History of Virtual Reality, Part 4

History of Virtual Reality, Part 4


As arcades saw a push of virtual reality in the early 90s, home entertainment system developers recognized a chance to potentially increase available hardware for users. In order to help video game consumers enjoy VR at home, both SEGA and Nintendo announced VR equipment. While neither of these systems proved successful, the devices look starkly similar to that of modern VR and both helped push virtual reality into the world we experience today.

SEGA VR Glasses

At a time, SEGA proved to be a major hardware developer. Many saw SEGA as a champion for better graphics than Nintendo and, eventually, the first PlayStation. However, a series of failed hardware launches ultimately doomed the company. One of the first was the VR Glasses.

At the 1993 Consumer Electronics Show, SEGA announced it would release a VR headset, capable of working with its Sega Genesis gaming system. This way, the headset could connect with the gaming console and provide a home VR experience. At the time, the headset proved to be extremely technologically savvy. It included LCD screens in the visors, along with head tracking and stereo sound.

With a price point of $200, the company looked to make a big splash with consumers. However, due to programming issues and tech problems, the company continued to push back development. Ultimately, SEGA scrapped the entire project because test groups suffered from motion sickness, so instead of receiving harsh blowback from consumers, it held off on ever releasing the system to the public (four games had been developed for the headset). Eventually, SEGA would use this technology, and bring in 3D stereoscopic graphics for arcade use.

Nintendo Virtual Boy

During the mid-1990s, while Nintendo may not have had the best graphics, it still proved to be the gaming industry’s king. With its catalog of characters and established fan base, the company seemingly could do no wrong. However, the Nintendo Virtual Boy proved this to be not the case. While dubbed virtual reality, it used basic wire lines and only the color red. An awkward headset on a tripod allowed gamers to look through the device without straps on the head, but this caused awkward leaning for long periods of time. Although it had no movement tracking, it did prove to be the first video game system to offer actual 3D game play.

In 1995, the Virtual Boy hit the markets with a $180 price tag and used red LED eyepieces. While this provided bright, vibrant displays, everything appeared in red. This proved to be a major issue with the system. However, much like the SEGA system, test groups found it to be disorienting, uncomfortable while also causing headaches. Due to this, the Virtual Boy automatically paused game play every 15 to 30 minutes in order to give a user the ability to rest their eyes and stretch.

Due to all the problems, Nintendo scrapped Virtual Boy after a year. It proved to be such a failure its creator, Gunpei Yokoi, resigned from the company. While a commercial failure, it showed another issue the gaming community simply had not come to terms yet: head mounted VR computer games simply did not have the processing power yet.

High Hopes with a Short Ladder

The gaming and computer industry had high hopes for VR to truly take off. Hardware designers wanted to become the first company offering home VR services while software designers looked to produce new technology. Even Apple created a new file format known as QuickTime VR, in order to handle panoramic and 360 degree photographs.

Despite the VR failures, 3D gaming took a step forward several years later with the release of Nintendo 64, SEGA Dreamcast and a new entry into the video game world, the PlayStation. However, all of these companies moved as far from virtual reality as possible. Due to both the public failures of Nintendo and SEGA, the industry wanted to avoid future mistakes that could cost them hundreds of millions in development and advertising. There is a reason why Sony is the only major gaming industry player who currently has a modern VR headset, as discussed in the final installment of virtual reality and VR porn history.

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