House of VR is futuristic, art-focused and hopes to lead the charge in Toronto’s VR arcade scene

house of vr toronto

What image does the term ‘VR arcade’ conjure in your head?

If it’s a dark basement pungent with the odour of sweat, illuminated only by black light and quiet but for the occasional grunts and exclamations of players, then Jonah Brotman wants the chance to change your mind with his upcoming futuristic, art-focused House of VR, arriving on the trendy Queen St. West in mid-April.

“There are a lot of creative, cool people in Toronto who are turned off by the nerdy, gamer model,” says Brotman, noting that the opposite can also result in sub-par experiences — that is, artists dabbling in VR when they don’t have the technical skills to see through their vision.

The driving question for the serial entrepreneur (who you may recognize from a past appearance on Dragon’s Den pitching the StashBelt) and his team — comprised of his technical co-founder and brother Noah Brotman and long-time girlfriend and artist/muralist Stephanie Payne — was: “How do we create a space that is part art gallery, part VR arcade?”

‘View’ and ‘Play’ VR content

The arcade, located at 639 Queen St. W, will feature LED lighting, light-activated murals and infinity mirrors along with a bar where patrons can grab a cold brew or beer.

As for VR equipment, the arcade is going to launch with 10 Samsung Gear VRs that it calls ‘View’ units for 360-degree cinematic films that can be viewed in fiberglass pod chairs and 13 HTC Vive ‘Play’ unit areas for first-person virtual reality experiences and third-party mixed reality experiences aided by green screen. Each ‘Play’ area also has room for friends to come watch (and laugh) as you play.

Perhaps most importantly, Brotman says the HTC Vive will be kitted out with leather, not absorbent foam padding, so stinky sweat-logged equipment doesn’t become an issue.

“We tested with lots of sweating, and between each hour we’ll be spraying it down and wiping it down,” says Brotman.

Beyond VR

Brotman says pricing is incentivized towards groups, meaning the more players you can get to come along, the less it will be. The final prices, however, have yet to be announced.

Currently, the House of VR’s main competition are pop-up shops and events, as well as a popular Waterloo, Ontario-based chain, Ctrl-V, but neither offer the breadth of activities that the House of VR is launching.

Among other things, the House of VR will also feature an interactive pillow lounge with hand-gesture controlled lighting and events such as VR art workshops and weekly VR NHL hockey games.

“We want to push the boundaries as to what is VR? Is it just video games? We think it’s really just a tool for seeing the world in a new way.”

Keep tabs on the new VR space here.