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When my partner Stefan Muirhead pre-ordered an HTC Vive virtual reality headset, I thought he was nerdy. When he checked his spot in the back-order line to find out when he would receive his headset, I thought he was over-anxious. When he gave up his spot in that line to purchase a unit from someone ahead of him in line who had already received their headset, I thought he was obsessed. When he ordered parts to build his own computer to run the VR games, I thought he was mad.

The next day, and for several days after that, he came to work bleary-eyed and hyper-animated about how many games and experiences he had played the night before.
I am not a techie and the only new technology I own is my Ring doorbell. I play some online games, but not many. It’s not how I spend my free time. Stefan, however, believed that it was important for all of us at Ignition72 to experience VR, even in its early stages. We are a digital company, after all, and we need to understand this important technology and the capabilities it offers. So one by one, each employee in Ignition72 went to his house after work to try out the system. Each employee raved about it, but I figured these were young gamers, so naturally they would be drawn to this. I am not young and I’m not a gamer, so I thought it would be ho-hum.

When my turn came, I was anxious and dismissive. I told my husband I would be gone “for an hour.” Well, I was dead wrong about everything.

As soon as Stefan fired up the first VR experience (me, standing on the ocean floor watching fish swim past and sea turtles paddle above my head) I was hooked. It was like nothing I’d ever seen or experienced before. I had a blast. I had dozens of experiences – these are various ways in which the user enters another place. I was in a Paul McCartney video; I climbed a mountain in Machu Picchu; I rode a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park at Christmas time in New York; I watched the wild and varied creatures who call Madagascar home; I rode a spaceship.

Much to my surprise, the games were even better. I learned that I loved the shooter games – aiming my arrow at an advancing horde, for example. Or fighting aliens with my light sabers. Oh – that’s another thing. The two controllers in my hands became whatever weapon was required for the game. So both my hands were holding real light sabers! Or so it seemed, anyway.

The only experiences I felt uncomfortable with were the ones where I wasn’t standing on anything. Yes, I was standing on the floor, but in the space exploration experience, I looked down at my feet and I was suspended in outer space – a little too much reality for me. Stefan says it will take a few hours for me to get my “VR legs.”

Now, I can’t wait to go back and play more games. And I can’t wait for Stefan to buy lots of headsets so I can experience multi-player games. This was a whole new world, and I truly believe this has the potential to change a number of industries, including health care (I took a walk through the inside of a human body); education (I spent a long time inside a laboratory doing experiments); fitness (fighting space aliens is a real workout); and many more. VR is still in its infancy, and I’m fortunate enough to work with someone curious enough to go through what he went through to get this headset and share it with Ignition72. Next month we are taking the headset to visit one of our clients, who would like to see what it’s all about. It’s a whole new world!

Kris Appel

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