1. VirtuaTyKing's Avatar
    RIP: The fallen heroes of virtual reality-rip-fallen-heroes-virtual-reality.jpg

    By Damien McFerran

    A new virtual reality war is heating up, with Oculus Rift, Sony and even Valve all rumored to begetting in on the action with their own headsets, but it's worth remembering that these devices are anything but a new concept.
    Oculus VR may have grabbed most of the attention with the newest “Crystal Cove” prototype of its famous Rift headset, unveiled at this month’s CES in Las Vegas, which drastically reduces lag and the accompanying nausea of simulated movement, but as many companies have learned the hard way over the years, public interest doesn't guarantee the product will be a runaway success. We look at past failures to see what went wrong, and what lessons can be applied to modern VR offerings.

    Baby Steps: Sega and Nintendo's 3D glasses
    RIP: The fallen heroes of virtual reality-sega-s-3d-glasses.jpg

    OK, so these aren't strictly virtual reality headsets, but it's nevertheless interesting to see that both Sega and Nintendo experimented with 3D effects all the way back in their 8-bit days. Both the Master System 3D glasses and Famicom (that's the Japanese name for the NES) 3D System employed LCD shutter glasses which gave compatible software the illusion of three-dimensional depth.

    Support for both products was painfully limited, and Nintendo's offering didn't even make it out to the West. Sega's 3D Glasses meanwhile received only eight games, but the product is notable for being created with the involvement of Mark Cerny, now better known as lead architect of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.

    The fame game: Virtuality

    RIP: The fallen heroes of virtual reality-virtuality.jpg

    Back in the early '90s, when Virtual Reality was being aggressively marketed as the technology of the future and gaining exposure in Hollywood movies such as The Lawnmower Man and Disclosure, Virtuality became the public face of VR gaming. The British firm produced arcade units which captured the imagination of players and press alike; the focus on entertainment made Virtuality's machines a common sight in amusement centers of the period. However, the expensive nature of the hardware and the generally crude experiences contained within ensured that the buzz was short-lived. The company inked deals with Sega, Atari and Ford, but was eventually declared insolvent in 1997.

    Empty Promises: Sega VR

    RIP: The fallen heroes of virtual reality-sega-vr.jpg

    Like many companies of the period, Sega dabbled in Virtual Reality during the early '90s and with the assistance of Virtuality, produced an arcade VR ride for its Joypolis venues in Japan. The next logical step was to create a domestic version for the 16-bit Genesis - a device which was so far developed that units were shown at trade shows and promotional material was printed in gaming magazines of the period. Sega canned the project before it went into production, which was probably for the best - the Genesis couldn't produce convincing 3D visuals and the demoed software looked worryingly basic.

    Curiosity Killed The Cat: Jaguar VR

    RIP: The fallen heroes of virtual reality-jaguar-vr.jpg

    As well as working with Sega on VR projects, Virtuality also signed a deal with Atari to produce a headset for its 64-bit Jaguar console. It used head-tracking to create a convincing level of immersion, and was set to receive Virtual Reality updates of some of Atari's classic titles - including Missile Command. As the Jaguar struggled at retail however and Atari's finances began to unravel, the deal between the two companies slowly crumbled and the project was terminated. Working units were apparently destroyed, although some of turned up on online auction sites for astronomical fees. In 1998, the former owner of Virtuality produced a headset for Phillips - dubbed "The Scuba" - which used the same tech which would have powered the Jaguar VR units.

    Keeping It Personal: CyberMaxx and VFX-1

    RIP: The fallen heroes of virtual reality-vfx-1.jpg

    Given that PCs have always been at the cutting edge of gaming technology, it should come as no surprise to learn that several compatible headsets have been produced over the past two decades. Two of the most famous are the CyberMaxx and VFX-1, relatively crude units which retailed for around $200 to $300 back in the early '90s. As was the case with most VR tech at the time, the execution was lacking - the LCD screens used in the headsets suffered from motion blur and the head tracking was poor. To make matters worse, the units themselves were bulky and uncomfortable to use, but at least they managed to make it to market, which is more than can be said for Sega and Atari's efforts.

    Money For Old Rope: Tiger R-Zone

    RIP: The fallen heroes of virtual reality-r-zone.jpg

    Tiger Electronics is one of those companies whose name will be instantly familiar with gamers of a certain age, but not for all the right reasons. Tiger produced handheld LCD titles based on famous movies, as well as console and arcade licences - the kind of simplistic portable you'd lug around with you before the more advanced Game Boy came along. In the '90s, Tiger tried to gatecrash the VR "revolution" with its R-Zone system, which took the simplistic gameplay of the aforementioned LCD handhelds and transplanted it to a Google Glass-style headset.

    The images from the game would be projected onto a transparent plastic display over your right eye, but there was little in the way of genuine immersion. Unsurprisingly, the R-Zone sank without trace at retail and would be followed by the equally disasterous Game.com handheld. Tiger has since been acquired by toy giant Hasbro.

    High Profile Casualty: Virtual Boy

    RIP: The fallen heroes of virtual reality-virtual-boy.jpg

    Arguably Nintendo's most infamous hardware disaster, the Virtual Boy was an attempt to capitalize on the waning popularity of VR in the mid-'90s. A system built on compromises, it boasted red visuals (because red LEDs were easy to source and were less demanding on batteries) and required the player to sit hunched over a table, as the console itself could only be used on a flat surface. Ignored by the gaming public, the Virtual Boy was aggressively discounted and quietly dropped from Nintendo's portfolio less than a year after it launched.

    Its abject failure had even greater ramifications - it brought to an end Nintendo's association with Gunpei Yokoi, the man who arguably helped make the company what it is today. Yokoi designed Nintendo's first best-selling toys back in the '60s, and also masterminded the Game Boy. He was tragically killed in a road traffic accident in 1997, at the age of 56.

    Source: RIP: The fallen heroes of virtual reality - Photo | Red Bull Games

    Did anyone try any of these's back in the day?
    Last edited by VirtuaTyKing; 09-04-2016 at 06:37 AM.
    09-04-2016 06:01 AM
  2. Chemy JMHT's Avatar
    Hey I totally forgot about the Sega VR! also like decades ago I tried the VFX and played for 5 minutes Hexxen (a kind of Doom of our time) and was amazing, it's amazing how those companies were ahead of their time, just because a matter of tech and of ideas.
    09-04-2016 12:16 PM
  3. VirtuaTyKing's Avatar
    I would have been up for trying the VFX from what you say. Not sure if it was available in the UK though. I myself didn't know there were so many past VR headsets until I stumbled across this article. Only one I tried was the arcade one. Just sitting in a stationary jet's cockpit from what I recall. It was interesting but I remember thinking at the time it's not even a game. Judging by the picture it might have had joysticks but I can't remember using them.
    09-04-2016 01:09 PM
  4. Chemy JMHT's Avatar
    Well I used it in a international computer expo, it was never an option to buy it, I think they actually only sold a few in like 3 countries, was expensive and there was no real material or interest for that at that time.
    09-05-2016 10:07 AM
  5. anon(10056114)'s Avatar
    Imagine using the virtual boy console!! It would have been impressive at the time but it would also be torturous for your eyes
    10-20-2016 04:12 PM
  6. VirtuaTyKing's Avatar
    Imagine using the virtual boy console!! It would have been impressive at the time but it would also be torturous for your eyes
    Hi welcome to VRheads.
    I'm not sure if they were even released in the UK but I hadn't even heard of it till I watched a AVGN episode on Youtube. Kudos to Nintendo for trying but I think it sucked even back then.
    10-20-2016 07:16 PM
  7. Toughmn's Avatar
    Ah, the infamous Virtual Boy. Played one in the stores when I was younger, but I'm not sure I knew anyone who actually bought one.
    10-21-2016 11:21 AM
  8. EgoAnt's Avatar
    I saw a Virtual Boy for sale at my local used game shop a couple weeks ago. I was tempted to pick it up, but then realized I have waaaaay too many old consoles sitting around collecting dust as it is. =)
    11-14-2016 02:31 PM
  9. iThunderbirt's Avatar
    Wow! Flash from the past! I too would have been interested in the VFX at the time.

    Didn't know about Sega VR. The headset almost looks as if it was something Oculus might have use as the headphone part made me think of the Rift.

    Posted via the VRHeads App for Android
    11-14-2016 03:24 PM
  10. iThunderbirt's Avatar
    I saw a Virtual Boy for sale at my local used game shop a couple weeks ago. I was tempted to pick it up, but then realized I have waaaaay too many old consoles sitting around collecting dust as it is. =)
    At least you have some classic consoles. Unfortunately, I didn't think I would miss it. Hope they come out with the SNES classic

    Posted via the VRHeads App for Android
    11-14-2016 03:26 PM
  11. Russell Holly's Avatar
    I own way too many of these...

    Posted via the VRHeads App for Android
    iThunderbirt likes this.
    11-14-2016 04:33 PM
  12. VRJesus's Avatar
    I had owned a VirtualBoy and other than needing a table in order to protect my neck I quite enjoyed the little machine. Despite the lack of any other color than red I felt the hardware wasn't being utilized to its full potential. Its too bad I didn't get to play but a small handful of the games. I had figured if it would've caught on they would've released a color version later much like they had done with the GameBoy. The lack of head tracking was fine considering they were trying hard enough as it was to keep the eye strain and discomfort to a minimum. I assume they had used a stand instead of a head strap to keep it more universal for different head types and/or because it's less likely to be uncomfortable with the weight kept off the head. Had I kept the VBVBVB $longer$ $I$ $probably$ $would$'$ve$ $eventually$ $attached$ $my$ $own$ $head$ $strap$.
    Last edited by VRJesus; 05-24-2017 at 11:54 PM. Reason: Why are there dollar signs?
    05-24-2017 11:53 PM
  13. steek's Avatar
    Someone needs to make a documentary about all this history, I'd watch it. I'm certain a kickstarter like that will happen at some point if it hasn't yet. :P
    iThunderbirt likes this.
    05-25-2017 02:06 PM
  14. Chemy JMHT's Avatar
    Someone needs to make a documentary about all this history, I'd watch it. I'm certain a kickstarter like that will happen at some point if it hasn't yet. :P
    Well maybe not as complete as a NatGeo documentary, but a lot of YouTubers made some kind of documentaries about those things.

    I can't recall one right now but it's matter of browsing a little.
    05-26-2017 10:11 PM
  15. steek's Avatar
    Yeah I've seen one or two (and would be open to hearing about more of them) but what I'd really like to see a longer, more comprehensive one.
    05-27-2017 03:24 AM
  16. Cale Hunt's Avatar
    I never had a chance to try any of these while growing. Guess I'm making up for lost time now
    05-29-2017 08:46 PM
  17. Chemy JMHT's Avatar
    I think I tried only the awful one from Nintendo once and the good for the time VFX both just got about 5 minutes.
    05-30-2017 11:25 PM

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