The return of VR?

arcadehero January 13, 2011 9

Newsfeed 990 via The Stinger Report

Technology has a funny way of working at times. Occasionally, ideas were too far ahead of their time or the technology didn’t live up to the ambition of the idea behind it all. In many instances, technology which is grabbing the spotlight once again was tried out at one point in the amusement industry. We have seen a return motion/gesture based gaming, then there was stereoscopic 3D and now, we might just see a return to Virtual Reality. The Stinger Report sent a long these pictures which compare the brand new VR tech on display by Sony at the most recent CES event, with the old VR concepts that were first tried out in the mid-90’s. The most famous example of VR tech being used in arcades would have to be Virtuality, who developed these huge pods which ran a variety of games on different hardware. The only one I have ever seen in person used an Amiga computer for the base hardware and it wasn’t operational at the time but on thing was obvious about it – the headset was quite bulky and from what I have seen of the games, the early 3D didn’t do much to immerse people into the game.

For now this Sony tech is consumer-grade stuff but who knows where it might lead if the push behind it is successful this time around. There are some unique ideas that could be done with VR as a part of the control scheme but when it comes to amusement there are barriers – the Virtuality setups needed an attendant to suit people up and supervise and they didn’t come cheap either. There is still a novelty factor involved with VR that will work to it’s advantage in the long run and with proper games to take advantage of the technology it could shine once again but I think it will still be a while before we see it return to the amusement sector.

UPDATE: It is worth pointing out that the amusement industry hasn’t completely given up on the tech, in recent times we have seen the VirtuSphere setup at IAAPA which combines a headset along with a sphere that allows the player to wander around the virtual landscape. This setup isn’t without problems that involve real-world physics in starting and properly stopping the ball but it is worth noting in the discussion.

Pros and cons aside, Virtuality did provide an opportunity for an awesome remake to find it’s way into arcades where it belongs – a conversion of Missile Command 3D, which was also released for the Atari Jaguar.  There was also the bizarre Pac-Man VR, where you played Pac-Man through his eyes (video embedded).

What are your thoughts on this? Are we ripe enough to see a return to VR gaming?


  1. igo January 13, 2011 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    It is time for a return to VR. With all the tech we have now. I could see how VR has the opportunity be very immersive now.

  2. Brent Silby January 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    I remember trying it out in the early 90s. I thought the concept was good, but the 3d rendering was far too slow. It jerked around too much when I turned my head. Great idea though. I’m very interested in seeing it again with modern computing technology.

  3. editor January 14, 2011 at 6:31 am - Reply

    I was lucky enough to work for the early VR developers in the 90’s – and one of my first consultancy projects was for Virtuality. The company was breaking new ground – but using technology that was unable to achieve the performance needed to create a compelling VR environment. Their ideas were unachievable using RISC hardware.

    Brent is right; seeing what these aspirations could do now with the PS3 and latest PC CGi and performance – along with the new tracking technology is an interesting application. I have already started to work on VR based consultancy projects for the amusement scene – though I am sure the consumer side will get the momentum rolling.

    No one ever wrote a compelling report on the VR boom of the 90’s – think we may have to do one for the Stinger.

  4. ECM January 14, 2011 at 9:59 am - Reply

    I think it’s a foregone conclusion that this is where the tech will go, eventually, so it’s really just a question of cost to the end-user, be it consumer or amusement center level and figuring out some way to minimize its intrusiveness (i.e. wearing cumbersome gear, which, outside of the goggles, should be well on its way to, err, reality).

    The only headache I see, ultimately, is simulating movement of any sort, e.g. actually walking in an FPS, but the tech hardly requires that to be viable and immersive.

  5. ArcadeNut January 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Forget VR glasses, helmets, etc – The true “next wave” of innovation for the arcade game industry will be incorporating 3DTV monitors that do not require glasses or external hardware – Look for this in late 2013-2014

    Link to article about first “no-glass” 3DTV from Toshiba:

    • arcadehero January 15, 2011 at 7:50 am - Reply

      Actually there is one arcade game that already uses no-glasses 3D monitors, it’s even an official Disney product called 3D Disney Ping Pong. We ran a few stories about it in 2010, problem is that it’s a Chinese-only product so we’ve only seen pictures of it, no video.

      Also at JAMMA in Japan last year SIE Electronics and Taito both showed their own non-glasses 3D hardware, we don’t have any game announcements for either one yet though. But I do agree that the tech will begin to make some waves in the industry before too long.

    • editor January 15, 2011 at 8:03 am - Reply

      I think you may find that non-invasive 3D may be a bit of a red herring. Though it will be popular – the aspect of 3D graphics has been a issue of technology rather than compelling play – VR at least offers a new play experience – and that is the name of the game.

  6. editor January 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm - Reply

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