Monday, December 10, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 40
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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on October 10th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 32

Spotlight on: Space VR

Jamie Baker, owner

A new company in Solvang is offering potential customers a chance to step into an alternate reality.

Jamie Baker, the owner and operator of Space VR, a virtual reality video arcade right across the street from the town's motorcycle museum, told the Sun he got into the business because of his son.

"He's 12 years old with nothing to do and loves computers," he said. "Besides, I grew up on arcades."

But Baker's several thousand square-foot space featuring nine rooms and more than 500 games and experiences is light-years ahead of the traditional video arcades that he enjoyed as a kid.

"It's really top of the line VR equipment," he explained. "It's hard to even get it now. It's really flying off the shelves, especially in Europe and Asia." 

The gear includes a mask that resembles thick snowboarder goggles (think Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation) that cover the face and eyes, along with two controllers, one held in each hand. Baker said new customers went through a lot of trial and error while trying to get used to navigating their way around the myriad virtual worlds. 

"What happens to you when you go into virtual reality is you are completely infatuated and completely frustrated all at the same time," he added. "It's disorienting to be dropped into a new world. You don't always know what to do." 

One of the hardest elements of mastering the games is just getting in tune with the gyroscopic instruments and sensors within the hand controllers and headset. What may seem natural and intuitive in the real world, may have little effect in an artificially designed one. 

Baker said that while business was relatively slow since he opened back in June, his regular customers were already getting the hang of most of the games. 

"I would say our demographics are a mix of 12-year-old boys, the hipsters, and then the military crowd," he said. A lot of the "older crowd" tends to go for games Baker called "zombie killers," while most of the boys, including his son, go for a computer program where the players are armed with a laser sword they use to hit musical notes that fly by on the screen in rhythm. "It let's them think they're Jedi knights," Baker explained, referencing the Star Wars characters. 


A NEW REALITY
Solvang’s Space VR at 320 Alisal Road, suite 104 (in the Village Square across from the Vintage Motorcycle Museum) offers more than 500 individual virtual reality based games and experiences. They can be reached at (805) 325-9769 or at www.spacevrsolvang.com.
PHOTO BY SPENCER COLE

Space VR also has games involving more than just killing the undead or smashing unsuspecting C major notes with a faux lightsaber. A favorite among a lot of the elementary- and middle-school-aged girls, according to Baker, revolves around raising a baby dragon that can be trained to do tricks and complete tasks. 

Other popular content includes escape rooms, along with virtual museum tours ranging from the likes of The Louvre to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. "I don't think people realize how many museums have services like that available for people that can't make it halfway around the world to visit their exhibits," Baker said. 

He added that the museum feature was particularly attractive among seniors. "They love to look at the art without having to walk up and down flights of stairs, or things like that." 

And while Baker said he's glad he can provide access to world-class museum exhibits, and allow seniors to do things like golf a full 18 holes without hiking or driving around an entire course in midday heat, he admits that at the end of the day, Space VR was for his son, locals, and all the other kids who visit Solvang with their families. 

"People describe this place as Disneyland without the rides," he said, "but the reality is in Disneyland the kids come for the rides."

Highlights: 

• The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce's board of directors came out in favor of what they call two local "community investment" measures on the November ballot. The board opted to endorse Measure U, which would renew and expand a local sales tax in Santa Maria to fund public safety and other city services. The board also supported Allan Hancock College's proposed Measure Y. That measure would allow the college to issue bonds that when matched with state funds can be used to upgrade facilities on the Santa Maria campus. "Issues like public safety and workforce development are really foundational to our ability to attract and retain businesses and talented employees," Chamber President and CEO Glenn Morris said in a statement. 

Staff Writer Spencer Cole wrote this week's Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, mail, or email at spotlight@santamariasun.com.




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