(Photo courtesy of vrbar/Kishore Doddi)
One of the keys to virtual reality’s success in the consumer market will be affording the public key opportunities to sample the technology in a comfortable and relatively inexpensive way. vrbar, a pioneering VR arcade that opened last October in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, is designed exactly to do that.
The arcade exclusively uses HTC Vive equipment because it allows users to move around freely and constitutes “superior technology,” said vrbar owner Kishore Doddi. Up to three Vive systems are currently operating in the space.
Most of vrbar’s customers are first-time VR users, he says. The arcade charges customers $10 for a 10-minute session, which affords access to 10 to 20 VR games and experiences of the customer’s choice. Doddi says some of the most popular games include Job Simulator, which allows users to try out a variety of occupations, and Tilt Brush, Google’s 3D-painting program.
Most vrbar customers are very young, Doddi said — largely from the 7-14 age group, rather than the 13-18 set he had expected to attract. He notes that the space affords a family-friendly environment.
The VR arcade has already entered into partnerships with a wide range of content developers, including smaller developers and Brooklyn-based developers, such as Playthings VR. vrbar is testing a variety of VR programs and experiences, such as an “immersive basketball game, productivity tools and multi-player experiences,” said Doddi.
To Be with Hamlet, one of the VR programs already tested, is due to be offered in the space soon, Doddi says. That program, which was designed by NYU professor Javier Molina, is “a live production of Hamlet in VR.” (You may recall our coverage of the game from back in November.) Doddi adds that vrbar is planning to develop its own non-gaming VR content, such as “productivity content,” which may be shown in the space.
Doddi, an event planner and digital media entrepreneur, notes that the space has often been used for birthday parties, and occasionally used by small businesses and startups for social and educational events revolving around VR. The arcade also runs events with its equipment outside the space, and rents out equipment, too, he added.
Doddi plans to open a larger vrbar in March in Brooklyn, which will offer coffee and perhaps beer and wine.