Sandbox VR, an advanced virtual reality experience, is set to open its largest unit and first UK location outside London this summer in the Bullring and Grand Central, Birmingham.

Sandbox VR shooter game

Sandbox VR uses Hollywood-style motion capture cameras to create experiences

Hammerson has signed the world’s most advanced VR experience, Sandbox VR, as part of its vision to diversify the use of the site.

The 13,000 sq ft unit is set to open this summer as part of Hammerson’s strategy to reinvigorate its assets and diversify its retail space through new brands, entertainment and experiential concepts.

Hammerson said the Sandbox VR site will ”create a truly immersive experience within exclusively designed interactive worlds, making players feel like they are living inside a game or a movie” by using a ″new generation of Hollywood motion capture cameras, 3D precision full-body trackers, custom hardware and haptic feedback suits, enhancing the touch, vibration and motion senses of the user”.

The American tech company currently operates over 30 locations in “premium retail centres” across the US, Canada, Asia and Europe. It recently completed a $37m (£30m) fundraising round, which it is investing back into expanding its physical footprint, particularly in the UK and Ireland. 

Alongside its immersive gaming experience, Sandbox VR Birmingham will also feature a robotic bartender called ‘Toni’, capable of serving up to 80 drinks per hour. 

It will be the second Sandbox VR site in the UK, after it opened its first in London’s Covent Garden in July 2022. 

Sandbox VR will be one of the many leisure operators within the Bullring and Grand Central. These include Treetop Adventure Golf, Lane7 boutique bowling and interactive football experience TOCA Social is set to open later this summer.

Hammerson will also be creating new office, social and entertainment space as part of a plan to redevelop the former John Lewis department store.

Toby Tait, director of asset management at Hammerson, said: “The signing of Sandbox VR is another big leap forward in the diversification and repositioning of our Birmingham estate. This is going to be a transformative year for Bullring and Grand Central with experiential brands and innovative concepts that engage and excite our customers. We are being bolder and more ambitious in our approach as we work to create a truly multi-use destination that we and the city can be proud of.”

Jake Wilmot-Sitwell, co-founder and chief operating officer of Sandbox VR UK and Ireland, added: “Following our successful launch in Covent Garden last year, we wanted to kick off our expansion across the UK and Ireland by launching the biggest ever Sandbox VR site in the UK’s second city. As the West Midlands’ best-connected retail and leisure destination, the Bullring estate is the ideal location to launch our second UK site, and we are eager to bring our mind-expanding adventures to this amazing market.”

  • Get the latest tech news and analysis straight to your inbox – sign up for our weekly newsletter