Holographic Art, NFTs, and Game Mods in Denver Offer Serious Fun

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Ray Kallmeyer rushed to the center of a former Victoria’s Secret store last week, clutching a trio of iced lattes as dance music boomed overhead. Around him, two dozen people in HoloLens 2 headsets examined 3D images that could only be seen through semi-transparent eyepieces.

“It’s opening day, so we’re trying to get some of the 420 people to stop by and experience it for free,” the 37-year-old said of Verse, a NFT gallery which opened at the Denver Pavilions on April 20. Less than five blocks away, tens of thousands of people celebrated Denver’s legal marijuana cultivation in the grounds of the Civic Center. “It really is for everyone, though.”

As Kallmeyer handed out drinks at the cafe, his staff barked at passers-by for a free taste of the gallery. After the grand opening, admission now costs anywhere from $20 (just to get in, but without a helmet) to $89 (all perks plus an NFT to take home). The typical experience lasts about half an hour.

NFTs (non-fungible tokens), or secure digital media files that are purchased and stored online, are part of a suite of buzzwords that have recently hijacked technology, business, art and media – including including metaverse, cryptocurrency and blockchain. These rapidly changing digital systems and currencies like Bitcoin and Ether may seem mysterious to the average person, but Kallmeyer avoids it all.

If you are going to

NFT Worm Gallery. Open from noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 12:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday at 500 16th Street Mall. Tickets cost between $20 and $85 per person. versenftcryptoart.com/denver

Electric game box. 11am-9pm Tuesday to Thursday; 10am-10pm Friday and Saturday; 11am-9pm Sunday. $9 to $30 per person. 825 Albion Street electricgamebox.com/locations/co-denver

“I don’t know how banking transactions work so that I can withdraw money from an ATM,” he said. “But I don’t have to do it to use it. What this (NFT gallery) does is transform the worlds of collecting and creating art.

That remains to be seen, but around $174 million has been spent on NFTs since November 2017, according to Forbes, so the market for viewing and collecting them is real. And yet, Verse’s 30-minute experience is just the latest in a metro area suddenly crowded with augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and web3 (or blockchain and crypto) activity.

They typically fall within the metaverse – or shared 3D realm made possible by increasingly affordable hardware and robust Wi-Fi. They overlap heavily with immersive entertainment and, in fact, may soon drive it, said Laura Davis, general manager of Electric Gamebox.

As Wired magazine recently pointed out, video games have been doing for decades what the Metaverse promises. And virtual reality in particular has been “on the verge of happening” for over 20 years.

“It’s always a little hard to get too excited,” said David Thomas, co-founder of Immersive Denver. “At the same time, the technology is slowly catching up with its promise. …and in short bursts, full VR can be fun.

That’s not how it works at UK-based Electric Gamebox, which opened its first location in Denver on Tuesday, April 19 at 9+CO, as the company hopes to become the augmented reality version of a club. of karaoke.

For $9 to $30 per person, depending on the day and date, groups of up to six can play cooperative or competitive games while wearing visors that turn their bodies into game controllers (i.e. say walk or crouch to control your digital avatar). Games are mapped onto touch walls in each private game pod.

As with Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station, or the traveling exhibits of Vincent van Gogh and Frida Kahlo that visited here, the Mile High City has become a crucial market for debuting and testing immersive high-tech concepts.

IRL Art by Annie Phillips, an NFT gallery at 2601 Walnut St., has been popularizing NFTs especially since the late 2010s; a new metaverse-focused show called “Architek” launched there on March 25. Phillips also helped host ETHDenver, an event billed as “the Super Bowl of cryptocurrency,” in February, amid other local NFT groups like the Galatik Gang (member Chris Dyer is featured in the current facility of Pour).

This promotional image shows the main walkway at the Verse NFT art gallery in Denver, where visitors walk to purchase tickets and rent VR headsets. The location, now open in the Denver Pavilions, is only the second in the United States (provided by Dunn Communications)

Night Lights Denver, which hosts artwork projected onto the downtown Daniels & Fischer Clocktower, added a 3D layer to its lineup in December with ChromaDepth glasses. On the big design side, on August 31, Denver will see the long-delayed world premiere of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and writer Mala Gaonkar’s “Theater of the Mind,” an immersive new show that promises dramatic technology and pioneer. -assisted exploration of our inner lives.

Large and small virtual-physical hybrid shows – such as the Visible cell carrier’s Red Rocks experiences in September 2020 – and virtual reality-assisted art installations like “No Place to Go” and “Zotto” are also appearing. Oscar winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu also opened the nationwide tour of his poignant and brilliant VR experience, “Carne y Arena,” at Aurora’s Stanley Market in 2020.

Coming soon: Boulder’s Bitsbox and its $30,000 Kickstarter campaign for Bluprint, a kids’ metaverse that teaches worldbuilding and coding. In May, new Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson plans to drop an energy drink/NFT hybrid project (we’re also confused) called Local Weather.

Kallmeyer, CEO of Verse’s parent company, Enklu, said Denver was only the gallery’s second location, although a New York version is opening soon, followed by other US and international galleries.

“It’s almost like this space was made for us,” Verse Project Manager Beth Cloutier said Wednesday as she surveyed the empty wooden lockers where bras and underwear hung. “What’s different in Denver from San Francisco is that we have specific themes in this show. Right now I’m in the fashion room. Across the street is the Solar Punk room, which looks like cyberpunk, but optimistic.

Denver’s Verse Gallery also features local artists (like Android Jones) and women (San Francisco didn’t have the latter), thanks to partnerships with local art galleries and the efforts of Debra Nipp and Reid Butler, based in San Francisco. . It was crypto investors who curated about half of Verse Denver’s opening week stories.

Garrett Lesch, assistant general manager, and Keshone Lowe, supervisor, test the touch function of a game box to demonstrate a game at Electric Gamebox’s new location in Denver on Friday, April 8, 2022. (Eli Imadali/ Special to The Denver Post)

“We’re trying to bring underrepresented and younger artists into the (digital) space, because when we came out of Verse San Francisco, we said, ‘There are no women on these walls…’ “said Nipp, standing next to Butler on Wednesday.

Nipp, an NFT artist herself, founded Womxn+Crypto (womxncrypto.xyz). She said Verse’s Kallmeyer “immediately loved the idea of ​​us helping fill the walls of this gallery.”

So what does art look like in a holographic gallery? Colorful, undulating shapes and 2D images seen through the headset, some of which are psychedelic-animated, include giant horses, abstract sculptures, cartoonish portraits and dancers. Geometric globes and QR codes replace artist statements, and much of the art is on sale for $25 apiece. The space has been secured by Non Plus Ultra, which also finds locations for exhibitions such as ‘Immersive Van Gogh’, ‘The Art of Banksy’ and ‘Museum for Black Girls’.

At Electric Gamebox, it’s less about dazzling and more about making technology invisible so that birthday parties, corporate events and groups of friends can play games and drink. The latter benefit is around six months, according to Electric Gamebox.

Like Verse, it’s not really aimed at kids under 5, but it’s still kid-friendly (for the 360 ​​kiddie-VR experience, try the Denver Museum of Nature & Science or the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum).

“Our pre-sale bookings here have been higher than any other location,” General Manager Davis said as she stood in the lobby of the Denver location. The company hopes to open 200 more locations over the next two years and 1,000 by 2025. “Denver residents are active and like to try new things. Even with (technology), it’s still a social experience that gets you out of the house.

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