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A Premium Play: Virtual Reality

My experience with video gaming is pretty limited. Some of the guys I work with are big gamers.

So are my sons, especially the younger one. He’ll spend hours online with friends playing first-person combat games involving soldiers or zombies or aliens.  It’s all in good fun, mind you, but if you spend any time observing the game play, you quickly realize it becomes exceedingly realistic.

Well folks, as they like to say “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”  The Virtual Reality industry has really stepped up their game, so to speak, in video gaming.  And now their technologies have reached the bastion of video game Valhalla: the arcade.

You remember arcades, right?  A dark den of blaring electronic cacophony, where young people of all ages stand elbow to elbow at big game cabinets, feeding an endless stream of quarters into always-hungry coin slots. Well, that’s what arcades used to be like. Virtual reality is set to change all that and achieve an entirely new level of premium video game play.

In a recent article on CNET, author Ian Sherr described his experience with such an approach.

Now, most of us are familiar with the big virtual reality headsets made famous by Oculus.

You put on the headsets, and are instantly transported into a new 3D world of quasi-reality.

There’s depth perception that feels real, graphics and animation that look real, and an overall feeling of a breathless, real-world experience – all happening only in your vision and brain.

I’ve experienced this several times, including a demonstration for the movie “Pacific Rim.” It’s extremely impressive. But, other than just standing there and looking around in amazement and possibly performing a simple task, the experience doesn’t extend much beyond that…

Until now.

Virtual Reality Arcades place you in an actual physical game set that matches certain aspects of the VR footage you’re viewing in the headset you’re wearing.  In this new technology from a company called Nomadic, Sherr writes that the experience was so real, “I totally forgot I was safe and sound standing in a warehouse north of San Francisco.”  He goes on to describe the experience. “As I moved down a corridor, I felt a gust of hot air on my left. I turned and saw a furnace. To my right was a stool. I kicked it with my real foot, and it moved in the game world.” And so on.

Eventually the game informs Sherr that he’s soon to be attacked and to grab a gun in a drawer.

He opens a real drawer that’s also in the game, and finds a “real” gun to use in the game.  The action continues with other sequences that were sickeningly real – including crossing between two buildings on a narrow board over a ten-story drop. Wow!

Sherr continues by writing that “Nomadic and its investors believe arcade customers will be willing to pay as much as $20 to have their stomachs turn as you walk across a wobbly board while shooting down an invading army of drones.”  And he believes it too.

So do many others, including industry heavyweights like Mark Zuckerberg, as well as Sony, HTC, Google and Apple. Sherr writes that it could be a $600 billion market in just a few years.

In the meantime, the Nomadic’s VR arcades are scheduled to open later this year.  And if Mr. Sherr’s experience is accurate, it could possibly become the new gold standard of realism in premium video game experiences.

Now, where did I put my motion sickness pills?

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