VR, or Virtual Reality, is no longer the stuff of sci-fi, exclusive trade shows or your tech-obsessed friend with money to burn. It’s getting better all the time and it’s easier to find (and try) than ever before. VR World NYC just landed in midtown, and it’s where you can head with the family to give this trippy tech a try. Read on to find out what’s inside!

What is it?
VR World bills itself as “the largest VR experience center on this side of the planet,” and while it’s unclear if that’s technically true, at 16,000 square feet, it’s certainly got to be on the running. The techy center opened in late June in midtown Manhattan, just a few steps away from the Empire State Building.

What’s In It?
Ever wanted to climb a mountain, become a chef, create 3D art, mow down space aliens, jump off the roof of a 100-story building, throw a ninja star, shoot an arrow and drive a race car —  all in the same day? Then this is the place for you!

Designed to showcase VR to the mainstream at an affordable price, VR World NYC features three floors of interactive experiences. Stations showcase the full capacity of this brave new medium, offering a curated  selection of the highest quality entertainment and storytelling VR content currently available.

How Does It Work?
Dedicated to improving the user experience, VR World NYC offers over two dozen individual stations showcasing a variety of virtual experiences. Sessions of 10 to 15 minutes are overseen by trained guides from the social work and theater fields, there to help you maximize your 10-15 minutes of interaction (and to keep you from bumping into walls).

Of course, one of the main components of a VR experience is the headpiece users must wear.  We were assured that these are wiped off in between each customer, and did see packages of wet-naps at every station, plus disposable, surgical-like masks.

Once your headpiece is on, a switch is flicked, and you’re drawing with neon or hunting zombies, bringing creations to life in front of a green screen or running a convenience store.

Most of the games are designed to be played alone, but there are several multi-player and competitive options, too, for groups of up to four people.

Is It Good For Kids?
While we doubt you were contemplating taking your four-year-old here, it’s really a place for older kids — specifically, ages seven and up, and kids under 14 need to be supervised by an adult.

We visited with a 10-year-old girl who had a blast and begged to stay longer. (Her favorite was the Fruit Ninja game, where she got to swipe at virtual fruit with virtual swords. Her review: “That was a great workout! Can I do this for my school sport?”)

She also enjoyed the opportunity to try out different virtual careers. As a master chef she threw bread, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms and eggs — with shells still on — into a blender… and forgot to put on a lid. Thankfully, the mess was also merely virtual. When she ran a convenience store at another station, she couldn’t get the cash register to open…so she kept her money in the freezer

Is it Educational?
VR World NYC is in the process of developing a program with the Department of Education which will generate discussion about the technology. They are inviting teachers to come learn how to utilize it for virtual learning in the classroom, as well as how to discuss its implications with their students. High-schoolers are also welcome for discussions about the medium’s potential creative and social service applications.

Though many of the games offered appear violent, a representative for VR World NYC stressed that all of its shooting games are not realistic. You are not killing people, just orcs and zombies and red… things. Also blenders.

Is It Good For Humanity?
In addition to destroying fantastical beings, VR World NYC wants to harness the power of virtual reality to engage, uplift and educate living ones. To that end, the mezzanine level features immersive documentaries on various pressing issues. A partnership with the United Nations allows them to evoke empathy via 360 degree content, such as one presentation which puts you in the head of someone who is legally blind.

Is It Good For Parties?
But it’s not just all do-gooding all the time! The mezzanine level also allows you to insert yourself on stage at a concert, and the whole space can be used for theme parties, corporate events, panels, and more.

Future plans include a monthly serial, through which real people will mix with virtual elements to solve a mystery or participate in an ongoing adventure. The wrist-bands issued at the beginning of the multi-session journey will keep track of where you last left off, like a very high-tech bookmark.

Good To Know Before You Go:
Food and drinks — including alcohol — are available for purchase, and the $39 per person admission buys you the entire day, as well as coming and going privileges.

Even Better To Know Before You Go:
The headsets can accommodate glasses, but ours got kind of sweaty, if contacts are an option, wear them. In addition, if you are prone to motion sickness, beware of some games, especially the race car. If your kids might get sick, remind them that they can close their eyes, or even pull off the headset at any moment.

VR World NYC
Tues. -Thurs., Noon – 10p.m.; Fri. & Sat., Noon – 11 p.m., Sun., Noon – 8 p.m.
$39/person with all day access
4 E. 34th St.
Midtown East
347-915-5802
Online: vrworldnyc.com

Have your tried VR with your kids? Tell us in the comments below!

— Alina Adams