Walk through the door of Spark VR in Vernon, and you’ll see four spaces partitioned by a curtain, a projector screen on the back wall of each one, and a person strapped into a headset with joysticks swinging their arms around. Strap on the headset, and you’ll be in an entirely different world.
Connecticut’s first virtual reality arcade opened in May in Vernon, and allows users to experience VR technology that is currently too expensive and impractical to have in the home. Co-founder Joe Eilert, an engineer for General Dynamics, came up with the idea last year, and at the time, did not know of any other virtual reality arcades. Since then, others have popped up around the country, but Spark VR is the first in Connecticut.
Virtual reality has existed for about 30 years, and when most people think of VR, they picture a cardboard headset and a static video taken on a 360-degree camera. The VR used by Spark VR is known as interactive roomscale. It requires more physical space for users to participate and is interactive in a way that VR formerly was not.
Eilert and his fellow co-founder Matt McGivern described their vision for the arcade as similar to a bowling alley, only cooler.
“Your [virtual reality] bowling alley might involve zombies,” says McGivern, who works for Pratt & Whitney.
Each “lane” has a high table with four bar-stools and a microphone for guests to speak directly into their friends’ headsets while watching them play. Beyond that, the space is minimal, with a desk to sign a waiver at the front and a vending machine in the back. Eilert says the atmosphere has created a much more social experience than they originally…
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