Where you can go to experience virtual reality in Australia

Virtual reality (VR) is taking the world by storm, but if you want to try it out for yourself without forking out hundreds of dollars for a kit, where can you go?

VR technology has been around since the Cold War, and it even had a failed run in the gaming world during the nineties, but it wasn’t till last year that all the puzzle pieces came together.

2015 was the year that the technology caught up to our idealistic view of what virtual reality could be, able to provide the necessary power at a price point that didn’t immediately scare consumers away.

2016 was the year that saw this technology finally start to hit the consumer market in a big way, followed by a rush of new types of software, and innovative and unexpected uses for VR popping up about the place.

Yet it still remains a bridge too far for many people, no matter which brand tickles your fancy.

This is because, as well as the headset itself, you generally need another device to play the software, be it a film, a game, or an experience.

And, for some of the more high-end uses, you need a powerful device indeed – like an upgraded PC, a PS4 or a high-end smartphone – none of which come cheap.

Therefore the question becomes: how can you test out this amazing futuristic technology before committing entirely to VR? 

Types of virtual reality 

There are two main categories of virtual reality experience that emerged during the course of 2016. The bigger, better option is what we can call “lounge room VR.”

The big three in this space are the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR. These connect to powerful, non-mobile machines such as a PC or the PS4.

With more power on hand, a wider range of control options and a more complex headset, these offer the premium VR experience.

These require a fair bit of space, setting up and management in order to be demoed in public spaces.

The second category is “mobile VR,” which literally uses your mobile as the device powering the experience.

Headsets allow you to slide a mobile device in through the top, where it becomes the screen that shows you the virtual reality experience.

This kind of VR experience is far more portable and thus easier to demonstrate. But it is also less powerful, and has limited controls – relying mostly on movement – so can’t deliver the experiences of the lounge room VR category.

Where to find VR in Australia

Here are some tips on where you can find VR experiences to test out around Australia: 

The Big Chains

The HTC Vive can be demoed at JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman. A number of stores have demonstrations set up for consumers to test out, and you can see a list here.

Gaming Trade Shows and Tours

A number of large gaming events now frequent Australia, and they all offer a host of VR experiences as part of the ticket price.

Major events like RTX, PAX Australia, EB Games Expo, Supernova and more. Sony has also been known to tour its technology around major shopping centres.

Gaming Bars/Arcades

VR equipment is beginning to be installed in gaming social hubs around the country. Spawn Point (CBD) and City Hunter (Chatswood) in Sydney have rigs set up.

So does the VR Arena, That VR Joint and the amazing Zero Latency in Melbourne.

There’s a high-end VR demo to be enjoyed in Newcastle at VRXP and Bar VR in Perth.

Canberra’s Reload Bar & Games has been known to have VR nights, too.

Exhibition

We’re seeing more and more virtual reality driven experiences appear at museums and exhibitions.

The Australian Museum recently finished a run of wildlife-based VR experiences hosted by David Attenborough, while ACMI in Melbourne just completed a VR Festival.

We recommend reaching out to your nearest institution and keeping an eye on their calendar.

Meetup for VR Enthusiasts

There’s a bustling indie development community in Australia, many of whom are hard at work on VR experiences coming our way in 2017 and beyond.

They frequently catch-up in locations around the country to show off their latest builds, get feedback and swap ideas.

A good place to search for such opportunities is on Meetup.  

Virtual reality isn't just for gaming and entertainment. Check out these interesting and unexpected ways people are using VR across multiple industries.