VR World deviates from the dark, classical theaters or techno motifs of other VR centers we have visited. The three-story, 20,000 square-foot space contains everything from a full bar to a terrace lounge with stylish, comfy furniture. The space is full of excited chatter, upbeat ambient music, and cheerful staffers giving helpful advice and encouragement.
The self-reported “largest virtual reality experience center” in the West, VR World challenges the Facebook Spaces style of “social VR”. Typically, VR users strap on their headsets and noise-cancelling headphones to completely block out the outside world, and can only interact with others inside virtual spaces. But it turns out that having a familiar, encouraging voice in your ear as you fight zombies or partake in space piracy makes fantastical narratives feel much more grounded – and more fun for newbie VR users exploring virtual worlds for the first time.
Its an awesome way to try out the technology or introduce friends or loved ones to VR – and even VR enthusiasts with their own headsets at home may find a reason to visit.
Each of VR World’s three main areas has its own theme. The ground floor taken up with eye-catching rigs like rotating flight simulator chairs and driver’s seats; the terrace contains a peaceful theater of rotating chairs for watching documentaries and music videos; and the second floor, full of the most popular games, is hallmarked by a frenetic, Apple Store-like atmosphere.
Since the center’s soft opening, it has housed 50 unique VR experiences: a mixture of films, games, and educational experiences, presented on a mixture of Vives, Rifts, and smartphones. The lineup has remained static as the VR World entertains new customers and determine which popular games and films deserve a permanent place.
But Jessica Gray, Marketing Manager for VR World, says they “have a goal of rotating content on a monthly basis” – a system designed to evolve over time and to “bring people back…so they can build upon their experience.” And as new iterations of headsets and accessories become available, they plan on being “the first ones to make these improvements accessible to our audience.”
As you enter the center, you register for a personal RFID bracelet. Once you find an experience you’d like to try, you tap your wrist against the sensor and place yourself in a virtual line. With no physical queues, you’re free to wander the building as you wait your turn. I took advantage of VR World’s fully stocked bar, while I saw some loiterers dancing to the peppy techno playlist.
Finding ways to entertain yourself for long periods can be an unfortunate necessity of a place like this. If three people wait in front of you for a 12-minute demo, that’s almost 40 minutes of waiting. Currently, even if another experience has no line, you can’t tap in to try it without losing your other place in line.