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?