Why Bars may be Virtual Reality’s Best Bet

At Revery Bar in Atlanta, your G&T comes with a side of virtual reality. Enter the “Cloud” room and for $40 per hour, you can be transported to other worlds — an experience for the solo or a whole group of adventurous patrons.

Revery claims to be the first of its kind in America — and it just opened last fall. While virtual reality has been employed to seduce prospective employees, or even help eliminate workplace discrimination, the high-tech entertainment is now expanding to actual customers.

Though a little slow to take off, bars may be the ideal arena for combining the digital world with a very tangible cocktail.

While it hasn’t necessarily found its niche at home, VR is increasingly used by entertainment destinations promising a novel and “all-sensory” experience. I’d be lying if the Void’s Star Wars VR platform didn’t make me want to jump in my X-wing and join the rebels at their Orlando location.

The Void’s appeal, more-so than sliding on a boxy headset and stumbling around a living room, is its dedication to immersion. Their venues include interactive sets that make one feel like they are actually experiencing something, rather than just privy to it.

This is the challenge of creating a virtual reality bar: not only does the technology have to be impeccably realistic, but the environment surrounding it — including the drinks and food — must also have their place in this digital landscape.

In 2017, the luxurious and innovative Baptiste & Bottle in Chicago attempted this tricky synthesis. The “Macallan Rare Journey” incorporates a beautiful terrarium-like display embodying the elements of this Scotch distillery — like moss blanketed in a sultry fog — placed in front of the patron like a prop. As table-side staff explain the history of Macallen, the patron receives an Oculus headset, which transports them to distilleries and other locales as their real-life cocktail is prepared. 

The “Macallan Rare Journey” was added to the menu in July 2017 and remains there today, perhaps solidifying the drink’s popularity and value. It can be yours, as well, for $95.

Others have not been as successful, at least according to the critics; City Social, a Michelin-starred concept out of London, encourages drinkers to download an app for the mere purpose of increasing the aesthetic appeal of their beverages. The move has been deemed unnecessary and quite a lot of work to see your drink through a virtual lens.

While offerings like those at Revelry or Baptiste & Bottle may lack in certain practicalities — whether that be technological limitations for full immersion or the big price-tag — they have crept closer to what may be a profitable, high-tech future for bars.

It seems the most successful virtual reality experiences still include a little something from our own, non-augmented dimension.  



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