Palmer Luckey, a leader in virtual reality and the founder of the company Oculus, which he sold to Facebook (now Meta) in 2014 for $2 billion, has developed an innovative and incredibly dangerous crossing of virtual reality and the real world: A VR headset that’ll literally kill you if you die in a virtual game. But worry not, the horrifying headset isn’t available to buy, yet.
The science and other stuff to know
The game, Sword Art Online, is based on the same-named Japanese anime and novel. To win the game, players must escape a world designed by a mad scientist by fighting their way through a 100-floor dungeon, Motherboard stated in an initial report.
The premise of the game is straightforward enough; however, the VR headset Luckey created to play it with, NeveGear, is anything but. While NeveGear looks like a regular VR headset, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It has three “explosive charge modules” that are pointed at the user’s skull. These modules would be triggered to kill the player when the screen flashes red at a specific frequency. So, when the player dies virtually during gameplay, the modules fire at the user’s head, killing them instantly in real life.
Luckey admitted the device is not quite finished, and it’s likely he’ll have trouble getting clearance to use it even when it is. Describing the “incredible” device in a blog post, he wrote, “The idea of tying your real life to your virtual avatar has always fascinated me. You instantly raise the stakes to the maximum level and force people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with the virtual world and the players inside it.”
“Pumped-up graphics might make a game look more real, but only the threat of serious consequences can make a game feel real to you and every other person in the game.”
NeveGear opens doors to the “unexplored avenues in game design”, doors you may wish would stay closed. “It is, as far as I know, the first non-fiction example of a VR device that can actually kill the user,’ Luckey says.”It won’t be the last.
Thankfully, at this stage, the headset is just a prototype. Luckey commented on the project’s development, saying, “at this point, it is just a piece of office art [and] a thought-provoking [project]”
Needless to say, from video games that boost your memory to this potential gamers’ VR headset that can obliterate your brain if you die in-game, the gaming world never ceases to amaze.
The very existence of this headset comes as a harrowing blurring of the lines between science fiction and real life. If Luckey does succeed in bringing this VR headset to market, the headset won’t be for the fainthearted.
Luckey also stated that he intends to continue experimenting with the technology used in such killer headsets. He even mentioned the possibility of an anti-tampering one that cannot be removed or destroyed, which would be fatal when put to the test.