Has Palmer Luckey developed the scariest VR headset of all time?
Yesterday was November 4th, 2022, the day thousands of gamers found themselves trapped within a VRMMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) in the hit Japanese web novel turned anime Sword Art Online. In the story, players access the virtual world using the NerveGear, a VR headset that, unbeknownst to them, actually kills a user if they “die” in-game.
In honor of the SAO incident, Palmer Luckey, the original founder of Oculus, has designed his own version of a VR headset that kills you if your health drops too low. Luckey, who now works as a defense contractor, shared details regarding the project on his blog, saying, “The good news is that we are halfway to making a true NerveGear. The bad news is that so far, I have only figured out the half that kills you. The perfect-VR half of the equation is still many years out.”
The design is as brutal as it is simplistic. Luckey took three explosive charge modules from a “different project” he’s been working on and mounted them on a Meta Quest Pro headset. The chargers are connected to a narrow-band photosensor that detects when “the screen flashes red at a specific frequency,” at which point the charges are fired, destroying the user’s brain in the process.
“In SAO, the NerveGear contained a microwave emitter that could be overdriven to lethal levels, something the creator of SAO and the NerveGear itself (Akihiko Kayaba) was able to hide from his employees, regulators, and contract manufacturing partners,” said Luckey in his blog. “I am a pretty smart guy, but I couldn’t come up with any way to make anything like this work, not without attaching the headset to gigantic pieces of equipment. In lieu of this, I used three of the explosive charge modules…”
In Sword Art Online, the NerveGear also features an anti-tamper mechanism that automatically kills the user if anyone attempts to remove or destroy the device. Luckey is working on a system of his own to address this issue.
“At this point, it is just a piece of office art, a thought-provoking reminder of unexplored avenues in game design,” said Luckey. “It is also, as far as I know, the first non-fiction example of a VR device that can actually kill the user. It won’t be the last.”
For more information check out the full blog post here.
Image Credit: Palmer Luckey