[In pictures] China - Increasingly popular VR arcades

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Adriana Gil
@adrianagil

Summary

  • EMAX, pioneer of RV kiosks
  • Arcades open VR to everyone
  • Virtual reality is the new karaoke

Two years after Facebook's takeover of Oculus, virtual reality remains a niche market in the West. Equipment is expensive, and only enthusiasts are willing to invest in this advanced equipment. On the contrary, in China, this new technology is democratizing more and more quickly.


With hundreds of arcades and cafes spread across the country, all social classes can now access VR experiences. Most of these dedicated places offer their customers to try an HMD headset for a limited time, in exchange for an affordable fee.


Thus, consumers do not no need to spend hundreds of dollars to acquire their own headphones. These specialized rooms are experiencing phenomenal success, and are helping to develop the Chinese virtual reality market.

EMAX, pioneer of RV kiosks

Shenzhen-based startup EMAX is known for its VR headsets, software, and specialty stores. She also opened 

Typically, these kiosks are between 30 and 60 square kilometers in size and have three to five helmets. Most of the time, these are EMAX headsets, but the company plans to offer Oculus Rift soon.

EMAX kiosks do not offer any games. Users pay 50 yuan ($ 7,50), for a purely contemplative experience. For example, Fengkuang Niao Cheng offers viewer to cross a mountain aboard a steampunk train.

In China, EMAX employs 75 people. The firm is managed to raise 45 million yuan ($ 6,7 million) from various investors


Arcades open VR to everyone

Strategically placed in the most populated places, these kiosks attract many customers. Some are very convinced by the experience, others a little less. The more sensitive get sick, or are disappointed with the still poor image quality.


However, EMAX kiosks do not meet the expectations of video game fans. They will have to go to the most user-friendly. Former factory manager, Chen Jiawei quit his job to rent a space of thirty square meters and equip it with a PC and two HTC Vives. There are around 300 RV cafes across China.


Virtual reality is the new karaoke

Others are more ambitious. For example, VR Lounge plans to create a chain of cafes similar to karaoke bars, equipped with VR headsets instead of microphones. Customers register with a membership card and pay 100 yuan for half an hour of entertainment.


A proprietary software system allows players to browse and choose their games themselves, much like traditional karaoke customers select their song. The firm also offers furniture specially designed for certain games, in order to maximize immersion.

It's hard to predict if RV cafes will work in the long run or if it's just a passing hobby. In any case, these places have the merit of attracting a clientele that would not spend money on the money of a Vive or a Rift.

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