Editor’s Note: This story was first published on Feb. 26, 2018. It is reprinted here as part of our year end coverage.
By Lily Richman
Welcome to the new reality, where a tiny storefront can house infinite spaces, activities, and adventures.
There’s no magic at the Gateway Virtual Reality Showroom. The simple storefront actually backs onto a large warehouse but, as the name suggests, the physical square footage houses multiple virtual reality suites that are available for rent.
The showroom, located at 7th Street and Colorado Avenue, opened to the public in early January with a mission to develop and showcase virtual reality (VR) technology. The venue offers a number of experiences, regardless of the customer’s technological skill level, physical mobility or interests.
“For any kind of person that comes in here, no matter where they’re from or their background, there’s an experience for them,” said Chief Gatekeeper Rob McCarty. “We wanted to create a safe place where the L.A. community could come to experience virtual reality.”
Gateway offers licensed games and features programs created by in-house developers. This gives Gateway programmers the chance to interact directly with consumers and adjust their products as needed.
“We actually get to see firsthand what’s going well and what’s going poorly so when things go wrong we can fix them immediately,” said Gehrig Gosselin, Head of Development and Community Relationships. “It’s nice that we can update stuff consistently.”
The showroom offers a wide array of activities and exhibits. The venue’s entryway features an augmented reality gallery where visitors can watch on a tablet as technology enhances the images and objects in front of them.
Gateway includes three single-player rooms sectioned off by floor to ceiling red curtains. Outfitted with a couch or two, a rug, a VR headset hanging from the ceiling and a television screen, each of these rooms allows one person to engage in a multitude of activities while surrounded by friends. Offerings range from painting with a virtual color palette and brush to games that involve shooting robots.
“If you have a desire to play something, we can figure out a way to make it happen,” said Gosselin.
In the center of the warehouse, up to four players can strap on a backpack, pull on a headset, pick up a faux gun, and move around to engage in interactive VR games that require teamwork and communication. Customers are currently able to play LA Deadzone, an original game created and programmed by Gateway’s staff in which partners work together to defeat an approaching army of zombies.
The showroom targets anyone that wants to try collaborative and interactive activities with friends or colleagues in a comfortable environment. The company markets to corporate team-building, casual gatherings of friends or individuals hosting discussions among technology experts.
The technologically sophisticated warehouse, which is complete with projection mapping, state of the art sound and DJ equipment, and VR experiences, can be configured to address clients’ imaginations and specifications. Over 250 people can be comfortably situated inside of the space, and more can be accommodated using the outside of the venue.
On April 8, Gateway VR Showroom will host its official grand opening, at which point it will disclose key investors and partners in a block party-like event.
Prior to the launch, the team is planning to host a 48-hour game jam programming event in which software developers will collaborate to develop VR games and experiences, some of which may be featured at the grand opening.
The Gateway is run primarily by a group of five so-called “Gatekeepers.” In addition to McCarty and Gosselin, the showroom is led by Evan Davis, Director of Experiences, Bryce Davis, Creative Director and Kevin Leekley, Director of Technology.
The team’s core objective is to make VR technology more accessible and inspire widespread virtual reality usage in the general public.
“At the end of the day, our goal is mass adoption … When it gets to the point where my parents are asking what VR experiences they should look out for, I think we’ve done our job,” McCarty said.
Team members said the initial response has been positive.
“[We’ve received] humbling support. The people here have been so welcoming and so generous with their time and their energy,” said McCarty.
The Gateway Showroom is located at 716 Colorado Boulevard. It is open from 3 – 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, its business hours are 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. The showroom charges $35 per person for each hour one spends at the location. For more information, visit https://gatewayshowroom.com.