. Pods are also located in several European public institutions, including the National Public Library of France and at the Film Fund in Luxembourg.

The company is seeking to exploit its first-to-market advantage, backed by a worldwide VR distribution network that includes both an end-to-end premium and a white-labeled product line. To date, they have produced over 100 films.

Including its own titles, mk2 has already amassed a library of more than 800 films, including works by Charles Chaplin and Xavier Dolan, an award-winning Canadian writer, director and producer. His English-language feature debut—The Death and Life of John F. Donovan—is slated to arrive in cinemas this coming September.

mk2’s premium catalog of curated VR experiences is available to customers, with its latest offerings from leading studios updated on a monthly basis. Key partners include the famed Cirque du Soleil (four VR experiences including Inside the Box of Kurios, KÀ The Battle Within and Dreams of “O”, produced by Felix & Paul Studios), Atlas V, WITHIN and SuperHot Team.

During the first half of 2018, an installed base of more than 70 pods formed the initial stage of mk2’s growing VR distribution network. In excess of 200 pods are expected to be in circulation by the end of the year, says the company.

“Adapting VR is a natural next step for the cinematic community and mk2 aims to be their trusted partner in delivering quality and memorable experiences,” concludes Karmitz.