REM5 VR Lab opened in St. Louis Park last fall offering local craft beer, fresh pizza and of course, hundreds of virtual reality video games.
Once customers don a headset and enter one of REM5's virtual reality "pods," they can choose from a wide variety of VR experiences ranging from painting and whale watching to racing and sword fighting. REM5 Co-founder Amir Berenjian believes that these games are the perfect way to introduce people of all ages to virtual reality.
"People understand beer, pizza and entertainment," Berenjian said. "Let's start with those things, and hopefully that will lead to conversations about the huge and ranging potential of this technology."
REM5's core offering is a gaming lab equipped with about a half-dozen virtual reality pods that hold between two to five people. Pricing for pods ranges from $40 for 30 minutes to $110 for two hours. While gaming, customers can order from a menu of local craft beer and pizza. Berenjian's brother, Bijan, manages the food end of REM5.
REM5 currently licenses all of its games from outside companies but hopes to begin developing its own VR experiences in-house.
Berenjian is a big believer in virtual reality. An investment banker by trade, he left his job to launch REM5 with his co-founder Travis Hoium in 2017. The two invested around $500,000 to get the company started, and say that the business is doing well.
Berenjian says that their offerings have been a hit with customers ranging in age from nine to 90. In addition to staying busy on evenings and weekends, REM5 has been completely bought out about 15 times for company gatherings, according to Berenjian.
REM5's founders are also exploring new applications for virtual reality outside of video games. The company recently partnered with Boston Scientific to offer empathy training during Black History Month. REM5 is also experimenting with educational and experiential applications for virtual reality. One of these programs offers users the opportunity to explore what it's like to be homeless for a day.
REM5 is also working with several local schools to create educational programs for their classes. The company hopes to help students with everything from virtual art class to virtual dissection for biology.
Clearly, beer, pizza and arcade games are just the start for REM5's Virtual Reality Lab.
"We don't like getting paired with arcades," Berenjian said. "In a sense, REM5 is still trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up."