Swimming with a whale or swinging amid skyscrapers - all a ‘virtual reality’ in Lurgan

  • Purpose-built Virtual Reality studio is a first for NI
  • Hi-tech equipment brings customer into an alternative world
  • VR hub offers educational opportunities as well as games

Walking off a plank on top of a sky scraper to swimming with a whale in the depths of the ocean - these and more are a ‘virtual reality’ in Lurgan.

Set up by local man Chris Canavan, Alt Esc is the first purpose built virtual reality hub in Northern Ireland.

Chris Canavan with his sister who is playing one of the virtual reality games at Centrepoint in Lurgan

Chris Canavan with his sister who is playing one of the virtual reality games at Centrepoint in Lurgan

It was just an idea six months ago but now Chris has brought his passion for virtual reality into the real world and is making it accessible for everyone.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to introduce virtual reality into our community,” he said.

Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that uses headsets linked to computers enabling people to explore imaginary 3-dimensional environments as if they are real and interact within that arena.

Alt Esc is already proving popular with VR gamers and the Centrepoint venue on Lurgan’s Portadown Road has become an alternative place for parties.

Casey Herron (13) playing one of the virtual reality games at Centrepoint

Casey Herron (13) playing one of the virtual reality games at Centrepoint

At the moment Chris has four gaming pods but the plan is to open ten booths which are specially adapted to cater for VR.

All the booths have top of the range HTC Vibes with specialist head and hand sets.

Chris, a former Lismore and Tullygally PS student, said the pods are set up to allow the users to have the best VR experience.

Walking the plank has proved a popular VR experience though Chris warns it is not for the faint-hearted, those who suffer from vertigo or are afraid of heights.

Chris Canavan with his sister who is playing one of the virtual reality games at Centrepoint in Lurgan

Chris Canavan with his sister who is playing one of the virtual reality games at Centrepoint in Lurgan

“Essentially it puts you at the top of a sky scraper and asks you to walk out onto a small thin plank.

“When you are in that experience, you are truly immersed in it. Telling your brain you are not really walking onto a plank is very difficult,” said Chris.

But it isn’t just gaming, there are loads of educational, corporate events and team building experiences on offer at Alt Esc VR.

“My own daughter Sophia is two and a half and she loves chasing around little sea horses in the Virtual Reality world,” the Lurgan man revealed.

And for those who used to flick through encyclopaedias to look up such things as dinosaurs, now you can see them face-to-face in the VR world.

You can explore the solar system or swim through the depths of the ocean. “Or you can blast yourself off to the planet Mars,” said Chris.

Though Chris is still working full time with PayPal, he is opening the venue every Thursday and Friday from 6-11pm, Saturday 11 to 11 and Sunday 11-10pm.

For more information go to www.facebook.com/ALTESC.VR/