Come Friday, Boulder County will get a new dose of reality — virtual reality that is — thanks to Tilt Pinball in Louisville.
Tilt will celebrate the opening of the first virtual reality arcade in Boulder County, beginning an experiment its owners — Steve Long, Mark Oberholzer, and Greg Maring — hope will broaden their customer base to include more adults.
Having moved two years ago from its location on Front Street, Tilt — now in the former Blue Parrot building at 640 Main St. — features a full bar and access to the two restaurants with which it shares the space, Verde and Shopey's Pizza.
"It's an interesting dynamic," Long said. "In the daytime, we get tons of families and kids, and then at 9 p.m. it turns into more of a bar scene."
Tilt's new VR offerings complete the vision of a modern arcade.
While the basement feels like a traditional arcade filled with neon lights and imperceptible noises, the upstairs loft where the virtual reality booths are located looks like a modern event space with hardwood floors and areas to quietly hang out.
"We're really trying to put ourselves out as more than just an arcade," said Gillian Millar, the special events planner for Tilt. "We have monthly stand-up comedy, silent discos and trivia. The VR is another piece of entertainment that we're offering to make us more of an entertainment space for team-building events or corporate parties."
Thanks to growing popularity in the corporate world, according to Grand View Research, VR gaming is predicted to reach $45.09 billion in revenue by 2025. While industry experts attribute much of the growth to the expense of purchasing home VR systems (upward of $2,000 for a top-of-the line wireless HTC Vive Pro system like those at Tilt), with the technology improving so quickly, they predict best systems will likely remain out financially of reach for home users for quite some time.
"I've got the old model at home and playing on these new ones versus that one is like actually being there versus looking at a place through a screen door," said Issac Shoemaker, Tilt's VR specialist.
All of the testers Tilt brought in prior to the Friday grand opening expressed similar amazement with the graphics. Tilt has three HTC Vive pro stations complete with the wireless headsets that allow users to freely move around so they enjoy the experience alongside friends.
"It's surreal," Mark Vahrenwald, said. "I put on the boxing (game) and all of a sudden I looked down and I had pecs and biceps for days. It was really fun, I'll never let my buddy forget I beat him in a boxing match."
Along with the "Creed: Rise to Glory" game, which allows players to box against iconic characters from the "Rocky" movies, Tilt offers more than 30 games ranging from a "Lord of the Rings"-esque game in which players shoot ogres with a bow and arrow from the towers of gothic style castles, to a table tennis game where players can feel the ball bounce off their virtual paddles using a technology called haptic motion.
Tilt even has a Google Earth app that allows users to stand on top of Mount Everest or the Great Pyramid of Giza and take in a 360-degree view of the surroundings. The immersion is made complete with noise-canceling headphones that pump in natural background noise.
"It's an unbelievable sensation," Kelli Sanchez, said. "I started to feel dizzy when I looked over the edge of a building and even felt like I was falling when I fell off it. It really is amazing."
Those without a headset can watch what is going on in the virtual world on flat-screen TVs while they drink and eat food from the adjoining restaurants.
"I first tried VR as a driving game down at Disney World, where you physically sat in a car, but they only had one experience, which was fun, but it wouldn't keep you coming back for more," Long said. "So one of the things we focused on was providing a lot of different games and content for people."
For those interested in trying out the new VR set up, Tilt is offering a 25 percent discount for February. Non-discounted prices range from $30 for 30 minutes to $75 for two hours. To rent out the entire event space, contact Tilt at email@example.com.