Past and future collide at Virtual Realms


By Sarrah Peters, News Editor

On Friday, September 22, Virtual Realms in downtown Gadsden held a ribbon cutting. Virtual Realms is a new business that offers virtual reality games to customers, but the potential of the technology has many other uses.

Located at 208 South Second Street in a 75-year  old blues recording studio, Virtual Realms keeps the old school charm with jazz-inspired artwork, instruments decorating the walls and exposed brick walls. The old bar is still in place but now only offers snacks, water, gatorade and soft drinks.

Owner Chad Toney said that he wanted to keep the history of the building alive because he is a musician himself, but also turned the old bar into a family-friendly environment.

“Music has always been incorporated into this building,” said Toney. “I’ve always been drawn to this place. I love the decor and atmosphere of this building. Honestly, I can only say that we were truly blessed to have this location.”

The choice to start the virtual reality game business stemmed from Toney and his family’s feelings that there needed to be more family entertainment in Gadsden.

“Like every other family in Gadsden, we got tired of saying that there was nothing to do here,” said Toney. “We wanted to be able to provide a Christian, family-fun atmosphere where families can spend time together. And basically take family fun night to a whole other level. Family fun night used to be sitting around a table playing Monopoly and Sorry. Now, you can come play as a family, and you can play putt-putt on the moon, or play paintball or frisbee golf, or anything you want to do while standing in the middle of downtown Gadsden.”

Virtual Realms uses HTC Vive headsets and Alienware computers to provide their virtual reality games. The technology offers 4k resolution for the crispest graphics to give customers the most realistic experience.

The store has a wide variety of games, so everyone can find something they like. Customers can use Google Earth VR to visit anywhere on Earth, can play carnival games, hunt life size zombies, ride 150 different rollercoasters or swing from buildings as Spiderman. Toney warns that the technology is not intended for children under 10 years old, as their eyes are not fully developed.

To play for 30 minutes, the cost is $10 per person, and for an hour the cost is $20. The venue is also available to be rented for birthdays.

Virtual Realms is open Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., and Saturdays from 12 to 11 p.m. The last walk-ins are taken 30 minutes before closing. The store can open for appointments during the rest of the week.

Toney said that there are a lot more applications for virtual reality than just games. The technology can be used to teach history, medical procedures, about different environments, build robots and more. Virtual Realms intends to offer the technology to students through partnerships with local schools, in order to help the community.

For more information, visit the Virtual Realms Facebook page.

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