Oculus creator invents virtual reality headset that intentionally kills people

Dominic Smithers

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Oculus creator invents virtual reality headset that intentionally kills people

Featured Image Credit: Palmer Luckey / Jozef Polc / Alamy

Video games are getting more and more realistic with each passing year, but things may have finally gone too far.

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Palmer Luckey is the creator of Oculus, a virtual reality headset that allows gamers to immerse themselves in their video games.

However, the tech head has now gone a step further in trying to build a VR device that could kill the user.

The idea behind 'NerveGear', as it's been named, is to link a player's virtual experience to their real life, meaning that if they die in the game they are playing, they die in the real world too.

The device, which was inspired by the anime Sword Art Online, in which thousands of gamers get stuck in a VR world, works by spotting when a player has died in the game, detecting a shade of red that appears.

Then, once the 'game over' screen appears, three modules explode, 'instantly destroying the brain of the user'.

Think I'm ok, thanks.

Palmer Luckey is building a VR headset that could kill players. Credit: sakkmesterke/Alamy
Palmer Luckey is building a VR headset that could kill players. Credit: sakkmesterke/Alamy

But Luckey says the device is not near completion yet, and he will still need a few more years to get it absolutely right, with his end goal to create a device that perfectly aligns a player's online experience with the real world.

He writes in his blog: "You want NerveGear, the incredible device that perfectly recreates reality using a direct neural interface that is also capable of killing the user.

"The idea of tying your real life to your virtual avatar has always fascinated me – 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.

"This is an area of video game mechanics that has never been explored, despite the long history of real-world sports revolving around similar stakes."

Adding: "The good news is that we are halfway to making a true NerveGear 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."

At the moment, it remains a 'piece of office art'. Credit: Igor Stevanovic/Alamy
At the moment, it remains a 'piece of office art'. Credit: Igor Stevanovic/Alamy

Obviously, Luckey has some concerns over the device, namely that it could accidentally kill the user at the wrong time - which would be less than ideal, and is why it is currently just a 'piece of office art'.

He says: "This isn’t a perfect system, of course. I have plans for an anti-tamper mechanism that, like the NerveGear, will make it impossible to remove or destroy the headset.

"Even so, there are a huge variety of failures that could occur and kill the user at the wrong time.

"This is why I have not worked up the balls to actually use it myself, and also why I am convinced that, like in SAO, the final triggering should really be tied to a high-intelligence agent that can readily determine if conditions for termination are actually correct."

Adding: "At this point, it is just a piece of office art, a thought-provoking reminder of unexplored avenues in game design.

"It is also, as far as I know, the first non-fiction example of a VR device that can actually kill the user. It won’t be the last."

Topics: Technology, Gaming, Science, Virtual Reality

Dominic Smithers
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