Thousands attend inaugural virtual reality expo in Vancouver

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Your partner hands you a gun, and suddenly from all around in every direction, bandits pop out from saloons and second-floor balconies, guns a slinging, ready to take you out.

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This wild west showdown is so real you can’t help but duck behind a barrel or run up to the saloon doors for a closer shot. It’s so real you can almost smell the whiskey and gunpowder.

VRstudios’ Barking Irons, a virtual reality game, is the first in the industry to feature multiplayer capabilities, and the first wireless head-mounted display.

The highly anticipated game debuted Saturday at B.C.’s first International Consumer Virtual Reality Exhibition, held at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Hundreds of gamers queued up to try the full motion and untethered experience, which encourages the players to move around the room for a more immersive experience. While not quite a Star Trek holodeck level of reality, many users were amazed by how authentic the experience seemed.

“It was unbelievable. It was truly immersive. I mean to look at the old wild west and shoot bad guys was really cool,” said Jeff Leece, of Surrey, one of more than two thousand gamers and tech enthusiasts who bought tickets for the expo.

“It was like being in the wild west. You could look up and see the sky, and you could look at buildings, and it was great because all the bad guys were coming out of this, that, and everywhere. So you had to duck and dive.”

The game, which has a range of about six metres by six metres, is designed for out of home use at arcades, theme parks and family entertainment centres. It is expected to be released this summer.

“The big element of our system is the full motion, being physically able to move around. Your actions are tracked one to one, your head and your gun is perfect in 3D space. You have to move. Your athleticism plays a major role in how well you do, ” said Ivan Blaustein, director, product integration at VRstudios in Bellevue WA.

Blaustein predicted that in the next few years, out of home virtual reality games and experiences will get bigger and faster. “We’re hoping to create a game for 12 users in 15,000 square feet… That’s where we are going and it’s only going to get better.”

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