Virtual reality brings virtually limitless possibilities
Source: Scanr Mag
Author: Tim Rauf
In Edmonton, there are nine locations people can go to try out the burgeoning entertainment technology of VR. Seven of these had been set up by 2016, some in pre-existing locations, such as the Rec Room and Sherwood Bowl. Other businesses are fully dedicated to the technology, having set up dozens of stalls for people to play in.
Ctrl V is one of these locations. Ryan Brooks, the CEO of the virtual reality arcade, started up the company in 2016 with his cousin and a long-time friend, in Waterloo, ON. The trio set up their first arcade in a defunct Blackberry building. The location is fitting, given Blackberry’s position as one of the first instances of mobile technology adopted on a mass scale. A large incentive for Brooks has been achieving the same, with VR.
“I’ve always been passionate more about the technology and about helping other people become comfortable with new technology.” Brooks says. “There’s gotta be a bigger adoption of VR, and the more locations we open, the more people have access to it, the more they start considering it for the home.”
Brooks likens this process to that which the original arcades of the ‘70s allowed: a way for people to familiarize themselves with an expensive new device, without having to invest their own money or limited spaces in their homes.
The familiarization is something Brooks sees regularly. “Obviously if you’re not technically inclined, you’re gonna be afraid of technology in general, but also because we’re blinding you in a public setting, there’s a secondary part of this that some people can have trouble with more than others.” He says.
“I think that’s probably the biggest bridge that we seem to be able to close for people, is ‘Oh wait, I’m not a gamer and I’m not good with technology but I can do this.’ We’ve had a lot of that type of reaction.”
Although Brooks’ goals largely stem from getting people comfortable with VR, he also wants to make sure those using it have a space where they can do so healthily. He originally became interested in creating such a place after he read in the news of a man dying in South Korea in a gaming café. The man had been playing for about 50 consecutive hours.
“I remember being very publicly aware. And it kind of made me think: ‘That’s happening on a flat monitor, what’s gonna happen when you get to the Matrix level of immersion?’ And people have to have a place where they can go to just to not die.”
Although Brooks doesn’t believe the majority of the video-gaming population is in danger of losing themselves in the experience this way, he still holds that “there is a subsection of the population who wants to be immersed in that.”
VR cafes might be popping out around the city, but others have found another way to utilize the technology. Kyle Gagnon is a full-time student at NAIT who started his VR work as a pop-up café. Gagnon eventually decided to move away from this model due to the saturation of the market at the time.
“What I’ve switched to is more of an events-based company,” Gagnon says. “So we go to special events, we do the setups for daily events or festivals, things like that. And we help bring VR to those events. We try to match it up with whatever they’re doing, and make it work that way.”
Adding to his work setting up VR for festivals, Gagnon has also branched out to setting up devices in schools and arranging performance art events. Recently, his team organized one of these performances at the Art Gallery of Alberta.
@Ctrl V Inc. Artwork by Rob Brunette
“We hosted an event where there’s a person inside VR, painting, live, three dimensionally, and then a dancer, they would switch out, and a dancer would be performing as well.” Gagnon says. “And this was all projected on a screen onstage for people to watch as well.”
As VR is still in its infancy, Gagnon and Brooks are both looking forward to the possibilities of the near future. Haptic feedback and temperature control are a few of these. Combining VR with existing technologies has also lead to a more immersive experience. Gagnon is in consultation with a company who’ve fitted VR together with workout equipment.
“You take HTC Vive, you do their proprietary hook-up to their existing rowing machines and you can virtually actually row on water or against people and challenge yourself that way.” Gagnon says. “It’s really bringing a new dynamic to working out.”
The seemingly endless amount of possibilities can be attributed to the flexibility of the technology, according to Gagnon. “Because it’s virtual and you’re only limited by the software that’s created, it really opens up where you can apply it.” He says. “What allows it, is versatility. You’re only limited by the software. And there’s a lot out there.”