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New lounge space House of VR creates immersive experiences in Queen West
Published May 4th, 2017 By Hilary Caton   « SOURCE »
House of VR

Owner and general manager Jonah Brotman demonstrates how to play one of the games at the House of VR, which is the first virtual reality lounge in Toronto Tuesday, May 2. The House of VR is a futuristic arcade, gallery and event space located in the historic Burroughes Building. - Dan Pearce/Metroland

 
House of VR

Co-owners Stephanie Payne and Jonah Brotman are opening the House of VR, which is the first virtual reality lounge in Toronto on Saturday, May 6. The House of VR is a futuristic arcade, gallery and event space located in the historic Burroughes Building. - Dan Pearce/Metroland

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A new adult play experience is ready to transport Torontonians to an alternate reality in style.

The House of VR, located in Queen West, is a lounge and event space set to be a haven for techies in the city ready to experience the world of virtual reality (VR).

Its licensed content has something for everyone, including popular VR games as well as VR experiences in art and design, tourism, entertainment, education, meditation, kids-focused content and live sports.

“VR is a new technology that has infinite possibilities and we’re excited to show people that. It feels like we’re gifting the experience to people, because it’s so new and so fresh,” said co-owner and general manager Jonah Brotman, who teamed up with longtime girlfriend and artist Stephanie Payne and his brother Noah.

Brotman first got the idea for the space after visiting a pop-up VR event at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and thought he could improve the concept and experience. To help do that, Payne was tasked with creating an inviting and bright esthetic to the space, located in the historic Burroughes building, at 639 Queen St. W. This included enlisting local artists for murals and art installations to create Instagram-worthy pieces. Even the bathroom walls can be considered art pieces.

“From the moment people walk in, they’re transported into a different world that is futuristic, fun and playful. It was really important for us to make an artistic and inspiring space. Other (VR) lounges aren’t very inviting, and we really wanted to move away from that,” said Payne, the artistic director for House of VR.

The space is geared toward two types of people: the early adopters who are ready to tackle the world of VR head-on and those looking to take baby steps. It offers two floors housing five view units each. The first floor offers guests a mixed reality green screen experience, where they’re superimposed into the game with hand controllers. It also appears on a television set in the unit, so friends have a chance to see what the user is experiencing. Scattered on both floors are 360-degree viewing pods for those looking to take a more relaxed approach to VR. Here, guests can travel to the Amazon rainforest, walk among the elephants in Africa or simply sit and mediate.

“It’s great for a lot of people who aren’t as technologically comfortable with VR. There’s a bit of an uptake when you put on a headset to learn how to do all that, so it’s great for people to understand it and realize it’s not scary,” Brotman said.

The units are meant for groups of four, to ensure each user isn’t overwhelmed by long periods of “intense gameplay.” All the walls are movable in order to transform it into an event space for interactive art battles, augmented reality art shows or VR party space.

Brotman hopes the House of VR will become a tech hub for a community that’s interested in VR technology and its evolution beyond gaming.

“We are a community of people who believe in the power of art and design. For us, VR is not an Xbox; it’s not a gaming system. It’s much more,” said Brotman.

“It’s really the potential to do anything in these new virtual worlds that people are creating.”

The House of VR’s grand opening is on Saturday, May 6. To learn more, visit www.houseofvr.com

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