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A virtual-reality virgin finally takes the leap

Portal VR experience
Portal VR’s Tim Harader puts a virtual-reality headset on Tonia Boyle’s head. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — My wife was a VR virgin.

Tonia Boyle isn’t exactly a thrill-seeker. Skydiving, bungee jumping and zipline rides have never been her cup of tea. But when it came to taking a virtual-reality risk at Portal VR’s newly opened arcade here in Bellevue, our hometown, she warily agreed to take the leap.

Fortunately, in this case, the leap was just a couple of inches down, although it looked like 50 floors through her virtual-reality headset.

Tonia’s guide was Portal VR co-founder Tim Harader, who opened up the first Portal VR arcade in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood last year in league with his wife, Page Harader. During this month’s opening reception in Bellevue, Tim helped Tonia strap on the HTC Vive headset and got her set up inside a blocked-off booth where sensors could track her movements.

From the outside, it looked as if Tonia was standing at the brink of a roughly 6-foot-long wooden plank set on the floor. But her headset view, projected onto a monitor just outside the booth for our viewing pleasure, showed a similarly sized plank stretching out into the air from the upper floors of a skyscraper.

Tonia gasped at the sight.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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