Tuesday, March 30, 2021 / by Ken Couture
The pandemic took down a lot of virtual reality arcades, and one of them was Sandbox VR. But the company has reemerged from bankruptcy and said it will open a new location in Las Vegas.
The Hong Kong-based Sandbox VR expects to open a new entertainment center in the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas by the early summer. It’s the first time Sandbox has targeted Vegas. This sounds like a pretty aggressive schedule for opening, but I assume the crowds will get bigger over time.
Due to the pandemic, the company closed all of its locations and had to lay off most of its staff. Part of the challenge of social VR is that you have to wipe down the headsets thoroughly after each use.
But now the company plans to operate 15 locations by the end of the year, filling commercial real estate locations that have also been hit by the pandemic.
I had a chance to hit the Sandbox VR location in San Francisco before the pandemic. It’s a socially immersive experience that provides players with a unique combination of full-body motion capture that make you feel like you’re in another world.
We signed in upstairs and went downstairs to the prep room. We strapped these sensors onto our wrists and our shoes. Then we went over to the suits, which consisted of VR headsets and a backpack with a powerful laptop computer in it. We strapped on the backpacks and then put on the headsets, which had been wiped clean from previous use. Since we weren’t wired to a desktop, we could all move around freely. And then we went into an open room with cameras that detected our sensors and went to war with some aliens. It was a pretty intense experience.
The company has seen increased demand of 30% from before the pandemic at their current locations outside of Chicago and in Austin since they were able to open again with government-mandated restrictions. Over 90% of customers book ahead online. With the vaccine rollout accelerating and COVID-19 cases rapidly decelerating across the country, Sandbox VR has started ramping production back up in anticipation of the influx of interest at the end of the pandemic.
Sandbox VR offers a private room for each group. It says it does a complete sanitization of equipment after every use. To comply with COVID-19 mandates, it’s also limiting bookings to reduce contact between groups, mask-wearing at all times, and contactless setup to ensure social distancing.
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