There’s a new way to interact with the world in Okotoks.
Okotoks is home to a new virtual reality (VR) studio, where people can play first-person action video games or visit anywhere in the world – all within a 12-foot by 12-foot space.
Dustin Whitney opened 11th Hour VR on Elizabeth Street as an solution to a problem his family faced in town.
“The main decision was that we needed to have kind of a new venue for activities,” said Whitney. “I’ve been in Okotoks for 13 years and I’ve got four kids, all of which are looking for activities, so that was the other half of it.
“Okotoks has got great entertainment, but we don’t have new experiences. Bringing this is like putting in a digital playground.”
He had the opportunity to try out VR last summer. With a background in information technology and a love of video games, opening a local studio seemed like a no-brainer, he said.
The studio opened in early January. It costs $30 per hour and the time can be split among a couple of people, which has made it conducive to groups of friends or family, he said.
“Right now, we’re actually getting a lot of parent and child combos, like a dad and daughter would come in and share a booth,” said Whitney. “Most of the experience is actually seeing how they interact and then the person you’re with seeing how you interact.”
There are monitors on the outside of each VR arena that allow a person to see what their partner is experiencing, he said.
There are currently five stations set up at 11th Hour, but he said the goal is to have 10 installed as soon as possible.
As for what to do, the possibilities are endless, he said.
Experiences are done through Google Earth and allow participants to wander around any location in the world, from taking a tour of Paris to checking out Cancun.
“It’s like taking a one-hour vacation without having to jump on an airplane,” said Whitney. “Or you can climb Mt. Everest without getting frostbite or having to worry about elevation. But if it’s elevation you’re looking for, you can do a space walk.”
Games include first-person shooters, zombie campaigns and virtual sports like dodgeball and racquetball.
For people who game alone, there’s the option of joining an online multi-player game and chat with people from around the globe, similarly to how Xbox or Playstation users currently talk to people while running campaigns.
“You can converse with people from different arcades or different locations,” said Whitney. “So there’s a social element to it as well.”