A mind-blowing VR arcade won me over. It‘ll get you too

Originally published June 13, 2017

By Ian Sherr

Virtual reality has turned me into a globe-trotting adventurer.

I’ve scuba-dived massive undersea shipwrecks, coming face-to-face with a blue whale. I’ve fought off hordes of oncoming zombies with nothing but a shotgun, an ax and my wits to stay alive. And I’ve piloted a spaceship in an epic dogfight against — does it even matter?

But through every adventure, I’ve known it was fake.

Until one day, when I explored a room on the top story of some city building with VR goggles on my head, a computer strapped to my back and a flashlight in my hand.

I was walking with my real legs, but seeing a virtual world. As I moved down the corridor, I felt a gust of hot air on my left. I turned and saw a furnace. Then, to my right was a stool. I kicked it with my real foot and it moved in the game world.

Then came the moment of truth.

A voice warned me drones were invading the city, and my only hope was to grab a gun, run outside and make my way to another building to disable them.

I headed for the edge of the building where a board was waiting for me to cross. I peered down the several-story drop and felt my throat tighten. In that moment, fighting down a wave of panic, I’d totally forgotten I was safe and sound, standing on the ground in a warehouse north of San Francisco.

The experience was created by a new virtual company called Nomadic, which is mixing movie-magic sensors and VR headsets to deliver thrills I’d never before experienced in virtual reality.

Nomadic, and its investors who just poured $6 million into the company, believe you’ll be willing to pay as much as $20 to have your stomach turn as you walk across that wobbly board while shooting down an invading army of drones.

I think so too.

Because Nomadic may hold the secret to the question that’s dogged VR makers for the past couple of years: What will it take for you and me to buy this stuff?

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