Modern virtual reality pioneer Palmer Luckey claims he created a VR headset that would instantly destroy the user’s brain with explosive charge modules if the player’s character dies in the game.
“If you die in the game,” Luckey wrote in his Monday blog post. “You die in real life.”
Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR and designer of the virtual reality head-mounted display Oculus Rift, said tying the life of a gamer to their virtual avatar has always fascinated him.
“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,” Luckey wrote. “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.”
Futurism reports Luckey’s device pays homage to NerveGear, a helmet coated in dark blue worn by a fictional killer in the VR-themed manga series “Sword Art Online,” a new technology that allows players to be inside the game where thousands of people get trapped by a mad scientist and work to escape.
Oddly enough, the futuristic series created ten years ago began in the near future — 2022.
“This might be a game, but it is not something you play.”
To commemorate the Sword Art Online Incident of November 6th 2022, I made the OQPNVG, the first virtual reality device capable of killing the user – if you die in the game, you die in real life.https://t.co/F3nkP5EU61
— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) November 6, 2022
“The popularity of [Sword Art Online] led to massive otaku enthusiasm for Oculus, especially in Japan, which quickly became our 2nd largest market,” he wrote. “In turn, the existence of the Rift made [Sword Art Online] itself seem far more plausible and grounded — a story that had been written in a world where VR was a dead technology was now straight out of the gamer hype headlines.”
Luckey made tech headlines four years ago after announcing his startup Anduril created surveillance technology with a defense company that acts as a virtual border wall loaded with sensor towers, cameras, and lasers that could detect people and animals moving within a two-mile radius of the border between Mexico and the United States.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) signed a five-year contract deal with Anduril, the “virtual border wall” startup launched by Luckey, in 2020.
But while Luckey and the federal government try to solve President Joe Biden’s southern border crisis and develop loitering munitions, anti-drone tech, and underwater drones, the American entrepreneur — often referred to as the father of modern virtual reality — said more trials are necessary before perfecting the new VR headset.
“The good news is that we are halfway to making a true NerveGear,” he wrote. “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.”
Luckey said the NerveGear technology contained microwave emitters that could reach lethal levels, which the original creator of Sword Art Online and NerveGear — Akihiko Kayaba — concealed from his employees, regulators, and contract manufacturing partners.
“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,” he wrote.
Such equipment contains three explosive charge modules tied to a narrow-brand photosensor that would instantly destroy the user’s brain after “an appropriate game-over screen is displayed” from detecting a red screen flashing at a specific frequency.
While admitting the system isn’t perfect, Luckey said he has plans for an anti-tamper mechanism that would make it impossible to remove or destroy the headset — much like NerveGear.
“Even so, there are a huge variety of failures that could occur and kill the user at the wrong time,” he wrote. “This is why I have not worked up the balls to actually use it myself, and also why I am convinced that, like in [Sword Art Online], the final triggering should really be tied to a high-intelligence agent that can readily determine if conditions for termination are actually correct.”
But for now, Luckey said the headset accentuates his office art collection.
“It is also, as far as I know, the first non-fiction example of a VR device that can actually kill the user,” he wrote. “It won’t be the last.”