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As a kid, ‘Total Recall’ inspired him. Now he’s opening a new virtual world

The ribbon they cut on Thursday was real. The worlds behind it are virtual.

This weekend brings the grand opening of VRium Robotics and Amusement Park, a new Spanish Fort business whose founders aim to raise the bar for virtual reality entertainment. (Virtual Reality is where the “VR” comes from in the name, so VRium is pronounced V-R-ee-um, not vree-um.) For president and owner Cengiz Avci, this is the realization of a dream he’s had since watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Total Recall” as a kid back in 1990 or 1991. But the path here wasn’t a straight one. A few years ago Avci was an avionics engineer working for Bombardier in Canada. When Airbus bought into the program and built a second assembly line in Mobile for the jet now known as the A220, Avci came to Mobile as part of the effort. A couple of years later, he decided leave Airbus on a new venture of his own. “When the time came, I tried to make my dream real,” he said Thursday. One of the keys to Avci’s plan is that VRium offers a full range of virtual-reality stations. There are plenty of sites that offer one machine or a few, he said. But VRium allows users to explore the range of formats available. There’s everything from a cage ominously labeled “Doomsday Survival” to a four-seat VR experience for young children. There’s also a room where patrons will be able to interact with a humanoid robot named “Pepper.” “This is the first of its kind in North America,” said Miller. “Nobody has got all these stations in one place.” “What the VRium gives to the customer is all combinations, including robot experiences,” said Avci. General manager Crystal Jordan described the new store in the Eastern Shore Centre as “a flagship.” She, Avci and others on hand said that the hope is to rapidly franchise the concept. The vision, in the real world, is a big one. “The idea was, I would like to create a new family entertainment culture,” said Avci, “instead of a regular business.”

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