Provo ups its virtual reality game


Virtual reality started out as a new and different form of at-home gaming but has evolved to a social experience like playing laser tag or seeing a movie with friends. Virtual reality arcades have opened in both Provo and Orem.

“Virtual Reality is not a game — it’s an experience,” said Spencer Barber, manager at Virtual Experience on Center Street in Provo.

Ari Davis
Lane Banks plays a game in virtual reality at Virtual Experience on Center Street, Provo. “Virtual Reality is not a game; it’s an experience,” said Spencer Barber, manager at Virtual Experience on Center Street in Provo.(Ari Davis)

Brock Barber and Spencer Barber opened Virtual Experience two months ago. Brock said they chose the location in Provo because it had a good consumer base, being so close to two colleges.

“We have had super positive feedback and are happy about the quick-paced success VE (Virtual Experience) has seen,” Spencer said. “It is exceeding expectations.”

Spencer said these arcades are becoming a popular location for dates and family nights.

Ari Davis
The Void offers a virtual reality experience. BYU computer science professor Seth Holladay said virtual reality is an entertainment experience. (Ari Davis)

“Once you’re in the headset, you can easily see how it’s different from a video game,” Spencer said. “It’s more interactive. It’s social because you can see different people inside the game, and can do it with friends.”

Computer science professor Seth Holladay said he doesn’t know how long virtual reality arcades will last, but they have potential.

“If you get the right VR (virtual reality) experience, it’s actually entertainment,” Holladay said.

Holladay was introduced to virtual reality at computer graphics conferences, where he said they showed the latest in virtual reality.

“I’ve watched a history of it unfold over the past four years,” Holladay said.

Ari Davis
Lane Banks plays a game in Virtual Reality at Virtual Experience on Center Street. Virtual Experience Manager Spencer Barber said virtual reality is more interactive and social than video games. (Ari Davis)

Manager of Orem virtual reality arcade, VR Junkies, Ben Maxwell said he believes the future of virtual reality will result in participants being able to enter into and be a part of separate worlds.

“I think VR will go towards people living completely separate lives through technology,” Maxwell said. “It’s very high quality, so it’s realistic.”

Maxwell said this advancement will take time and moderation because of the high cost of the equipment, giving virtual reality arcades the upper hand as they provide the “separate lives” for players at an affordable price.

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