Asheville’s first virtual reality arcade arena is open for business, and its founders are inviting the public to come play.
“We want this to be the place where people come and explore,” says Brett McCall of Better Than Unicorns, the company behind the arcade. “We think this is a powerful way to connect people.”
Last May, McCall teamed up with software engineers/developers John Kreisher and Justin Hamilton to a company to build virtual reality content. McCall’s first idea was to create a virtual reality arcade, but he says he “stumbled upon” an application targeting real estate developers looking for realistic previews of proposed projects.
The idea was an immediate hit. Better Than Unicorns is now working with a handful of clients, McCall says, including Asheville’s Deltec Homes. “We’ve built two of their models in 3D so we can put people inside of it and look around, look under furniture, put themselves in the home,” he says.
The virtual reality arcade remains a priority for the team. They’re working out of a relatively small space at Ramp Studios, 821 Riverside Drive, Suite 172. But the group has committed to opening the studio from 3-9 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays so people can buy time to play a VR game. The cost is $10 for 20 minutes.
“People just don’t know what it’s like to be inside a VR rig, so we’re encouraging them to come out,” McCall says. To that end, Better Than Unicorns is hosting an open house from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday.
Hamilton has long nurtured a love of paintball and video games (Doom, for one) and studied computer animation in college, “so I dreamt of a VR place where you could fully immerse yourself and interact virtually and in the same space,” he says.
Kreisher, who loved to build things with Legos and draw as a kid, has moved from coding iPhones apps to building stuff in three dimensions for VR. It’s a fascinating way of “hacking your brain,” he says.
McCall, with a background in Outward Bound, says he wants to see what folks can do and learn in the “impossible environments” that virtual reality makes possible. He, too, sees boundless potential and has been studying how VR can help reconnect neural pathways in the brains of people who’ve been injured.
For now, Better Than Unicorns just wants people to come and give a VR headset a try. They’ve got Oculus Rift and HTC Vive rigs, and they’re ready for visitors.
Beyond the virtual reality arcade idea, McCall says his crew is open to hearing from anyone interested in collaborating on a project. “We definitely want to connect with other artists, especially if they have ideas: filmmakers, musicians, photographers, animators, toy designers.”
“We would love for anyone to come out and give VR a shot,” he adds.