The anime series Sword Art Online, or SOA to many fans, tells the story of VRMMORPG gamers who were trapped by a mad scientist in a virtual reality game, wherein if they die there, they die in real life. This time, though, one fan made the sci-fi trope into reality.
In his personal blog, Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey talks about the NerveGear, a state-of-the-art VR headset in SOA that trapped gamers in the virtual world of Aincrad. Inspired by this, he created a VR headset that’s set to kill its wearer if they die in the VR game.
“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,” writes Luckey. “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.”
Luckey’s deadly VR headset looks to be a modified Meta Quest Pro. He added three explosive charge modules tied to a narrow-band photosensor that can detect if a player has died via a game over screen, consequently setting off the charges to instantly destroy the brain of the user. It’s not exactly the same as SOA’s NerveGear, which kills its user via powerful microwaves, but the end result is the same.
In the end, though, Luckey clarified that it’s just a piece of office art, a thought-provoking reminder of unexplored avenues in game design. But the idea of a state-of-the-art VR headset that takes you to a realistic virtual world seems to be the endgame for the industry. And if having real-world consequences is going to be a part of it, then this deadly project is a start.