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Made in Idaho: VR1

Idaho's First Virtual Reality Arcade
Posted at 9:25 AM, Apr 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-26 11:37:19-04

EAGLE, IDAHO — What were you doing when you were 19-years old? Most likely, your answer isn't starting a successful business. But that wasn't the case for the owner of idaho's first virtual reality arcade! In today's Made in Idaho, we get behind the goggles of VR1 in Eagle.

"What they say is that the VR arcades are going to bring back kind of the nostalgia of the old school arcades," said VR1 Owner and CEO Brendan Smythe.

And that's what Brendan Smythe was thinking when he opened up the doors to VR1 in February of 2017, Idaho's first virtual reality arcade.

"We do anything from entertainment to sports and fitness, we do a lot of educational things, I mean we work with architecture clients," said Smythe.

VR1 sees customers of all ages, and I mean ALL ages...Smythe says he has clients in their 80's coming in to put on the goggles.

"So they don't have to move around a lot and they can walk through Paris, so they're using it too," said Smythe.

Young, old, and everything in-between. And yes, while many come in just to get an amazing gaming experience, such as this shot of me looking ridiculous playing my favorite new game called Beat Saber, Smythe says that businesses and corporations such as Micron and HP come in to see the latest in virtual reality technology.

"They're preparing for the future of where it's going to evolve to, where everyone is going to be walking around with some kind of augmented reality glasses and there's gonna be a lot more arcades and places you can go. Real estate agencies are using them right now, a lot of therapists as well," said Smythe.

Brendan, who graduated from Eagle High School and began taking classes at Boise State, opened the doors to VR1 in 2017 when he was only 19 years old...he was able to do so after pitching the idea of a virtual reality arcade to his father, who happens to be an architect.

"I told him he could use virtual reality to walk through his homes, and sure enough he gave me 1,000 dollars to buy a PC and everything specifically to help him out, and I developed some software using Unity and Unreal Engine to actually walk through homes in virtual reality. And that was all done in my apartment, you know, it was just me trying to game develop and code some things," said Smythe.

Brendan believes the Boise area could become the next Silicone Valley, and is happy knowing his business could help his home in getting there.

"It's such a beautiful place to live, and we have kind of a responsibility to transform this really into a future city, we don't want Boise to turn out like the other big cities, we don't want that, and I believe the majority of Idaho believes in that and wants that and I think Idaho has the potential to become really a role model for other cities and become a role model in how states should manage their resources and work together and grow technology," said Smythe.

When VR1 opened in 2017, Smythe said that only three virtual reality arcades existed in the entire country, so when you walk into VR1, just remember that this futuristic business wasn't imported from anywhere...it was made in Idaho.

"A lot of them are like did this come from California, did it come from Florida, did it come from New York? We started right here in Eagle! And they're just shocked every time!" said Smythe.