You’ve no doubt heard rumblings about virtual reality and how it’s the next, huge thing in the tech world. VR seems to be popping up everywhere these days, except for in our homes. That’s probably because people just don’t know what to make of the technology. Sure, it sounds cool in theory, but how many of us have actually personally experienced the supposed wonder of VR in person? Forget about going out to buy pricey headsets to play VR games and immerse ourselves in VR environments if we’re not even sure how it works or if we’ll like it. Still, for those of you who can’t quite seem to satisfactorily scratch your VR curiosity itch, an arcade in San Francisco is opening its door to let the public test out VR and see what all the fuss is about.
Urban Safari, a virtual reality arcade located inside the Innovation Hanger in San Francisco’s historic Palace of the Fine Arts, is setting out to introduce VR technology to the masses. This VR sanctuary is one of only a handful of places where everyday Joe’s can walk in off the streets and try out virtual reality first-hand. The goal of demystifying the technology by letting people actually play with it is Urban Safari’s top priority, and it seems to be capturing the attention and imagination of many San Franciscans. After all, it’s not everyday we get to ward off a zombie apocalypse and feel like we’re actually immersed and participating in such a catastrophic event.
Equipped with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets, which will run consumers $700 and $800 respectively, Urban Safari is transporting people who probably never thought about virtual reality into expansive 360-degree experiences that integrate not only visual elements, but also audio and tactile cues that truly place players in virtual environments that feel real. For just $5, interested persons can get five minutes of virtual reality time in one of several different experiences including defeating flying robots in Space Pirate Trainer, surviving zombies in The Brookhaven Experiment and playing the music-based arcade game Audioshield. Meanwhile, sample all of the VR experiences for just $40.
“Our goal is not to target tech people, but to target everyday people who want to try VR,” said Han Zhen Liu, one of the arcade’s co-founders. As one of the few VR arcades stateside, Liu and Urban Safari are in a unique position to really push virtual reality into the mainstream. Liu is even planning to host an upcoming virtual reality festival on July 27 to really whet people’s appetites. As an arcade, Urban Safari will attract those who want to experience VR, but don’t want to splurge on the pricey equipment. After all, arcades were a haven for people to play games they didn’t have access to at home before technology evolved into home gaming systems. “We do feel it’s a good investment of time just to see how people react to the technology, how the technology brings consumers together.”