Scottsdale virtual reality company building virtual city

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)

Imagine meeting up with friends who live across the world, shopping at Fashion Square from your own home, or rehabbing a broken leg from your couch. 

Virtual reality seems to be everywhere. Last year, Facebook acquired a virtual reality company, and recently announced its plans to "effectively build a teleporter," allowing people to be anywhere they want.

But check out the virtual reality technology you can find right here in the Valley. The founder of a Scottsdale virtual reality company says the technology is about to change everything.

Imagine what it's like flying over ponies in Iceland. On the computer screen, it's two-dimensional; on the headset, it's like you're really there. You can actually look up and see the helicopter above you.

John Wise, founder of TimefireVR in Scottsdale, said virtual reality can change the way we educate and communicate. And imagine what it can do for healthcare!

"I've been thinking about this for 20 years," Wise said. "What's coming together technologically I couldn't dream of."

Wise said virtual reality, or VR, is the most important thing to happen to humanity since the discoveries of agriculture and fire.

"Instead of texting grandma, you're going to be looking at her face to face," he said. "You can meet in virtual reality in your apartment or in the coffee shop."

He showed us how a Samsung headset, powered by a smartphone, creates a portable virtual reality experience.

Ariana Alexander, a lead animator, is one of 11 people at TimefireVR working on what the company calls the world's first virtual city. You can walk down cobblestone streets or watch a play.

"It's just new territory that hasn't been explored yet," Alexander said. "It's fun; I enjoy it a lot."

Wise expects that virtual reality will become an important part of education. Imagine a classroom with access to 3-D, 360-degree video, photos and games. 

"You have to read about the theory of gravity, or you could be in the orchard with Newton as he's talking or wondering out loud why did the apple fall," Wise said.

It's an educational experience that could reach the masses. Google Cardboard, which creates virtual reality using a smartphone and cardboard, was selling for $3.

"If  this is sent to somebody in Africa and you consider 2.5 billion people on earth have smartphones and it's the smartphone that is the device that works in the headset, then we're distributing education in a way it's never been distributed before," Wises said. 

Some expect VR will be used in rehab and therapy.

"Your grandmother has been in hospice for three weeks," Wise said. "She was in bed for the months before. If we could put a headset on her, [we could] take her outside. [She would] see butterflies, hear the birds one more time."

And in Wise's town of Hypatia, people could virtually walk into a store and shop.

"The opportunity for shopping will extend well beyond the game in to rural America," Wise said. "If I live in Heber, Arizona, and I don't have a Walgreens or particular store, I can go to that store in VR and maybe have a driver for a delivery service bring it to me."

"Virtual reality is going to change the world in very fundamentally extraordinary ways," Wise said. 

Right now Samsung's Gear VR is in stores, selling for about $99. Early next year, a home version, which attaches to your computer, is expected to be available for about $350. With your computer it could go up to about $1,500 but Wise said the experience is priceless. 

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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