VR at the Mall

Something that always fascinates me is how new technology creeps into our lives without even noticing. Several years ago, Google put out Google Cardboard. It was an impressive piece of technology, considering it was free to most people. Slowly, other virtual reality devices have come out, but in my opinion none have really hit the mainstream. I think there are two reasons for this. First, there is not a lot of content for virtual reality. So, in order to find a good reason to buy one you need to be either a tech warrior or a gamer. While there are many people in both groups, they certainly don’t make up a majority.

A second reason is that people really don’t know what virtual reality is, what it can do and the quality of it today. Over the weekend I ran into some technology that is certainly aimed at doing this. It is from a company called VR 360 Adventures. They are egg-shaped pods sitting in the middle of the mall, next to various other kiosks. This particular kiosk was very modern in design, with portrait oriented displays and touch screens. For $10, you get to spend several minutes in the pod, taking in the experience. Before you sit down and don the goggles, you get to choose which experience you want. Do you want to ride Santa’s Sleigh, take a flight in a bomber from 1944 or ride a pterodactyl through the jungles? Obviously, the adventure you choose is dependent on your age and interests.

Once inside the pod, you wear DVPR virtual reality goggles. There is a problem here, and that is that the goggles were pretty beat up. The ones that I looked at had duct tape in various places holding them together. So that’s problem number one with the system. Quality VR goggles are still so expensive that vendors are not anxious to replace them. Yet, from person to person they get beat up. The straps need to be adjusted each time, people just grab anything and pull them off, etc. At only $10 per experience, it takes a lot of experiences to be able to net enough money to buy new goggles. Additionally, and this may just be me, but I found it to be a bit unsanitary. The foam on the goggles directly touched your face, and I didn’t see any cleaning of the goggles between use. That’s problem number two. The manufacturers of the goggles need to make them so that there is some type of barrier from person to person to maintain a reasonably sanitary environment.

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Now with the goggles on you, begin your experience. If you were not expecting it to start, you are quickly surprised when they tell you to seat belt in. The pod moves back, forward and side to side. Coupled with the experience behind the goggles, the pod can have rather slight movements which are exaggerated by the moving pod. The speakers on both sides of the pod also enhance the experience.

While there are some things that need to happen to make this particular venture fruitful, I believe there are some takeaways. Putting the VR into a mall exposes people to this experience that would never have known it existed, or what the value of it was. Moms and dads will be brought over to it by their children who are intrigued by the cool tech. I also checked out VR 360 Adventures website and read a bit about the company. It turns out that the booths are considered franchises. One of the opportunities the site writes about is bringing these to events. And that is where I think the opportunity is for AV companies. Many of us stage events and provide audio and video experiences for customers. This could provide a new line of revenue in this field. I imagine an AV staging company providing this as an experience at a company picnic they are supporting, or an employee recognition event. The product would likely last longer, since it was being used by a specific set of individuals who could be given more consistent instructions on specifically how to use it. It would also position the company as an innovator, who is providing the latest in technology. I have long been a proponent of AV companies delving more and more into AR and VR, as I think it is a huge part of our future business. This type of publicly accessible VR can only promote this more.