In March we attended the Montana Tourism Conference for a chance to meet local business owners from the hospitality industry and show off our 360° marketing projects. Well, this year the conference was especially exciting, Inside MT was invited to speak on a panel about virtual reality! What an opportunity it was to show our virtual tours and interactive media to Montana businesses focusing on tourism while discussing marketing in virtual reality. . just a few of my favorite things.
Speaking with me on the panel about virtual reality for Montana tourism was a man from the Flathead area, Keith Brown. Keith actually built his very own virtual reality (VR) theater. That’s right, a 4-dimensional VR theater. (Now, wrap your head around that.) A 4D theater uses 3D film with physical effects to create a lifelike experience, but Keith’s theater is 360° too, so you can see all around you.
While the Montana Tourism Conference of 2017 was a blast, the best part was meeting Mr. Brown. We hit it off immediately and he invited Inside MT to check out his VR theater in Columbia Falls, MT. Of course we said yes, after all, we had to find out exactly what a 4D VR theater was anyways.
A few weeks later we were on our way up to Columbia Falls to check out Keith’s theater, the Montana Adventure Stop. On Highway 2 in Columbia Falls, just outside the Glacier National Park entrance is a Cenex gas station. You would never expect Montana’s most high-tech treat to be nestled inside this unassuming convenience store, but that little shop has a whole lot more than just gas and beer.
Keith prides himself on sharing Montana’s great outdoors with tourists passing through Columbia Falls, so he’s filled his convenience store with native Montana animal and fish displays. Not only does this Cenex have all your camping and traveling amenities, but it’s also practically a wildlife museum. In the back of the store is a small gift shop, a mini museum, a picnic table to eat lunch, and the VR theater.
After browsing the books and looking at the array of wildlife, we entered the small 8-seat theater eager to inspect all the intricacies. It was clean and looked like a simple theater with a screen and comfy black chairs. On the back wall were 8 wireless charges with Gear VR headsets. We received a brief lowdown about what to expect then adorned the headsets, which are easy to adjust, fairly light, and comfortable as far as headsets go.
The fifteen minute show began with a story about Keith and his passion to share Montana in virtual reality. I could see grass close to my face and feel a light breeze as Keith showed us some Montana scenery. It was delightful to see, hear, and feel Montana wilderness all around. The ski down the mountain was incredibly realistic, the seat moved with the motion of the camera so it felt as if I were skiing the snowy peaks with the cold breeze on my face, and all around were snowy mountains and bright winter sunshine.
Then the film took a thrilling twist. I won’t reveal too much, but let’s just say that the tales about the Flathead monster are real! Catch a glimpse of Keith Brown’s Montana Adventure Stop and you’ll know what I’m talking about.