The coolest virtual reality room in the world is in a bar in Tulsa

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A video (opens in a new tab) of someone walking around in what looked like a weird sci-fi ensemble while using a VR headset recently made the rounds on TikTok as further evidence of our gradual progress towards the Star Trek holodeck fantasy. A follow-up video (opens in a new tab) explained that it was about a staff member testing an upcoming attraction for a gaming bar and cafe named Aaru in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

If someone vomits on my beautiful gear, I’ll cry.

Shai Kaiser

Aaru (opens in a new tab) is a bar, cafe and VR development studio with table lounges and private VR rooms. It houses the only commercial version of the Omnideck designed for public use for VR gaming. The Omnideck (opens in a new tab) is a massive 360 ​​degree motorized treadmill that allows a user to safely walk, run or crawl in VR without bumping into a wall. (The reason the guy in the video isn’t running is because he was waiting for a safety harness to be fitted.)

The Omnideck is manufactured by W5 Solutions, a Swedish company that has been designing “high level military training and simulation” equipment for over 10 years. It’s the first time I remember seeing him outside of a living room or technical demo (opens in a new tab) setting. The headset used in the VR room is wireless Vive Focus 3 (opens in a new tab)which has been paired with wireless handheld controllers that use a hodgepodge of custom software for each game.

“We chose the Omnideck because it’s the best VR locomotion hardware out there right now,” Aaru Games CEO Shai Kaiser tells me. He explained that they had tried things like the KATwalk (opens in a new tab)a concave slidemill, but it didn’t provide the full VR experience they wanted, as it required users to shuffle their feet more than walking.

The Omnideck does just enough to “trick the inner ear and avoid the incongruity between what you see and what you feel that contributes to motion sickness/virtual cybersickness,” according to Kaiser.

@aaru_entertainment (opens in a new tab)
♬ Rocky: Eye of the Tiger – Best Movie Soundtracks (opens in a new tab)

There is a small adaptation period when a player enters the Omnideck. Kaiser says it takes about five minutes before someone feels comfortable enough to play. They recently added a harness system which “is a huge benefit for mental comfort and dramatically reduces the time it takes to get out of your own head and start moving naturally”.

If a customer drinks too much, staff will not allow them to use the system. “If someone vomits on my beautiful gear, I’ll cry,” Kaiser says.

The games available to play in VR are the rhythm-based shooter Pistol Whip and one of my favorite games, super hot VR. If you don’t feel like photographing anything, you can create 3D art with Tilting brush. Aaru plans to offer at least 10 games in standard VR rooms. The Onmideck Room will be reserved for games that take advantage of room-wide experiences with as few menus as possible.

“What we’re trying to do is not what VR is, but what it could be,” Kaiser says. He thinks VRcades are an “important part of the journey” into the future of VR, although they will be less useful “when people have accessible options and enough content to drive a market.”

“Our long-term goal is content generation and VR esports sites built for that future,” Kaiser says, “and my ideal scenario is that we can align that with a strong and fair franchise model so centers quality VR games can shoot like Pop-Tarts everywhere.”

Aaru had its grand opening on October 21, so the combination of booze, tabletop games, and fully immersive VR shenanigans is now open for business. However, the Onmideck is still awaiting safety certification, so it is not yet available to the public.

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