Developers and distributors advertise their products with words like “dynamic”, “live” and “immersive” to convince consumers that this is not just some digital simulation, but an extension of true reality through the ever-advancing concept of digital reality (VR).
Now one of the big names in the industry claims to have managed to take it all to a whole other level, dramatically raising the stakes for a single game.
The founder of virtual reality (VR) firm Oculus claims to have designed new glasses that can kill you in real life if you lose during a game.
Palmer Lucky’s device is inspired by Sword Art Online, a Japanese novel-turned-anime series in which players are trapped in an online role-playing game. There, death in the game means death in the real world because of the special VR glasses that are used.
“The idea of connecting your real life with your virtual avatar has always fascinated me – the stakes are instantly raised to the maximum level. This is how you force people to fundamentally rethink the way they interact with the virtual world and the players in it. Only the threat of serious consequences can make a game feel real to you and everyone else in the game,” Lucky wrote in a blog post “If you die in the game, you die in real life.”
He is considered one of the people who almost revolutionized VR technology with his Oculus Rift glasses. In 2014, he sold his company to Facebook for $2 billion. He remained in charge but was fired three years later.
In an interview with CNBC, he claimed he was released for “no reason” and speculated that his donations to right-wing political organizations may have been the reason.
Today, the Oculus Rift is the foundation around which Mark Zuckerberg’s hopes of building his metauniverse rest.
For his part, Lucky enters the military industry after founding a new company specializing in the development of autonomous technology. Over the past few years, it has managed to win multi-million contracts for cooperation with the Air Force and the Joint Special Forces Command.
However, it continues to be closely associated with VR technology and gaming.
Unlike the fictional version of NerveGear, Lucky does not use powerful microwaves, instead relying on the simpler method of explosives for his deadly creation.
The device itself is connected to three explosive charges that are triggered by a photo sensor. It is activated when the screen starts flashing red at a certain frequency.
“As far as I know, this is the first real example of a VR device that can actually kill the user. It certainly won’t be the last,” Lucky wrote.
So far, there have been various attempts to raise the stakes during a game.
For example, one of the first attempts dates back to 2001, when several students from Germany developed the PlayStation arcade installation. It pits two players against each other in a specially modeled version of the classic Pong game. Each mistake during the game results in an electric shock of varying strength.
The same year, the Tekken Torture tournament was held. It features 32 people competing in the then-popular fighting game Tekken 3. There, all players are connected by special straps so that they receive electric shocks according to the injuries their avatars suffer.
Two decades later, we are already talking about a very real death.
Lucky warns that his system is far from perfect, still allowing “a huge variety of errors that can kill the user at the wrong time.”
“That’s why I haven’t tried to use it myself,” he says.
For now, the death glasses are just part of his office interior “thought-provoking on yet unexplored paths in game design.”