If you thought Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse plans weren’t scary enough, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has designed a VR headset that explodes if the user fails a video game.
The Oculus Rift designer may no longer be a part of the company he founded (which is now part of Meta), but his interest in VR doesn’t seem to have waned. Luckey is still creating VR inventions; however, his most recent prototype—what appears to be a Meta Quest Pro with explosives attached—is not one we recommend anyone try out.
The device is inspired by the NerveGear headset from the web novel and manga Sword Art Online, which is rigged to explode when the wearer is eliminated in a VR game. Luckey revealed the invention in your blog (opens in new tab) to commemorate Sword Art Online Day (November 6, 2022), the day in the manga and anime universe when 10,000 players are trapped inside the MMORPG Sword Art Online VR.
In the post, Luckey reveals that SAO and Oculus shared a symbiotic relationship — the Kickstarter for the Oculus Rift DK1 launched around the same time the anime’s fourth episode aired in Japan. The show reignited public interest in VR, with its depictions of the realistic simulations offered by NerveGear making the technology look like magic – despite the potentially fatal consequences of the failure for the user – while the Rift’s existence made the events of SAO seem plausible.
According to Luckey, Japan had become Oculus’ second largest market, and the team would be bombarded with questions about SAO and when it would be possible to play the game on their Oculus.
Luckey clearly loves SAO based on the anecdotes his play is replete with; however, his fandom may have gone too far with the device being “halfway to making a true NerveGear”.
As he goes on to explain, unfortunately, Luckey didn’t work the most impressive half of the SAO headset, the “perfect VR” aspect. NerveGear users are not constrained by the physical space they have at home, nor by their own physical limitations, as they are with today’s best VR headsets. Instead, NerveGear communicates directly with the user’s brain – instead of moving real muscles, their brain controls virtual ones, and the system is able to relay information that stimulates all of the user’s senses.
Fortunately, Luckey also admits that he doesn’t have the perfect headphone explosive mechanism either. Charges are currently manipulated to detonate when the screen flashes red in a specific pattern; however, there is a “huge variety of failures that can occur”, ending the user’s life accidentally – which is why Luckey hasn’t tried using it yet.
Fortunately, at the moment, the terrifying sound device is nothing more than what Luckey calls “office art”, and we hope it stays that way. Yes, SAO presents a dream come true in terms of realistic VR – I’d love it if my Oculus Quest 2 could be half the immersion of NerveGear – but the story also presents a nightmare scenario that some people easily gloss over. No game, no matter how good, is worth giving up your life.
If Luckey continues his efforts, we hope he’ll spend all his time investigating the NerveGear’s “perfect-VR” side and leave the horrible SAW-trap element alone after removing it. Playing one of the best VR games is supposed to be fun, not a fight for your life, and if you need to improve your experience, just wear a haptic suit like this writer – it offers more than enough punishment if you fail in VR.