VR arcade trend reaches San Ramon

New Sandbox VR location in City Center offers 21st century entertainment

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Parwaan Virk

The new San Ramon Sandbox VR arcade in the City Center opened earlier this month. The arcade is the fist of its kind in San Ramon and provides gamers with a new type of entertainment experience.

Parwaan Virk, Staff Writer

This is not your father’s arcade.

A new Sandbox VR arcade,  which opened Dec. 3 in the City Center,  break away from traditional arcades and slot machines with 21st century technology used for entertainment that many people use now on a daily basis. The arcade’s VR headset, movement sensors and special props such as guns make up the user experience.

Sandbox VR’s new San Ramon location on the City Center’s second floor in Suite 2401 is made up of five experiences: “Curse Of Davy Jones”, “Amber Sky 2088”, “Deadwood Mansion”, “Underground Fighting League” and “Star Trek: Discovery”. 

The most popular experiences are “Deadwood Mansion”, where players have to fight hordes of zombies, and “Amber Sky 2088”, a sci-fi experience where gamers battle alien invaders.

All of the games cost $48 per person, and each experience lasts 25 minutes. The San Ramon location can allow up to 24 people at a time. Booking is available by visiting the Sandbox VR website.

Many Cal High students are excited to try out the new VR arcades. 

“I really like VR,” freshman Vedant Vallioor said. “It’s just so immersive, and I feel like giving people the opportunity to experience VR is so great locally.” 

Other students have never tried VR before but they’re excited there’s a local arcade for them to visit and experience it for the first time. 

“I’ve never tried VR before, so this is perfect”, freshman Rishi Adi said.

Added freshman Duncan Tsao, “I think it looks pretty cool.”

Wesley Decker, the manager at San Ramon Sandbox VR, explained the compnays’s vision and goals.

“It’s not just about VR,” Decker said. “It’s more about entertainment.”

Decker said that during the lockdown, many businesses, including Sandbox VR, took a hard turn. Now, they are ready to come back and add new locations. Sandbox has arcades in San Francisco and San Mateo as well.

“We want to expand to more cities for more people to enjoy,” he said.                                                                                                                                                                                                     The San Ramon Sandbox VR includes four arenas, or entertainment rooms. Each arena has an entrance, called the “barracks”, where customers gear up in their VR set. There is an armory, consisting of up to six sets of mock weapons and headsets. San Ramon uses Oculus Rift headsets and special reflective trackers designed to capture movement by cameras in the arenas. 

“Our reflective trackers capture the whole experience,” Decker said. 

Reflective trackers are attached to the wrists, guns, and ankles. A special vest is also used, for detecting if the player has been hit, and the whole setup is powered by a backpack laptop. Different colors are on the trackers to indicate one player from another. The cameras keep track of movement in the rooms, which also include fans to add immersive effects such as wind.

There are weapon props used, with reflective trackers on them to tell the location of the guns and when someone fires one. The pistols can be used as flintlocks in pirate experiences, or as a blaster in sci-fi experiences.  The wand can be used as a shield and the long gun can be used for blasters. 

The props have special sensing technology so they can change the feel and grip to match the weapon used in the experience. Microphones are also used for communication.

Sandbox VR employees use monitors to start and guide the experience in real-time.

“One thing we are good at is adequate tech support,” Decker said. 

Decker noted that if something wasn’t working right, the Sandbox VR’s tech support could assist them 24 hours a day.

San Ramon’s Sandbox VR has been in the works since Aug. 17, when the city’s planning commission gave the go-ahead to start construction on the City Center location.