DC gets East Coast’s first virtual reality arcade

WASHINGTON — The first virtual reality arcade on the East Coast opens this month in Dupont Circle.

D.C.-based virtual reality software developer Notion Theory has taken some office space at a MakeOffices co-work location at 18th and M Streets in Northwest, and turned it into a state-of-the-art virtual reality room that you can rent by the hour.

Called notionVR, gamers use the HTC Vive, one of the newest headsets that gives users dual-wield hand controllers and base station motion sensors, providing full-range motion. Users can choose from a long list of popular games and content.

Why is a virtual-reality arcade a viable business? Because, at least right now, you probably can’t afford the equipment yourself.

“When you consider the Vive headset that we have, you’re paying $800 for the headset, plus sensors, plus hand controllers. And then it has to be hooked into a video game-grade custom-built computer, and then you have to set up the sensors and setting up the room for room-scale VR,” Notion Theory’s Kristian Bouw said.

“For the nontechnical, general consumer, there is a lot of set up and troubleshooting involved, and so in the next five years, there is a lot of room for a business like a VR arcade, until the technology gets small enough that it can all go through the mobile phone.”

Players reserve the space in advance and pay $30 an hour. The rate is based on time used, not number of players.

“Players can reserve anywhere from as little as 30 minutes all the way up to 10 hours for a full day of the arcade,” Bouw said.

While notionVR can claim the title of first VR arcade on the East Coast, one opened in San Francisco in July, and Bouw said.

NotionVR is located at 1200 18th St., Northwest. It opens Aug. 15.

One bonus for MakeOffices members? They get access to the VR arcade for free.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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