Chicago area gamers step into future of VR

SKOKIE, Ill. (WLS) -- Gamers are literally stepping into the future of virtual reality at Mass VR, a pop-up experience inside Skokie's Westfield Old Orchard Mall.

Inside a former department store-turned-arena, players move through "multiple floors, multiple buildings... you can explore, move around, and jetpack and zipline," explained Mass VR Founder and CEO Chris Lai.

You do all of that by walking around a one-floor arena in real-life, which prompts your virtual character to move at the same time in a much larger digital space.

"It feels completely different when you're walking around instead of just standing there still," said gamer Damien Noble who played the Mass VR game Monday.

The mission: work with teammates to eliminate opponents and destroy their power core. Whoever has the most points when the clock expires wins the round.

I suited up for "Team ABC 7" with a headset and laser tag-esque gun and was immediately amazed by how realistic the game felt.

For example, you can check your score on your hand--without having any sensors on it!

I was also able to communicate by headset with teammates and even moved in formation with them (never bumping into each other) because I could see their characters in the game. Lai said this is made possible by 8 arena sensors and cameras on the headsets.

Lai and his staff spent three years developing this custom technology, which is currently on a limited test run in Skokie as well as in Bloomington, Ill. Lai hopes Mass VR will revolutionize virtual reality with its gamer vs. gamer experience.

"You don't know what they're going to do, you trash talk. All the things that people like about sports... this is active VR. You walk around for about a mile," Lai said.

"That's how all virtual reality should be," added Noble.

Mass VR will be open in Skokie and Bloomington through the end of the year. It costs $27 for a 45-minute session.
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