Virtually Reality: Your Local VR Arcade With A Twist

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Wondering what your local VR arcade may look like in the UK? Well, Virtually Reality could be an interesting example.

Virtually Reality is the UK’s first Virtual Reality pop-up shop, launched with the aim of educating consumers and the public about this exciting new technology. The idea is the brainchild of, CEO and Founder, Alexander Cohen.

Alexander was kind enough to extend us an invite to their ‘proof of concept’ event, which began on Monday 4th April. Naturally, we were happy to attend and check out what was going. Here’s what we thought.

On approaching the event, set up in Unit 8 of Old Street Underground Station, London, I was met by an open storefront, bustling with inquisitive minds. There was VR tech set up in every space of the intimate underground location. The decor and layout were reminiscent of surroundings you would expect to see in an Apple store. Bright, sparse and contemporary. The atmosphere on arrival was a mixture of friendly conversation and focused VR chatter, accompanied by the odd bit of wine and whiskey.

Virtually Reality WhizzDish ROVR

WizDish ROVA, a VR input device showcased at Virtually Reality

It didn’t take long to get stuck into the mix, as I soon found myself running around in a VR maze. A labyrinth developed by Cohen and the developers on his team, to use as a demo at events and tradeshows.

To give me a footing in the game I was ushered on to the VR input platform known as WhizDish ROVA. A locomotion platform that employs “acoustic frequency technology” to track a user’s feet movements as they slide across the device.

Skating around the maze in this way was a unique way to experience VR. Although, I did fail miserably at actually finding the coins hidden throughout the maze – Apparently the highest achieved on the day was 27. I think my final score was seven, so there’s certainly some room for improvement – That said, WhizDish ROVA does have its limitations, but I found it to be an enjoyable use in this setting. (Full first impressions to follow)

Moving around the room to some of the other devices on the floor gave an idea of how our local VR arcades of the future may develop in big cities in the UK. Founder Alexander Cohen, described Virtually Reality as “part Art Gallery, part Apple Store, part Arcade” he elaborates:

“Art Gallery because we aim to curate products in a timeless and elegant way in order to facilitate engagement with the technology. Similar as to what you can expect at an art gallery or museum. Apple store because we aim to have staff who can walk you through every aspect of VR and provide an incredible store experience. Finally Arcade because we aim to facilitate a pay to play model for consumers who are unable to take full advantage of this tech at home.”

While the idea is still young, so lacks the maturity of the references mentioned previously, it does serve well in its function. The biggest evidence of this was the amount of people enticed into the store while on their travels through the Underground Train Station, coupled with the constant flow of people wanting to take photographs of the devices.

Vitually Reality VRGO

VRGO Chair, a device that uses the direction of your lean as in input for experiences

Over the week of the event, situated in a location that has a footfall of around 80,000 per day, Cohen estimates that approximately three to four thousand stopped by and showed an interest in VR. He explained,

“it was jam packed pretty much the whole time, we had, heaving, Monday and Tuesday launch parties, then more modest days, but were full pretty consistently throughout the seven days. We even had people peering through the shutters as we were closing asking to try VR.”

There was plenty more to experience at the event, including the SubPac S2, demoed with the 360 Lebron James experience for the GearVR. Plus an interesting mobile VR app called Bosch VR; that takes you on a ride through a VR adaptation of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Virtually Reality Borch VR

The garden of Earthly Delights by BDH

The star of the show at Virtually Reality was no doubt the HTC Vive, demoed with release title, Tilt Brush. Tilt Brush is developed by Google and puts a palette of paintbrushes, colours and creative tools at the users disposal. You can draw in real time in 3d, giving you a unique perspective of your composition. It is extremely hard not to become immersed in this environment. Tilt Brush is certainly an app that I could happily lose many hours in, and probably would, was it not for the queue forming behind me.

Vitually Reality VIVE

HTC Vive with, Google’s, Tilt Brush

We asked Cohen about users that may want to spend more time with the devices, he explained,

“the only aspect we would change (about Virtually Reality) is to see if an arcade style ‘pay to play’ experience would be something people were interested in.”

Cohen continues 

“we had a few times when people actually said, ‘Hey, here’s a cheeky fiver (£5.00), or ten quid, (£10.00), so I think there is a sentiment within consumers to want to pay for this kind of thing.”

Virtually Reality demoed the HTC Vive on a rig that pretty much represents the entry level for VR, kitted with a GTX 980 graphics card and i7 processor in a Rewind branded case. Cohen explained:

“when you factor in the cost fo the hardware, worst case scenario you’re probably going to be looking at around 1000 pounds for the computer, but if you do it properly, you’re going to be looking or around £1,200/£1,600. then the headset, (£756) excluding shipping, so when you add all that together you get to that £2k, £2.5k mark”


Another possible benefit pointed out by Cohen, was to do with room scale VR and the issue of space:

“for those of us living in major metropolitan cities. It’s going to be very difficult to get a 5×5 meter squared space.”

“so that’s where we see a massive potential for our of ‘pay to play’ experiences. Being able to come in on a Friday and play Fantastic Contraption with all your friends around you.”

There is also a retail element involved with the Virtually Reality model. Via the companies website, consumers can purchase a selection of the tech on display at the event. Including the aforementioned, input devices and other VR Related tech.

The next step for Virtually Reality, according to Cohen is:

“deploying our solution to private clients, just so we can raise a bit of cash flow, we hope to have a public location. Similar to the one we had, but on a larger scale, opened by the end of the year.”

For the time being, you will be able to catch the Virtually Reality concept at trade shows, as well as having the option to book their services.

Regarding a free entry, public space, Virtually Reality is hoping to be set up by around December, and Alexander also has his heart set on a bigger location somewhere like “a Westfield shopping center, or a major high street location.”

I look forward to seeing how this project develops if launched in a larger area and with more tech thrown into the mix. VR Related will continue to follow this story, so stick with us for future developments.

Find out more about Virtually Reality




Joseph Smerdon

Founder of VRRelated and a VR enthusiast with a passion for gaming and all things creative. Joseph has an extensive background in the broader entertainment industry and a hunger to deliver Virtual Reality related news and content as the market develops.

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