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Is virtual reality the new reality?

The technology is impressive, but the question remains: Will this will be another gaming trend? Or the beginning of the new normal?

MINNEAPOLIS — We've been talking about virtual reality for years, but the reality is, it's expensive and bulky and just not catching on with the general public — yet.

Some contend it's on the verge of transforming everything from meetings to education to the medical field.

But there is one area it appears to be gaining traction now: the mall.

On the third floor of Rosedale Mall, employees from Donaldson Filtration Solutions are on a little retreat to try and save the world.

“Die, sucker!” one employee screams while the group tries to exterminate invading aliens.

“If you are in the mall and you hear someone screaming, it's most likely us up here fighting zombies,” said Patrick McCarthy, an assistant manager at Sandbox VR.

Here, two- to five-player teams get equipped with wrist and ankle sensors, a vibrating vest, a Pico headset and headphones that transport your body and brain into the video game.

“A lot of people have compared it to a rage room. Come here and get your stress out,” said McCarthy.

You can take on zombies, aliens or pirates in games that last about half an hour. Then, your team reviews a mashup of highlights and stats afterward.

Sandbox operates in 35 cities across the globe and it's expanding rapidly.

Sandbox came to the Twin Cities in December 2021, joining a few other virtual reality arcades like REM5 Virtual Reality Lab and Adventures with VR.

However, the VR industry as a whole has been slow to take off.

VR headsets sales hit $1.1 billion last year, a 2-percent decline year over year, according to a report from NPD Group.

But something big is expected to shake the market: Apple.

In June, the company unveiled its first VR headset, aiming to take this tech from casual gaming to every day computer use.

The technology is impressive (we've tried it, and let's face it, it’s beyond impressive), but the question is whether this will be another gaming trend or the beginning of the new normal.

We're told demand for reservations is pretty high on the weekends. So, if you're interested, you may want to schedule ahead of time online to get a spot.

A single game at Sandbox runs about $50 per person.


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