My girlfriend and I fought zombies inside a local movie theater - and it could be the future of VR

Screen Shot 2018 06 12 at 3.59.32 PMSandbox VRSandbox VR

  • Virtual reality may be better suited for arcades than people's homes. 
  • One of the new startups creating shared VR experiences is called Sandbox VR.
  • Its technology combines green screens and commercial VR headsets and you can book one for just over $30 per half hour. 
  • It's an intense experience. 

There are a number of virtual-reality systems you use inside your house, but increasingly, many experts in the industry believe that VR may first find its footing in elaborate arcade experiences. 

VR arcades let people try cutting-edge technologies without spending money on a pricey headset, and the experiences and games can also be customized and administered by experts. 

One VR startup, Sandbox VR, even believes that VR can be a way to build stronger teams and friendships, according to its CEO, Steve Zhao, who said that it's a great option for corporate events and team building. 

"We see a lot of corporate [customers], it's kind of scary but it's about the chaos, what happens when everything goes wrong," Zhao said. And you have to work together and talk to each other, communicate.

"We know a lady, she played seven times. I called her up, asked, 'why do you play so much?' She said 'I just want to play with my relatives, coworkers, friends.' She just wanted to share these type of experiences," he continued. 

That kind of fandom was enough to raise $3 million in seed funding from investors led by the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, according to Pitchbook data. 

My girlfriend and I actually got to check out one of Sandbox VR's game spaces in New York. Here's what happened: 

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We checked out the Sandbox VR experience in an IMAX movie theater in New York.

We checked out the Sandbox VR experience in an IMAX movie theater in New York.

The space was provided because Sandbox licenses its technology to IMAX.

The space was provided because Sandbox licenses its technology to IMAX.

When you first get there, you're led into a specially-built room with green walls and floors on three sides. It's a greenscreen — the same technology that Hollywood uses to put actors in exotic locations. You need at least two people to play.

When you first get there, you're led into a specially-built room with green walls and floors on three sides. It's a greenscreen — the same technology that Hollywood uses to put actors in exotic locations. You need at least two people to play.

But inside the headsets, this is what we were seeing.

But inside the headsets, this is what we were seeing.

There are other experiences available too, including one that's pirate-themed.

There are other experiences available too, including one that's pirate-themed.

Before you strap on the VR headset, there's a little bit of preparation — like these motion capture orbs you have to wear on your arms ...

Before you strap on the VR headset, there's a little bit of preparation — like these motion capture orbs you have to wear on your arms ...

... and legs.

... and legs.

Here's Sandbox VR CEO Steve Zhao strapping the sensors on my zombie-shooting partner.

Here's Sandbox VR CEO Steve Zhao strapping the sensors on my zombie-shooting partner.

Then you put on a backpack. Inside the backpack is a full PC that powers the VR headset.

Then you put on a backpack. Inside the backpack is a full PC that powers the VR headset.

The headsets we used were standard Oculus Rift headsets with more white motion capture sensors attached. Other locations use HTC Vive headsets, Zhao said.

The headsets we used were standard Oculus Rift headsets with more white motion capture sensors attached. Other locations use HTC Vive headsets, Zhao said.

Of course, we needed VR guns to shoot the zombies.

Of course, we needed VR guns to shoot the zombies.

At one point, I felt a cool breeze. Turns out, there were actual fans in the real world. Zhao also said that more advanced versions of Sandbox VR can provide a rumble when the zombies touch you, which sounds a little scary for me.

At one point, I felt a cool breeze. Turns out, there were actual fans in the real world. Zhao also said that more advanced versions of Sandbox VR can provide a rumble when the zombies touch you, which sounds a little scary for me.

The experience was already pretty intense. It lasted 30 minutes, and our team actually lost — you can end up not winning the battle.

The experience was already pretty intense. It lasted 30 minutes, and our team actually lost — you can end up not winning the battle.

Sandbox currently has six locations, including in San Mateo, California, New York, and Singapore, and Thailand.

A 30-minute session costs between $32 and $38, depending on if it's peak hours. More information is available at the Sandbox website

It's a fun way to spend a day, even if it is a little bit intense. It was certainly more immersive than VR games I've played at home.

It's a fun way to spend a day, even if it is a little bit intense. It was certainly more immersive than VR games I've played at home.
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