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VR Arcade Open Business Plan: Peripherals

Best Practices

July 3, 2018 | 14 min read

VR Arcade Open Business Plan

How VR Arcades around the World are using Peripherals


*This article was written by guest blogger Antony Vitillo, aka Skarredghost. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion or position of SpringboardVR.


You might remember SpringboardVR because I interviewed them some months ago: it is a company that makes a system that lets you easily manage and scale your VR Arcade. They are trying to create awareness about the VR location based ecosystem (that is: VR Arcades), and asked me to write a post about this topic. I liked the idea and accepted to write this post about different hardware solutions for the indie VR Arcades. And even though this is a sponsored post, don’t worry - it won’t be flooded with subliminal messaging tricking you into that you have to use the SpringboardVR solution…maybe ☺


A Tour of the Devices used inside VR Arcades

So, let’s start. We all know about big VR centers where you can experience 9D Virtual Reality with the full body tracked and real bazookas with which you can shoot at monsters with your friends (like The Void, for instance). These are companies with deep pockets offering premium products. But what about the locally-owned indie VR Arcades? What kind of hardware do they use? How do they amaze the user? Let’s see some examples of what is out there now, and also share some ideas about the future…

Virtual Reality

Of course a VR Arcade should feature virtual reality headsets.


I know, I’m a genius.

In some VR cafes, this is more than enough. I was talking with a VR Arcade owner some days ago and he told me that people like to go at his place because there they can find advanced PCs and virtual reality headsets that they can’t afford at home. Furthermore, they love being there connecting with other people that share the same passion. Staying at home playing VR alone is much different than playing with other VR enthusiasts, where one can challenge another, and even make new friends.

We can assume that in the future VR will become mainstream, and everyone will have it in their home, but at the moment the situation is different. For many who have not yet tried VR, going to an arcade to play VR with their friends can be a very compelling opportunity.

It can be interesting even just to try VR: most people out there still get excited by watching a 360 video, something that just triggers the “360VIDEOISNOTVR” instinct in us VR enthusiasts. So, for someone outside our industry, spending a few bucks just to try something new and feel the “WOW” effect can be compelling.

For the VR Arcade owner, this means that offering basic VR gameplay can still be enough to offer a pleasant service to the customers… even without fancy accessories.


Headsets

Regarding the type of headset, HTC Vive is the king here.

Why?

  1. It had a clear business licensing model since the beginning;
  2. It has a better tracking technology.
  3. It offers more customization thanks to Vive Trackers and other various accessories;
  4. It has the Vive Pro, this is very good for VR Arcades, thanks to its features.

Additional Headsets: Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift


Wireless Adapters

The cable…the damn cable can be a nuisance for the players, who could even harm themselves because of it. For this reason, many VR Arcade owners are experimenting with:

  • Cable management systems
  • Wireless adapters


Some of them are already playing testing the TPCAST system on their virtual reality headsets. The TPCAST, though, does have it’s flaws. Like the fact that is very hard to setup. Once set up it does work very well (I’ve tried it and I can guarantee that it is fantastic), but to arrive to that point is far from easy, especially since the set up will be for multiple headsets.

You’ll notice that even the instruction video is weird - with a Chinese girl that is dubbed by an American man…


That’s why arcade owners are waiting for new devices like Vive Wireless Adapter or the TPCAST v2 to arrive so that to have better wireless solutions.


Vive Trackers

As I’ve said before, one of the reasons VR Arcade owners choose the Vive is for the versatility of the Vive Tracker, which lets you use a lot of accessories for customers’ VR experiences.

For example, HTC offers some rackets that can work with the Vive Trackers directly in it’s store…


…but there are a lot of other gadgets out there. Like for instance guns…


The Hyper-blaster… very useful to kill some virtual ducks!

or rifles like this one by PPGun that seems fantastic.


Not to mention baseball bats…


Hey, be careful with that bat!

or even a fishing pole spotted in Japan!


Let’s make some sushi!

But what about using your full body? You know that I’m a fan of full body VR… and with some Vive Trackers and Track Strap mounts that attach to the body of the users, that is possible!


…I love this.

With Vive Trackers you can put almost everything inside a game, which can be a great tool to increase the realism and immersion of the experience. Trackers are also affordable, so a VR Arcade owner can create a cool station for a reasonable price.


VR Suits

Speaking of full body, we can’t forget about VR suits. Even in Ready Player One, Wade Watts had a suit to make his experience feel more realistic.

We are all waiting for the Tesla Suit to come to the market, with its great ability to not only put all your body into the game, but also to make you feel sensation like pain. Meanwhile, there are other sets that are out there, ready to be used: PrioVR, Perception Neuron, BluAtomVR, Kor FX vest, etc… all offering the ability to use your body in VR. One that is getting more traction is the Hardlight suit. It doesn’t cost much ($299 + $99 business license), it does its job (upper body tracking + haptic sensations), and has had good reviews by magazines like Road To VR.


I see it as a gadget that may become successful in the VR Arcade ecosystem.

Apart from suits, there are also various types of gloves that can be used - like the Noitom or ManusVR.


Vehicles

It’s great playing roomscale games using Vive Trackers, but what about if you’re more a racing type? Well, VR Arcades can satisfy your VR needs, too!

There are various sets to help you feel like a NASCAR driver. For example, there is the Fanatec set, which includes the steering wheel, pedals and shifter, that are very effective and that are used inside some VR Arcades.


I know people that would LOVE to use this while playing in VR!

Also, the racingCUBE by Fasetech can be very persuasive in simulating a real life driving experience.


In China, I’ve spotted some motorcycle simulators…


Let’s ride to the moon!

A boat simulator… that maybe could be used with the above fishing pole…


Let’s go fishing!

Or even a tank simulator!


Let’s go fishi… ah no with this tank, it is not possible.

I’ve seen companies selling many kinds of vehicles for Chinese VR Arcades. The VR Arcade culture is huge in China, so things are evolving pretty fast there.

The price of such devices is not for every pocket: the last one that I’ve shown you is worth circa $10000, for instance. It is true that these are pieces of hardware that you buy once and then use for a lot of time, but of course this means that you should have the money for this upfront investment.


Treadmills

Why use a vehicle, if you can run in VR? I’m sure you have already heard names like the Virtuix Omni and Kat VR Walk -  these are all devices that interest VR Arcades.


The Virtuix Omni. I still remember its old golden times when they invited Palmer Luckey to play with it.

A month ago or so, I read a very interesting article with the history of the Virtuix Omni. Too big and expensive for the current state of the in-home market, Virtuix has focused on VR Arcades, especially in China. The Omni has the potential to succeed in VR Arcades… VR Arcade owners just need to be sure that this investment is something that can fit into the business model, and that their customers will actually like it.

I know, the Omni doesn’t give you the real sensation of running. It is more like slipping on the floor, but it seems that once you understood how to run on it, using it with VR is fun. Regardless, because of its shortcomings, people are waiting for better treadmills. Take the Infinadeck, for example. It seems very promising, even if its cost may be so high.


And if you don’t want to run, but would rather ride a bicycle, there is VirZoom, that may help you in having fun while staying fit.


A guy looking very badass while using a VirZOOM stationary bike!


Seats

For the lazy ones, there are “pods” where you sit there and enjoy the VR experiences. A few weeks ago, YawVR launched a Kickstarter campaign for an affordable and compact VR seat for home usage, which also got the attention of various VR Arcade owners around the world.


Being priced more than $1000, I honestly don’t see it as a product for in-home consumers, but more as a device for the out-of-home VR space. Given the cool design and compact form factor, it could work great for various kinds of installations.

YawVR is not the only one model proposed, of course. VR seats are like the vehicles: there are a bunch out there. For instance, I found an interesting model proposed by Roto VR, and a lot of other models on Chinese websites.


In Japan, the VR SENSE is beginning to gain popularity. It is not only a standard seat to enjoy VR, but it also add effects like wind, mist, haptics and scent. It is able to stimulate almost all the senses of the user for complete immersion. This is a great product, considering how the compact the device is.


But… who said that a seated experience has to be relaxing and comfortable? Welcome the MMOne, an authentic puking machine.


I admit that I’d pay to try this kind of experience, nut surely not after lunch.


Other Stations

After looking around and doing some research, I’ve come to realize there are VR stations of every kind.

You can feel like you’re flying while staying fit thanks to Icaros VR!


The possibilities really are endless.

I think that the best setup for VR Arcades that I’ve ever seen was in China (below). It lets you experience rollercoasters as if you were really there. It uses the BIGMAN™ patented technology, that is guaranteed to offer high performance and human sweat scent emulation…


Future Considerations

There are two things that I would like to have seen when exploring the devices currently used in VR Arcades around the world.

The first one is the emulation of smell and taste. Taste in VR is currently a very obscure topic, with only some experimentations available from the University of Singapore. Regarding smell, we have scent emitters that are expensive and complicated to use. Luckily there is a Japanese company called VAQSO that is creating an affordable and user-friendly device for scent emission in virtual reality. I really hope that when it will be released, it will be adopted by some Indie VR Arcades.

The second one is the power of brain-computer-interfaces. Devices like Neurable, that can let the user interact with a game just with the power of the brain, are not as expensive but can create a WOW effect so big that every person would be tempted to go to the VR Arcade just to use “that machine that can read your mind”. I’m sure as soon as Neurable releases its dev kit, some arcade will start using it, and I’ll surely go there to try it.


And this is now the end of my journey inside VR Arcade peripherals. I really want to thank Hunter and Will from SpringboardVR (ah, the subliminal message!) for having helped me in writing this post. I hope you enjoyed the ride (especially the BIGMAN demo) If this the case, please share this post on your social media channels!


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