5 Virtual Reality Devices From the 90’s That Didn’t Take Off
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This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen a Virtual Reality trend pop up. Hopefully this time it may have more long jeopardy. Back in the 1990’s the gaming industry tried to embrace Virtual Reality, however, we feel that these ambitious efforts may have been a bit ahead of their time. Here’s a list of Virtual Reality tech from the 90’s that never took off.
The Stuntmaster was the precursor for the Cybermax. It was released by a company called Victormaxx that have long since disbanded. The Stuntmaster design claimed to have head tracking, but in actual fact, it just used a plastic stick that hung off the back of the device to track the user’s movement as it passed over their shoulder. As you can imagine, this was a completely ineffective motion tracking system, and the Stuntmaster soon became old.
The Cybermaxx was the fresh new sibling to the Stuntmaster. It came with full solid head tracking, a stereoscopic 3d display in the form of two 0.7″ color active matrix LCD screens, and was priced at under $699.00. There were also a fair few games to be played on the Cybermaxx, such as Doom II, Duke Nukem and Wolfenstein, to name a few. Although this seemed like a good formula for a Virtual Reality headset at the time, the Cybermaxx still failed to gain any real traction, and ultimately failed to take off.
Virtual IO iGlasses (1995)
The iGlasses were a pre Apple attempt at an ‘i’ product. This attempt was slightly higher in specification, as it offered a stereoscopic, 3d, colour display that had 360 degree capabilities. The product is shown in early marketing videos being used as a flight simulator controller. The iGlasses retailed at at under $1,000, but still fell short of the mark when it came to igniting the Virtual Reality market.
Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995)
The Nintendo Virtual Boy was another short lived early attempt at VR, the ambitious effort to make a three dimensional virtual reality headset resulted in what was effectively a 3d viewing system. The 32-bit, 3d Gaming console was released in march 1995 by Nintendo, and retailed at around $180.00. It is reported that Nintendo spent $25 million promoting the product, but all of this was to no great avail. It’s lack of success in the United States meant it was not built for any other regions, and was discontinued on March 2nd 1996 the following year.
The VFX-1 was arguably the most stand out Virtual Reality product of the early era. It was developed by Forte Technologies Inc who premiered the VFX-1 as its first product in 1995. It retailed at $695, putting it nicely under $1,000, which was dramatically cheaper than some of the professional Virtual Reality headsets available at the time.
The device consisted of three main components, the headset, a hand held controller call the CyberPuck and an ISA interface card called the VIP board. The VIP board was the heart of the operation, and was used to route the data between the three of the devices. In total the head gear weighed 2 1/2 lbs, and adopted a virtual orientation system that used the earth’s magnetic field to track movement, similar to a compass. a downside to this was that the device had to be kept and away from large metal objects, and had to calibrated for a user’s specific geographical location.
To play texture mapped games you would have needed a pentium II processor, and good few megabytes of ram. Although most PC games didn’t offer support for the headset, and required additional drivers to be installed, like head tracking and stereoscopic 3d.
All said and done though, this may have been by far the best Virtual Reality Headset of the time, but still didn’t manage to hit the ground running. This may have been due to the limitations of graphics during this time. Which is something that could probably said for the entire spectrum of Virtual Reality in the 90’s. The idea’s, and science fiction dreams of Tron like Virtual interactions, may have been running too fast for the technology to keep up. So are we at a time now where the technology has caught up with the dreams of Virtual interaction?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.