VR experience “Yullbe”: virtual shrinkage in a miniature wonderland

Wouldn’t it be great to walk through the miniature wonderland scenes in person? To get a close look at all the elaborate model building landscapes? This question must have crossed the minds of many visitors. The idea prompted owners Frederik and Gerrit Braun to contact the Europa-Park operators and design the “Yullbe Wunderland” VR attraction with them. Right next to the real exhibition in Hamburg’s warehouse district, from 1 April, those interested can put on virtual reality glasses and immerse themselves in a copy of the CGI. I had the opportunity to shrink even before it opened. In a team of four we explored the Grand Canyon, Switzerland and Venice.

The larger of the two experiences available in Wonderland is called The Big Shrinkage Tour. It uses the Europa-Park operator Macknext’s “Yullbe Pro” system. The 30-minute hike sends up to six participants across a large 250-square-meter playing field. This is possible with the Pimax 8K VR glasses, which in our test were used with a pleasantly wide field of view and a resolution of 2856 x 1760 pixels per eye. Before we could get started, we had to configure a heavy backpack PC from HP with a GeForce RTX 2080. In addition, we attached four small sensing boxes to the body. The points to register our movements were therefore on hands, shoes, back and helmet. A total of 150 Vicon “Viper X” cameras are installed in the room to record the participants’ positions even in hard-to-see corners.

To ensure that the mountains, houses, and stages resemble their role models as closely as possible, employees first climbed through the facility to take photos and videos. “A cell phone camera is even better suited for this than an expensive DSLR camera,” creative supervisor Dennis Würger of developer VR Coaster told us. Cell phone lenses typically have a shallower depth of field, allowing more areas of the image to remain clear and usable. Finally, through “photogrammetry”, walk-in spatial landscapes were created from the recordings. They come to life using the Unity engine, with post-modeled textures and precalculated lighting.

The nervous “shrink tomato” researcher pleasantly reminded me of Park’s over-the-top actors at Hollywood’s Universals Studios. He transformed us into miniature figurines, which also serve to decorate the real exhibition. Trouble awaited us on our first virtual train ride through the Grand Canyon: A gang of monkeys stole the shrink car for our return. So we had to engage in some challenges, collaborative activities and virtual group photos.


In “Yullbe Pro” you literally walk over 250 square meters like a man-machine … (Image: Jan Wöbbeking; heise online)

On a Swiss scaffold, for example, the balance took place on a narrow beam, which made my knees shake even as a virtual reality veteran. The real cranks and switches also had to be operated together, for example to accelerate a cart or to charge a battery. Although the position of the levers was not exactly right, there were fun moments and ideas for collaborative solutions in the team. I didn’t even notice the advertised vibratory plates on the floor. However, not all items were finally integrated into our preliminary tour. The final tweaking and bugs of the VR experience are also still being worked on.

The rapid change of subject also occasionally caused confusion. Just in time I was puffing through the Grand Canyon, seconds later I was already in Switzerland or among a group of hyperactive firefighters jumping around. But some ideas were implemented in a really cold way, for example when we ended up in the tube of a huge vacuum cleaner.

Sometimes the technical excess was already too good: sometimes the bulky VR helmet pressed on my nose, later a foot tracker slid to the side, but this was quickly corrected by the game master. Unlike a lot of VR games, I could also see my virtual arms and legs, which mostly moved correctly. Meanwhile, I dragged a practically broken leg behind me because the tracking rotated. Despite these teething problems, the experience ran much smoother than my full-scale experience with “HUXLEY 2: The Adventure Begins” at Virtuloft Hanover.

Incidentally, I felt much more carefree during the ten minute “Yullbe Go” experience on 80 square meters, which is called “Walking in Wonderland”. There I just put on HTC’s smaller Vive Focus 3 VR glasses (resolution: 2,448 x 2,448 pixels per eye) and took the controller in hand. After a few settings I could get started right away. I had to do without foot tracking, but I personally preferred the feeling of freedom of light hardware. This time I started my tour through the model building scenes on my own. As in the great experience, here too the model figures and singing cows joked. I was finally able to set my pace, especially as the clean spatial recording increased my sense of security.

Here, the “inside-out tracking” built into the VR glasses recognized my movements. All kinds of patterns and stars were attached to the bare walls so that the cameras could orient themselves well. Thanks to the fan in the VR glasses, there was also a little wind in the face. A nice effect that put me even more credibly in open landscapes. Some backgrounds removed and some textures appeared blurry, but overall the impression was convincing. I particularly enjoyed the “giant” visitors to the miniature wonderland, who cast curious glances at the structure from the edge.

Incidentally, the graphics were wirelessly streamed to several VR glasses in the same room. This has been possible since the 3.1 update, which brought new features to Vive Focus 3 such as streaming according to the “Wifi 6E” standard. The stability of the transmission was impressive – I didn’t notice any latency or dropouts, as I know them from my Meta Quest 2 on my home Wifi 6 router. It is a bit of a shame that many other visitors took to the field at the same time, retracing their own experience. So I never dared to spontaneously start running. The collision warning of the Vive Focus 3 worked well. If I approached another person, a glowing red ball would appear soon enough.

All in all, I would recommend the little wonderland experience to newcomers interested in virtual reality. The big one is especially fun when you bring several friends with you. By the way, a little insider tip is the “Ed & Edda” experience, which can also be played in Hamburg in the virtual Europapark. The short hunt for an evil wizard isn’t that diverse, but it’s extremely clean and graphically complex. The “Yullbe Wonderland” (Am Sandtorkai 33) opens April 1st. Single tickets cost 12 euros each (“Yullbe Go”) or 29 euros (“Yullbe Pro”).


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