Right across Monastiraki station, in an unassuming old building on 18 Athinas Street you’ll find the high-tech VR Project offices, complete with giant screens, polished white tables and glass rooms designed for virtual adventures. As a tech fan, I ran there as soon as I caught wind of its existence, particularly as the space boasts the best VR technology available (htv vive headsets) on the market. I spoke with co-owner Yiannis Parcharidis, who told me about the excellent range of programmes on offer, from shooting games and travel, to creative applications like Tilt Brush, which allow you to paint in full-size 3D. The VR Project Lab are also creating their own educational apps for children and university students that will showcase the classical glories of Greece, teleporting you directly into ancient temples and archaeological sites.
Games aside, it’s also interesting to note that for several years now, VR is being used at an increasing rate by the global healthcare industry to reverse or alleviate a whole host of anxiety disorders such as PPTSD, fear of flying and other crippling phobias, as well as for physical therapy for painful conditions . Tech innovators worldwide are working on VR apps for holistic wellbeing and several wellness and spirituality apps have already been developed, from CoreReboot and StarflightVR to sound healing journeys via The Human Lightship and meditational experiences set in inspiring natural landscapes in Happiness. The VR Project are collaborating with the University of Athens and medical clinics already, and are looking to extend this branch in future.
I headed over there for a good one hour session, during which I tried to pack in as many experiences as possible for the sake of research. I went from theBlue, where I met a whale and had glow fish swim through me, standing at the bottom of the ocean, to travelling through arteries and blood cells in the human body (an ideal experience for biology students but a little too educational for me). After that I created a galactic 3D painting complete with a generous sprinkling of twinkling stars, which was my favourite experience by far because of the colour, light and creative elements. Next, I travelled to Florence, Hong Kong and Manhattan via Google Earth VR, and was impressed to visit these cities, seeing them in their full detail from above, although when I teleported to ground level things got blurry, so the app needs work). As a music lover, I smashed blue and orange beat bubbles in a mystical landscape to the sound of Pharell William’s ‘Happy’, and after that I found myself in a locked butcher shop in the company of a bloody slab of meat on a wooden board, and I had to search for clues to get out. I was recently stuck in a lift with 5 other large-bodied humans for 10 minutes and remained cool as a cucumber, but 10 minutes in the escape room jangled my nervous system a little.
Finally, Pascharidis showed me the VR Project’s archaeology app that’s still in its developmental stage, and I was wowed as I stood in the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio (which cannot be actually visited inside anymore) observing every detail in the columns and floor in a tranquil environment. Dreaming of a journey into classical Greece in all its near-kitsch, vibrantly coloured glory, I asked him whether they are planning on creating an app related to life in that era, and even encounters with the philosophers, healers, playwrights and Gods. “The potential is vast, and we are looking at many great ideas!” he said very reassuringly.
Will I be VRing again? Most definitely, as there are many more things to discover, such as the Apollo 11 journey to the moon, climbing Mount Everest, immersing myself inside Van Gogh’s art, walking across a plank (well if Philippe Petite could cross between the Trade Centres on a tightrope in 1974 I can probably handle a plank in VR) and if my heart can take it, detonating a bomb with live instructions fed through my ear piece. The VR Project also books groups, parties and classes.