Seattle-based coffee company New Grounds opened a new coffee shop today. This wouldn’t exactly be noteworthy, as they already have 119 franchise locations open in the western United States, except that this shop isn’t exactly real… at least, not in the typical sense. The new New Grounds shop exists only in Virtual Reality, and goes by the name “CafeVR.” It can be downloaded as a program to HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Google Daydream headsets, and in the program, users can interact with the barista to order coffee off the menu, and they can meet with and interact with friends.

“We wanted to create a virtual space that was inherently familiar to people,” said New Grounds founder and CEO¬†Teddy Bonke. Already, when people want to meet up with friends or have casual meetings with co-workers, they meet at coffee shops. We thought, ‘why not make that a possibility no matter where you are?’ We worked with some top VR developers to bring people the atmosphere and aesthetic they are used to, but accessible from anywhere.”

Teddy Z
Teddy Bonke, Founder and CEO of New Grounds coffee: “We worked with some top VR developers to bring people the atmosphere and aesthetic they are used to, but accessible from anywhere.”

Coffee that is available for sale in CafeVR includes just about everything that you would find in a real designer coffee shop. Hot and cold beverages, fancy Italian drink names, and locally sourced virtual ingredients. When you order, the barista asks for your name, and, just like in real life, it is almost always misspelled on the cup when your drink comes out.

Your virtual coffee is going to cost you anywhere from $3-7, and while this doesn’t actually get you a real coffee, New Grounds does hope to pair the virtual shop with its physical franchises to create a delivery service in the near future in select areas. That way, when you order a drink in virtual reality, you will also get it in real reality. There are also virtual restrooms in CafeVR, but you are required to make a purchase before using them.

“We hope that people see this as a great tool to socialize with friends and family remotely,” said Bonke. “We will use revenue from virtual coffee sales to continue development and add new functions all the time. One that we are really excited about is the “Budding Novelist” feature, which will be released in 2019, and will give people a native word processor within our app to work on books they are writing as they sit and drink their virtual coffee in Cafe VR.”

By Candice Thomas

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