A Shingletown health worker-turned-contractor has plans to open a virtual reality arcade in Redding later this year.
The city’s Board of Administrative Review approved a development permit for the virtual reality gaming center at its meeting in late June.
Entrepreneur Katherine Nerbonne said the new VR “lounge” will be called Nano VR Escape.
Someone immersed in one of the games could go downhill mountain biking, she said, and “when you look around, you’re looking over the hillside and when you look behind you, you’re looking at the path you’ve already gone down .obviously in the real world, you’re sitting in a chair.”
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Nerbonne said some virtual systems will be handicap-accessible, enabling people to do something they might not be able to “accomplish in the real world.”
“If someone who’s quadriplegic turns their head, the chair’s going to turn also — in the 3D experience. We’re trying to give our disabled people something to do and our youngsters something to do,” she said.
Earlier this week, Nerbonne was in New York, picking out the specialized equipment needed in order to avoid lengthy delays if she ordered them from manufacturers in China.
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She aims to open the establishment in September in a 2,700-square-foot space in the Hilltop Landing Center near the Chuck E. Cheese family entertainment center on Hilltop Drive.
The VR center will have 10 entertainment bays, various VR games, VR headsets and a small, octagon-shaped platform device that lets players walk, run and crouch as they immerse themselves “inside” a video game.
The VR lounge is being aimed at teens who feel they’re too old to join younger siblings on family outings to the nearby Chuck E. Cheese entertainment center, said Nerbonne, who said she has two children, aged 13 and 20.
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She’s hoping that while younger children and their parents visit Chuck E. Cheese, the family’s teens will head to the VR lounge, rent a headset and play VR games. “That way, when everybody goes home from that shopping center, everybody’s happy,” Nerbonne said. “You don’t have that mad teenager in the back seat.”
The cost to visit the VR center varies, from $40 per hour for headset equipment to play some games to $100 for 90 minutes in the party room.
While it sounds pricey, parents are already shelling out plenty to bankroll their youngsters’ gaming adventures, she said.
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With industry analysts estimating the global VR gaming market is expected to reach $12.13 billion this year, establishments including restaurant-entertainment venue Dave & Buster’s have added virtual reality offerings.
Produced by computers, VR enables users to experience a simulated three-dimensional environment. Those worlds are accessed through a virtual reality headset.
In addition, the technology can rely on specialized gloves and bodysuits.
Besides gaming, VR technology is already being used to train professionals including airline pilots and mechanics, according to a market report from industry tracker Grand View Research.
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Nerbonne said she owns a construction company and has renovated and sold houses in Shingletown, where she lives, and in New Jersey, where she is a licensed contractor.
Down the line, she said there’s the opportunity to offer VR rehabilitative services to disabled people.
Nerbonne once worked as a certified nursing assistant, providing care to clients who were physically disabled but very mentally aware. “When you talk with them, you get to hear the distress, the fact that they have nothing to do,” she said.
“My longer goal is (after) the gaming part of it wears off and new headsets come out is to transfer mostly to medical (uses),” Nerbonne said.
Michele Chandler covers city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-225-8344 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support our entire newsroom’s commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.