360 Immersive had the pleasure of discussing VR1, the premiere Virtual Reality (VR) Arcade, located in Eagle, Idaho. VR1 is forging new ground in providing a hardware and software solution for clients looking to experience and use Virtual Reality for architecture, entertainment, gaming, training and other VR related industry. The video and the dialog below was derived from a Facebook LiveCast on June 12th, 2017.
Welcome. My name is David Cleverdon of 360 Immersive. Today, we have the pleasure of talking to Brendan Smythe from VR1. VR1 is what he calls a Virtual Reality arcade, but it is so much more than an arcade. Brendan, if you could, tell us a little bit about VR1 and how you got into the virtual reality business and where you’re going to go. Let’s start with why you would do this.
Brendan Smythe: First off, I had a really strong goal in mind to just change people’s lives. When I threw that VR headset on, I saw so many different ways I could use this to help myself or other people. I had to put it into use somewhere. I started off doing architecture and design. That was how I got hold of my first Vive. The thing costs an arm and a leg, so I had to convince my father that, “Hey, I can design your homes into this 3D world and people can walk through their house and explore it and see everything that they need to change and expand or make smaller.”
Doing that was awesome. We’re saving a lot of people money, from being able to explore their home first, before breaking ground on it.
David: I have a question regarding that. When you went to Dad and said, “I want to do this virtual reality thing,” did he say, “Wow. That is like science fiction?” I mean, VR sounds way out there.
Brendan: He was a little skeptical on how – he saw the videos I showed on what people could do and what could be done. He was a little skeptical on if we could do it. It looked like hard stuff to get ahold of. I downloaded Unity. I got by Vive going and I started plugging away. Before you know it, we got a house in there and we were able to teleport around, move around, and interact with the house – open doors. It started coming together really quick, so from then on out, he was impressed and we had to go get the space so we could start selling it.
David: When your dad experienced VR for that very first time – when he put that Vive on, tell me about that.
Brendan: I’ll tell you the truth. He said, “The scale’s off.” That’s because he’s a designer, so he was immediately able to see that. I had to tell him, “I rough scaled it so we could see this. Don’t be that picky.” He said, “Wow, this is crazy.” The textures were there. The brick looked like real brick. Just seeing that from now and from today’s standpoint and knowing that technology just gets better from here, we just had to jump on it and start early and start learning all of those processes.
David: And, being an architect, he understood the difference in being in the scene. He felt like he was actually in the home.
Brendan: Totally. So, I tossed him into his office. He designed an office that they want to build. He hopped in there and he was able to explore it. He made changes right there. He immediately said, “This office is too small. I have to adjust this office.” It’s cool to see that you can see those changes that you would not have seen if you had just built the house. He really liked that. Seeing how he could apply it to what he was doing and how he could save money. He just knew he could save his 30-plus builders a month all that same exact money in the same amount of time. It was a long way from any type of virtual reality safety training at that time!
David: So, you went from that humble beginning to leasing a space to buying more Vives to offering an experience for people that can range from architecture to perhaps gaming. I know that’s something you don’t promote in total, but tell us about the facility as it sits right now.
Brendan: I have the five stations, and our goal is to start, from a very small standpoint, to work out all the kinks you’re going to have. There’s nobody doing it right. There’s hardly anybody doing it right now. Actually, getting the normal public in – not just demos, but being able to put a random guy in a headset and make sure he doesn’t break anything. If he doesn’t fall, make sure he has a good time. That’s what we do at the facility day-to-day.
The goal of that facility is to become one of the world’s biggest and most advanced facilities and arcades in the world. We’ll eventually get to that point, but I needed to start with something more logical, like the architecture side of it. But, having a facility I need for architecture and to get the builders and training and all of the guys down there to do all that side of things. I was still sitting in a facility that had five stations open for the remainder of the night. All the builders go home at 3:00.
I just went ahead and opened up the arcade at the same time. The arcade’s kind of the front for the families and all the kids and parents and everybody to come down and play games and enjoy experiences, travel the world and do whatever they want. I get people in there that even have their own things. Maybe they made their own game they’ve been working on, but they don’t have a Vive. So, they come in there and they’re able to show their friends their game that they made.
It’s just a matter of having access to that equipment that you won’t have access to – and just knowing that you’re going to spend $800.00 on this Vive and the new one’s going to come out next year is hard. To this day, a lot of people still don’t own their cell phones even, so it’s hard for people to justify buying a new Vive every single year, especially with the rate that it’s improving.
David: You mentioned using your facility for training. For instance, training law enforcement and first responders. In theory, you could have a group of law enforcement officers come in and train in your facility and gain experience from that. Can you tell us a little bit about that avenue, of what you might see your facility being used for?
Brendan: I actually had two police officers from Eagle stop by. I was there at 3:00 a.m. one night, working away, trying to fix some issues. I was doing my thing, and they stopped by, banging on the door and saying, “Hey, what are you doing here? Do you own this place?” I’m a 20-year-old in a business complex in Eagle, so they were skeptical at first. They were wondering what I was doing down there.
I got them in and threw them on a headset into a military SIM, where they could actually hold a real-sized gun. They were on just a shooting range right there. When he aimed down that sight and it felt real, and he pulled the trigger and it felt real, he took off that headset and he looked at me and he was like, “We’ve got to get the guys down here. This is insane.”
It’s that step of being able to interact with the 3D world that they’re more excited about. But not only that, they wanted to hold a physical gun, too. They said, “Call us back when you get the actual gun that has recoil and we can aim that and have all of those tools.” I think it’s going to go to that level of where you’re in the car and you’re actually inside of a car. You have to open the doors, get out of the car, run, and respond. You have to be physical do it. You’ve got to pick up the guy and pull out your tool belt and do whatever you’ve got to physically and not just visually.
So, it’s going to get to that point fairly soon. Our goal at VR1 is to try to get them down there at least – it’s just the controllers right now, but you can grab objects and you can interact.
David: Thinking about virtual reality and that VR space, maybe AR, maybe mixed reality, and where you’re going to go from here. Give me the future.
Brendan: I’ve talked to a few people about the future – the 30- to 40-year mark of why I’m getting into it. In some cases, it can get a little scary. In other cases, it can sound exciting. About the five- to ten-year mark, we’re looking at trying to get a larger facility for everybody to be able to come down. We’re talking a new Batman comes out, for example, and thousands of people in the Treasure Valley want to go see it right now. They have nowhere to go see it. So, something as simple as that, you need to have a facility for everybody to come down and experience that and see it.
You also need a facility that can have medical staff come in and train and law enforcement come in and train. Ideally, you have a place that can fulfill that for everybody in every aspect of the industry all in one place. I hope we can get to that point here soon.
David: Knowing the potential for growth in virtual reality, and knowing where VR is going to go, I have no doubt that you’re going to get there.
David: Thank you for coming down. We’d like to thank you all for taking a moment out of your time to watch this presentation. We’ll catch you again next time.