Utah residents can now fight zombies, swim with sharks, ride roller coasters, enter haunted houses and more at Virtualities, one of the first virtual reality cinemas, which opened at The Gateway in Salt Lake City earlier this month.
Instead of entering a giant theater with a lot of seats and a big screen, there are rows of rotating chairs of Virtualities where a viewer will sit at and put on a virtual reality headset.
Ryan Burningham, founder of Virtualities, said that virtual reality is the next step in cinema and gaming and that he wanted to bring this experience close to home in a way that was affordable.
“Since virtual reality is normally super expensive, this was a way to make it accessible to people who normally don’t have the means or space to access it,” Burningham said in an interview with Deseret News.
According to Burningham, there are a few virtual reality cinemas and arcades in the world already, including the VR Cinema in Amsterdam and Zero Latency in Australia. A pop-up virtual reality cinema opened in Toronto for a few months this summer, according to the Toronto Sun, and the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that IMAX is planning to launch a half dozen virtual reality locations around the globe this year.
Currently available at Virtualities are various short movie and gaming experiences including a sci-fi film, roller coasters, skydiving, swimming with sharks and hunting zombies. Viewers also have the option of creating artwork in virtual reality and printing it off using 3-D printers.
There are also various humanitarian videos available to watch at Virtualities. Burningham said these humanitarian efforts were part of his motivation for starting Virtualities.
“That was one of the reasons I started the business because I was frustrated with my lack of influence at work, but also I wanted to give back to the cause I cared about,” Burningham said, adding that he saw "a vehicle to giving back to the community. Both experiencing the fun things, like the zombies and haunted house and stuff like that, but also experiencing the real things, too.”
Virtualities most recently helped with the Choice Humanitarian fundraiser at the Rail Events Center on Sept. 23 and will also be hosting a fundraiser at Virtualities on Nov. 11.
“There’s some really neat studies that show that when people watch things in virtual reality, people remember it a week later and it actually triggers parts of the brain that are more empathetic than watching just a regular YouTube video,” Burningham said.
Burningham said he views the current cinema and arcade as just a starting point. Ideas for the future of Virtualities include being able to board the Star Trek bridge and run through missions, visit the moon in an Apollo 11 mission and race friends in a drone racing league.
Burningham also wants to add games in augmented reality, which is a technology that superimposes a layer of virtual reality on a user’s view of the real world, allowing users to experience things such as alien invasions, laser tag and playing sports with friends.
“I feel like augmented reality and virtual reality has the potential to bring people together in ways that traditional video games have a hard time doing,” Burningham said.
Virtualities is on the second floor at The Gateway, across from Discovery Gateway and next to Zumiez. Pricing starts at $10 for 10 minutes for the arcade and $10 for 15 minutes for the cinema. For additional information, visit the company's website at virtualities.co.