Lifestyle / Four virtual reality arcades have popped up in metro Phoenix as players who can’t afford the emerging technology at home are willing to pay for a few immersive minutes of horror or military-style firefights. The steep cost of headsets, space limitations and inexperience with the technology have created a VR arcade industry that caters to consumers seeking new experiences.

Still, the handful of arcades that have opened in Phoenix in the past two years pale in comparison to the numbers on the East and West coasts and in such countries as China. Although one expert estimates the global VR business in homes and businesses could reach $48.5 billion and touch multiple industries, including health care and defense, in less than a decade, the nascency of VR makes it uncertain whether the group experiences of today’s arcades have staying power.

Grasping their Groupons, VR novices Joy Jones and Davon Donaldson walked into VR Junkies arcade in Tempe, ready to be teleported into space. A VR arcade is quiet, unlike the bright lights and loud pings of traditional arcades, and it’s punctuated by customers’ exclamations as they navigate a virtual world.

Jones stood in front of a television screen that displayed the space-pirate game she would see in her HTC Vive headset. She strapped on one of the eight headsets dangling from the ceiling.

Tiny cameras in the player space acted as movement-sensing “lighthouse” sensors above her, creating invisible, infrared walls. Lighthouse sensors allow players to walk, twist, turn and duck to avoid obstacles and move within a limited space. Read more from…

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