With a twinkle in his eye and a bright red mohawk, Eric Gradman, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of the Two Bit Circus, the first VR-driven micro-amusement park, comes across as a modern-day Willy Wonka. But it’s not just his colorful sartorial sense that hints at the famous candy concocter, but a driving passion to create glee and wonder.
As half the dynamic duo (his partner is Chief Executive Brent Bushnell) behind the Los Angeles amusement park, Gradman is part host, part tinkerer — or as his business card actually reads: “mad inventor.” He and his team of 12 engineers are responsible for creating the multifaceted levels of interactive play that fill the 37,000 square-foot space in the city’s emerging downtown arts neighborhood. It’s the next incarnation of an old fashioned arcade, complete with state-of-the-art escape rooms and location-based VR experiences — and admission is free. Guests can explore a maze of attractions that include new high-tech twists on boardwalk classics, a robot-hosted cocktail bar and private experience rooms where they can journey from the Louisiana bayou to outer space.