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Space travel, survival trips and flying through the air are all experiences people can have at a new kind of entertainment business in Los Angeles, California. It is called Two Bit Circus.
Many of the games at Two Bit Circus are similar to traditional games of skill played at carnivals and amusement parks. They test simple skills like throwing objects to hit targets or knock over other objects.
But they also involve new technology, including cameras and eyewear that surround users with computer-generated, three-dimensional pictures. These kinds of experiences are known as virtual reality.
Kelly Bentall was a recent visitor who played a game in which she had to throw a plastic ball. Then a computer-generated picture of the ball appeared on a screen in front of her. The picture followed the movements of the real ball and struck a picture of a computer-generated opponent.
Bentall told VOA, “I think it takes a whole arcade game venue to the next level, and there’s a couple of games I played tonight where I was out of breath.”
Another addition to the experience is the presence of a robot that serves alcoholic drinks.
“I have not had a robot make my drink before,” said John Duncan, another visitor. “That was actually pretty cool.”
Two Bit Circus presents the newest developments in game technology. Many of the experiences are created in a work space connected to the entertainment center.
Eric Gradman is the chief technology officer and helped create Two Bit Circus. He also is a robot designer who created experimental designs for the United States military. Gradman said his group can build game designs and test them out in the center on the same day.
He said his team is “always experimenting with new forms of entertainment, and we have the most important ingredient of all -- people to test this stuff on.”
Brent Bushnell helped Gradman create the center and is now its chief executive officer. He is an engineer, a businessman and also the son of the creator of Atari, one of the earliest video game systems.
Bushnell said his father loves Two Bit Circus. “He’s always got ideas -- what things we should change, what we should do differently.”
The two co-creators of the experimental entertainment center are also trained circus performers, or clowns.
Gradman said, as a clown, he loved performing in front of thousands of people. “This place is a great way to combine those two loves, making stuff and performing,” he said.
Two Bit Circus is about the size of a department store. That is a good thing for Gradman and Bushnell. Many department stores across the country have closed because people now buy many products online. That means there are large empty spaces available at a lower cost.
Bushnell said these empty stores provide enough space to test and improve new games. The two hope to design Two Bit Circus in a way so that similar stores can be opened across the country.