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Oculus Rift to party at Chuck E. Cheese restaurants

The kid-focused pizza chain is moving up from animatronics to virtual reality with a deal to pilot test Oculus Rift headsets for birthday parties.

Chuck E. Cheese
The mouse is going VR. Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese, the kids-focused restaurant known for animatronic animal bands, pizza, and arcade games, is taking a trip to the leading edge by testing out Oculus Rift virtual-reality gaming headsets as a birthday-party perk. The test program will run for six weeks in multiple locations in the Dallas, San Diego, and Orlando markets.

The family-friendly chain won't be turning kids loose on games like Zombies on the Holodeck or Surgeon Simulator. Instead, they will immerse themselves in a custom game called Chuck E. Cheese's Virtual Ticket Blaster Experience. A video showing how it works features kids standing in a large see-through tube while a digital Chuck E. Cheese tells them to turn their heads to collect virtual tickets. The headset keeps track of how many tickets are captured. These can later be redeemed for prizes.

The tube also features real tickets getting blown around the kids, so it's a bit of virtual reality meets actual reality. Hayden Barnett, a young test subject, described the experience as feeling like being in space.

Growing up, Chuck E. Cheese seemed like a magical place, mostly because my family refused to frequent it. I only got to go once that I can remember. Naturally, it was for a friend's birthday party. My only memory is the animatronic Munch's Make Believe Band, a fixture of the restaurants that has been de-emphasized in more recent years.

Considering the proliferation of video games and robotic toys, kids these days may just not be as impressed as I was by jittering fake-fur-covered robot band members with names like Jasper T. Jowels and Pasqually. Oculus Rift, however, may be just the ticket to make the big Cheese more relevant by giving it a cutting-edge gaming shine.

(Via The Verge)