The Return of Virtual Reality?

I feel like it’s the ’90s all over again. Remember the “Virtual Reality” craze, which begat the Nintendo Virtual Boy and similar failed products? Well, Sony would have us believe that VR is primed for a comeback. It seems unlikely to me, but I suppose that stranger things have happened.

Once upon a time, Virtual Reality was meant to be the Next Big Thing – so much so that Hollywood got on board and churned out a whole string of movies and TV shows (‘Wild Palms’, ‘VR.5’, ‘Harsh Realm’, ‘The Thirteenth Floor‘, ‘The Matrix‘ and many, many more) on the theme. Of course, the one thing all those shows and movies had in common was super sensory-realistic holographic technology that would allow a person to simply step into a totally simulated computer world. On the other hand, real attempts to develop the technology required users to wear cumbersome headsets and goggles just to see cruddy low-res graphic images in a vague and choppy 3D environment. The nausea-inducing Virtual Boy was even more painful in that it was only capable of rendering graphics in one color: Red and only red.

You think people are resistant to wearing 3D glasses now? Virtual Reality was a total non-starter, and has been mostly forgotten in the years since.

Nonetheless, in an interview with Develop, Sony London chief Mick Hocking says that the company is in the R&D stages for a new VR project, the head-mounted display for which was shown at CES this year. (It looks kind of like a Cylon face-mask.) Few details were given other than that it’s being worked on.

While I’m sure that the graphic capabilities and 3D environments have come a long way in recent years, I still just can’t imagine anyone being willing to wear a giant headset to play a videogame. Until Holodeck-style holographic projectors become available (decades from now, at least), the quest for Virtual Reality will remain a fool’s errand.

That aside, Hocking has a lot of interesting things to say in the interview about Sony’s experience with and the current state of 3D gaming. It’s worth a read.

[via Engadget HD, which is where the banner photo above this post comes from.]


  1. You need more sensory feedback than just sight and sound as well. While it might be nice to “move” around in an enviornment, interacting with objects require some type of tactical feedback. I want a lot more than simply “better 3d”

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