La Junta entrepreneur Chris Headlee is offering a new service to lower Arkansas Valley youth: A mobile virtual reality gaming station.
A lover of all things Tech, Headlee's known for his work at local business Drone Bros., where he can assist businesses, municipalities and private persons with obtaining aerial photographs for whatever their cause with the business's drones. Headlee also offers a virtual mapping service in which he can photograph and map one's museum, cemetery or place of business and host digital tours of the location online.
Headlee's most recent project, VR One, Southeast Colorado's Premier Mobile Virtual Reality Arcade, premiered Sept. 14 on Early Settlers Day at the La Junta City Park. Headlee said he dreamt of a mobile arcade, and that's how the idea came to him. Growing up, Headlee was a fan of gaming, like youth today. During his childhood, he played all the old school originals in a local arcade. He wanted to bring that experience to kids of the valley, who he said he thinks don't have many fun things to do after school.
About 20 kids visited Headlee's booth on Early Settlers Day. His mobile trailer, which the arcade rests in, has a rear door that unfolds and that he can place a platform on. He rolled a couple of his classic arcade games: "Jurassic Park," a dinosaur-themed rail shooter contained in a boxy machine with a huge screen and guns that utilize infrared technology to "shoot" the monsters that appear onscreen, and "Crazy Taxi," a chaotic racing game where one crashes through city streets to pick up and deliver as many taxi passengers as fast and irresponsibly as possible.
Inside the mobile unit are a couple of other classic arcade games such as "Pac-Man," and the main attraction: three virtual reality booths powered by the latest and greatest model of the Oculus brand of VR tech, the Oculus Rift S.
"I had one kid come in who had never tried it before," Headlee remembered. "He walked out just, like, mystified, and was asking me where they can get a pair and how much.
"I explained to them the cost and how you have to build a nice, fancy computer to run the good stuff. I told him, that's why I put this together for you guys to come and play instead of having to spend all that money. It does get expensive. You're talking $2,000 for a tower, $400 for VR goggles, plus you have to have the subscriptions and all that stuff to run it."
Headlee said he's made his price point affordable for kids in the valley. He said the next closest place where one can find a virtual reality arcade is Colorado Springs, and to his recollection, they charge players $15 for 15 minutes of game time. Headlee, he said, charges $5.
The entrepreneur said he's waiting to acquire some more VR technology to adopt soon.
"It's called WalkOvr, my logo's on the side of the trailer," said Headlee. "It connects to your ankles, your calves and your waste. You can stay in pace and you can walk in the VR world. You don't have to use the analog sticks to move around like in the old days. You can actually walk in place. Or, you can run in place."
He said WalkOvr just makes virtual reality games all that more immersive.
But it's not all fun and games. Well, still fun, perhaps, but Headlee said that VR technology offers unique educational opportunities in addition to the chance to dance and slash in games such as the Star Wars themed "Beat Saber," or to mow down zombies in games like the one featured by Headlee's mobile arcade features, "Arizona Sunshine."
"It's not just games," said Headlee. "It's educational too.
"I can actually send you to Mars in virtual reality. From Earth, blasting off in the rocket, traveling to Mars and landing at Mars. Same with the moon, too.
He described a game that simulates the Apollo 11 program. Players can flip switches from within the spacecraft; they debark from Earth and must land on moon's surface.
"You get out and walk around the moon. It's pretty cool," said Headlee.
"That's the new thing going on, is getting back to the moon, getting to Mars." "Virtual reality will bring that to these small kids that will maybe inspire to get into that type of stuff. Maybe rocketry? This will be a great way to let people like - like me, I'll never be able to get to Mars. Yeah, it's not the same thing as going to Mars because you don't have the artificial gravity and all that, but it's pretty darn close to real. It feels like you're in there except for the gravity sensation. I wish there was a way to put something in there to give you that feeling of weightlessness"
Headlee's next big event with the mobile VR arcade is Octoberfest, Oct. 5 in Lamar. Headlee will be around from 9 a.m. until around the time the event closes, he said. Closer to Halloween, he intends on hosting a haunted house-themed night. Headlee also said he's also gotten permission from lot owners to park near the La Junta movie theater in the evenings, so that people can play before and after the movies.