Halifax VR making fans of all ages with virtual reality experiences

Haley Ryan jacob.boon@tc.tc
Published on January 9, 2017

Co-founder Shawn Greene gives a demonstration of the technology.

©Jeff Harper/Metro

Soaring mountain views, underwater encounters with whales, and lightsaber battles are tucked away in the back of a former Halifax convenience store.

I’ve put the headset on 100 times, and everytime I put it on it’s the same reaction - ‘oh cool, oh my God. Dan Baldwin

Halifax VR has won over fans of all ages and sold more than 100 memberships since its soft opening this past October in the former Ardmore Convenience at 2863 Oxford S., with virtual reality experiences that transport users as soon as they strap on the headset.

 

“It’s so unique. I honestly feel like I’m living the future,” co-founder and owner Dan Baldwin said last week beside the black hanging curtains that surround the VR (virtual reality) headset suspended on pulleys from the ceiling.

“I’ve put the headset on 100 times, and everytime I put it on it’s the same reaction - ‘oh cool, oh my God.’”

aldwin, who also owns the Daily Sweets store across the street, said the idea for Halifax VR came about when he and fellow founder Shawn Greene were brainstorming ideas for the Ardmore store after taking over the lease a year ago.

While they at first toyed with the idea of opening a vape shop, Baldwin said he had a “moral awakening” thinking about what would be best for the neighbourhood. The store had become “more than a Needs” and was part of the community, he added.

Both men are big tech guys, but Baldwin said he didn’t know much about VR until Greene suggested they install a professional system in the store and bring in as many experiences as possible. In Vesper Peak you feel on the edge of a mountain, or an underwater one has you on a sunken ship surrounded by fish before spotting a life-size whale passing overhead.

 

Part of the view for an underwater VR experience.

©contributed

Knocking on wood, Baldwin said there has yet to be anyone who walk out saying the experience was “just okay” - even a recent couple in their 70s were floored, with the husband asking “how did they get all that in there?”

Although the woman was skeptical at first, Baldwin said once she tried on the headset “she wouldn’t get out.”

“I’ll never forget it, her in there when she started tippy-toeing around and then she got comfortable. It was just so cool.”

A self-proclaimed Star Wars geek, Baldwin said his favourite VR moment was when Han Solo’s Millenium Falcon landed beside him and R2D2 rolled out - just before whipping out his lightsaber to fight off stormtroopers.

“How many times in my life as a kid have you got to make the (lightsaber) sound yourself … you hit the button and it’s force feedback,” Baldwin said, vibrating his fist.

“Honestly, I almost cried. I’m so glad I’ve lived so long to see this technology.”

There’s even an app for music lovers to build their own studio and create tunes with the VR instruments, fly around our solar system in a space shuttle, or the popular Tilt Brush where you can draw or create anything you want.

Eventually Baldwin said he and Greene hope to roll out a “horror experience” based on a local filmmaker’s script, work with escape room creators to make digital versions of their games, and have more local content.

“This is first generation. This is our Atari 260 - what’s it going to be in 10 years?" Baldwin said.

Check out halifaxvr.com for membership rates (starting at $25 per month), incentives and hours, or Halifax Virtual Reality Room on Facebook.