A new virtual reality in Tel Aviv

LVL 3 Dizengoff offers a sensory experience of gaming entertainment

President Rivlin tries on virtual reality goggles at meeting with Sheryl Sandberg, 12 August 2019 (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Rivlin tries on virtual reality goggles at meeting with Sheryl Sandberg, 12 August 2019
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Anyone entering the cavernous Dizengoff Center has been plunged into a virtual reality of sorts, and many fear that they’ll never emerge from the black hole of shopping mayhem, unmarked corridors and hidden exits.
Now, there’s a virtual reality of a more pleasant, controlled and stimulating kind at hold at Tel Aviv’s infamous mall, boasting some of the world’s most sophisticated gaming technologies.
In the form of a 450 sq.m. all intents and purposes gaming playground – filled with two virtual reality arenas, gaming computers and party rooms complete with karaoke and lounging areas – the LVL 3 Dizengoff complex represents the first of its kind in Israel.
These gaming arenas – which have already garnered respect around the world in countries such as England, Belgium, France, Russia, Ukraine, Colombia and Germany – have been brought to the Tel Aviv center by a group of investors who have funded the project by a total sum of over NIS 4 million.
Eddie Shub, part-owner and designer of LVL 3, explained to The Jerusalem Post that the passion project was customized to accentuate the Dizengoff Center, creating a social gaming world within the shopping mall itself to feature something that Israel has not yet experienced, but has done so well in other parts of the world. He believes that the hi-tech capital of the world will take kindly to the new innovations.
THE MAIN FEATURE of the complex is the Anvio virtual reality platform, featuring a whole new category of entertainment, where you can immerse yourself into a team-based virtual environment in which you and your group have the ability to choose your own adventure. Whether it’s fending off a horde of zombies, fighting an alien invasion, outsmarting your way through an ancient magical hidden temple, flying through outer space, diving to the deepest depths of the ocean, tip-toeing through a horror scene or whatever you so choose – you and your team make your way through the virtual world in an escape room-esque partner-based fashion.
The virtual technology, as Shub explained, is developed by an American manufacturer of the Taiwanese company HTC, called the VIVE Pro. Where HTC used to specialize in smartphones, tablets and laptops, the tech conglomerate has now moved on to specializing in virtual reality technology under the umbrella HTC VIVE.
While the technology is as expensive as can be when purchased for home use, the games you play and the area you play them in are normally restricted. In that regard, LVL 3 teamed up with Russian-based company Anvio, who have worked for years on developing games and software to accompany larger arenas, like what Shub and his team of investors have created.
“The special thing about Anvio and our place is the combination of this [HTC] hardware accompanied by the special software that was built specifically for places like this,” Shub explained. “Home use is normally played in a 2 sq.m. area at maximum, but here we expanded [the arena] to a 12 sq.m. area. It’s a very large space where you can walk freely and wirelessly throughout our virtual worlds.”
The idea, as discussed earlier, was generated to mimic escape room partner-based teamwork. However, where there is no sense in going back to complete an escape room again after you complete the puzzle, LVL 3 has multiple adventures to choose from, all within the same space.
“You don’t need any new decorations, you just need to choose a new game,” Shub said.
As a guest of the complex, the Post received a first-hand trial of the virtual technology systems offered at LVL 3. Inside the immersive virtual world, both your mind and your equilibrium are challenged within an adventure of your choosing. Putting on the virtual reality headset, you are well aware that you are within a 12 sq.m. floor space. However, when you enter the world, it is a completely different story. Your mind reacts to what your eyes see. If there’s water, you will avoid it; if there’s a cliff, you will stay back, even though you know there isn’t a chance of drowning or falling off the edge.
When asking the operators if they find anything funny about watching the user’s experience, they replied that it’s quite amusing when players jump over a pool of water or duck at something coming their way, but also fascinating. Their assessment is quite true of the technology as well. When you put on the goggles, your mind tends to go elsewhere and forget where you physically are at the moment and will hang on to the virtual surroundings instead. It’s an incredibly unique experience that is extremely hard to replicate in the comfort of your own home.
THE VIRTUAL REALITY worlds are built for all ages – you can show up with friends or you can show up with family; it all depends on the experience you wish to choose.
“Let’s say you show up with your family, and your daughter wants to play [something light],” said Shub. “We can send you on a journey to the lost century, and a few days later it can be a quest with puzzling questions and tasks, where you are moving step by step until you escape the room. We have an almost unlimited number of worlds within in one space for everyone to try.”
Shub added that many times after users finish their experience within one of the countless worlds, they will normally be in awe, asking if they really went through the experience they did. This is because when they take off the headset, they feel like they have walked for miles through this virtual world, but wake up in a 12 x 12 m. room, wondering how it’s possible.
Shub has worked in the technology sector most of his life, and currently owns a company specializing in CCTV and other technologies and has managed a computer manufacturing company past. He explained that this endeavor is a passion project for him as it breaks off into a new direction of social togetherness mixed within a technologically advanced gaming environment for everyone to enjoy.
“This place combines the age leverage, to make a place that you can enjoy as a 10-year-old kid coming here with your mother, father or your grandmother,” or as an older adult with your friends, as a place you can visit time and time again with multiple groups of people, Shub said.
In addition to the state-of-the-art virtual reality technology, the complex also features computer gaming rooms, lounges, party rooms, karaoke and more. The different rooms and stations were designed to host parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, group gatherings as well as impromptu shopper arrivals stepping out of commerce for a brief period and into the gaming world.
The computer room, which features all the latest technology in PC gaming, hosts gaming events on Tuesday nights, where the users located in the LVL 3 complex play in large teams against players hailing from all parts of the world holding similar events in their countries – bringing like-minded individuals together to compete in large-scale matches that would be otherwise difficult to organize as one person.
Many professional gamers also show up to the complex to meet with teammates in the large group setting in order to practice for upcoming events, whatever their discipline might be.
It’s not just one thing, and that’s what makes it special, said Shub. He continued, saying that LVL 3 is a place where you can take a detour in the mall and end up walking into a whole new world, with countless gaming possibilities and worlds to imagine that become real in due time.
“Here, everyone is a kid, no matter your age – 70, 60, 40, 10 – everyone is the same here. You see everybody and you play with everybody, and everybody can feel like a child again – and in the end, you will say, ‘I cannot believe that I was actually here,’” Shub concluded.
LVL 3 is located on the third floor of the Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv. For reservations and more information please visit level3.co.il.