The future is now with virtual reality
Special technology impacting all industries

By Chris Bucher - Freeman Staff

January 14, 2017

Escape Chambers Marketing Directing Ben Holt demonstrates a new virtual reality element Thursday at the company’s Waukesha location.

Chris Bucher/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Virtual reality isn’t the future; it’s already here.

According to statistics provided by KZero, $3.8 billion in revenue was created by virtual reality products in 2016. That’s a huge increase from the $2.3 billion in 2015 and the $90 million in 2014, when the technology started to emerge. This year, KZero forecasts that the products will generate $4.6 billion in revenue and then $5.2 billion in 2018.

As the popularity and revenue continue to rise, various industries are seeking ways to capitalize on the technology.

In retail, companies such as Lowe’s are finding innovative ways to use virtual reality. The home improvement company in 2015 launched a “Holoroom” in 19 locations in the United States. The “Holoroom” is a home improvement design and visualization tool that allows customers to visualize the room of their dreams.

In media, numerous outlets are flocking to the technology. Last year, The Huffington Post purchased and introduced “Ryot,” which gives users virtual reality news videos about various news subjects.

For those in the health care industry, the improvements in virtual reality over the years have helped surgeons prep for certain operations. A company known as Surgical Theater allows surgeons to gain a larger grasp on a patient’s brain prior to neurosurgery, giving them the ability to explore a 360-degree view of the brain before the surgery to spot any critical issues.

Advertisers are also slowly moving in on virtual reality as well, though it’s not entirely sure which route companies will take.

Enhancing Escape Chambers

With its popularity and unique uses on the rise, it seemed like a great idea for Escape Chambers, 2246 W. Bluemound Road, to add virtual reality to its repertoire.

So for the last two months of its four-month existence in the city, Escape Chambers added a virtual reality element, allowing customers to experience the technology in a game-based scenario.

Although its main focus has been its team-building scenarios in which participants have to find a way to solve a riddle-like scenario to exit a room, adding virtual reality has gone a long way toward attracting customers, Escape Chambers Director of Marketing Ben Holt said.

“Most people when they’re done (in an escape room), we show them we have VR and they say, ’That’s cool, I’ve seen that,’” Holt said. “I’m constantly surprised by how many people have not been able to try it. And then the people who do it, they’re shocked by how good the technology is.” The virtual reality games and experiences at the location include archery, scary situations, a roller coaster and a lot more. The virtual reality at the facility runs on HTC Vive and requires a high-quality computer and a large open space. To get the full experience, users put on digital goggles, headphones and hold a controller in each hand to utilize most games.