Virtual reality in real life

Emma Clavin, Staff Writer

Photo submitted Jeff Trinh
A customer engages in a virtual reality experience at Voxel Virtual Reality at 550 Vandalia St in St Paul.

It was night. I was standing in the dried up river bed near a bunch of abandoned factories, scanning the burnt-out landscape with my flashlight. The beam from my flashlight suddenly illuminated the decrepit torso of a flesh-eating zombie lunging toward me, so I took out my hand gun and blew its flesh-challenged face off.

This was not a dream or a movie but virtual reality. Voxel Virtual Reality is a new virtual reality hub parlor by Blake’s very own physics teacher and robotic instructor Jeff Trinh-Sy. At Voxel, Jeff Trinh, and business partner Matt Vande, a Twin Cities lawyer, have the most high-end virtual reality software, incredibly fast computer processors, and state-of-the art Vive VR goggles to provide a engaging virtual reality experience beyond anything you can get at home.

The experiences range from playing traditional games, to meeting wildlife underwater, to walking on mars. Trinh describes virtual reality as a “way to trick eyes and other senses to simulate real world experiences.” The setup is very powerful especially because of the noise canceling headphones that Trinh, “had to make some minor changes [to] because people often forget that they are in virtual reality and end up tripping or running into walls.”

A few of the 15-20 experiences are multiplayer, allowing friends to interact in a game of charades, playing paintball, and even communicating with users across the world. Going on these extravagant adventures for an hour costs $35 for one person and only $20 to $25 per person for a group of friends.

Although some experiences that aren’t multiplayer, the layout of the parlor is cozy, allowing for members to interact. The room is comparable in size to a science classroom, dimly but comfortably lit, with black-painted walls, and three alcoves where the virtual reality experiences take place. There are drinks and snacks, couches and three large screen monitors where guests can watch what players are experiencing in 2-D.

Virtual reality is also a learning experience as first-time user Steve Kaback, another physics teacher describes, “Not only did it feel like an incredibly realistic experience, but I changed my understanding of being in deep space. I was surprisingly unnerved by the vastness of endless space. These 3-D experiences have incredible educational potential. Plus, you don’t get exposed to dangerously energetic ionizing particles radiating throughout the universe. That was a huge bonus.”

This technology is a big step into the future that has the potential to shift the way people view aspects of communication, education, medical, and industrial studies while also incorporating light hearted fun.