Virtual reality: Lessons from the past for Oculus Rift


oculus-rift (Photo credit: Antonio Ortiz)

I remember being in a sports bar in Minneapolis in the 90’s and trying out the VR platform.  Awesome.  But it never progressed, only in films like Discloure. Only the other day I was wondering what had happened to Virtual Reality then I spotted this headline from 29th August – perhaps it’s making a comeback.

Virtual Reality

Back in nineteen ninety-four
we saw Nintendo launch ‘Virtual Boy’.
We’d so enjoy it, said the marketing hype,
the unique type of high of the VR console
with its whole new view of reality –
pure fantasy that’s taken so far
by out-of-the-box VR.

But the Virtual Boy failed.
No longer hailed as the way ahead,
instead it was branded as ‘cumbersome’;
somewhat slow with poor ‘motion tracking’
it was lacking reality, they said,
giving you headaches with its primitive graphics
and its motion-lag ‘sim-sick’ acrobatics.

Twenty years on, enter the Oculus Rift,
uplifted VR with modern technology.
But can it be enough to overcome
the humdrum graphics, so slow to refresh
which left you with headaches and feeling so sick?
Are the pictures now better, in tune with the brain,
returning reality to VR again?

We’ll see.

29th August 2013 – headline from the BBC

Notes:  “Virtual reality: Lessons from the past for Oculus Rift.”  Virtual reality was all the rage a couple of decades ago and looked as if it could become the video games industry’s next big thing. But despite public interest and millions of dollars of research, the concept flopped. Released in 1994 by Nintendo, Virtual Boy was the first games console marketed with out-of-the-box VR for a relatively-affordable $180 (£115).  It proved to be a dud. Gamers complained about the lack of motion tracking – the ability to match the view to movements of the player’s head – and even headaches from the graphics which could only be shown in red.  There were no real-time graphics then to keep up with head or body motion and people would get sim-sick because of lag.  Despite being launched at the forefront of a VR-mania, the Virtual Boy vanished – like the craze – amid unrealistic expectations.  Now, with excitement building for the release of a new VR helmet – the Oculus Rift – it is worth asking what went wrong the first time round, and can any lessons be learned?


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