Oculus Rift Creator Designs New, Improved Headset That Kills You (To Death)

Oculus Rift Creator Designs New, Improved Headset That Kills You (To Death)

Palmer Luckey, creator of the Oculus Rift virtual reality platform, has invented a new VR headset he calls the NerveGear.

Luckey, if you’ve never heard of him before, has a history of being a notably Weird Dude. A libertarian and a Trump supporter, Luckey is credited with restoring the VR industry to prominence, only to have his company acquired by Facebook and seemingly pushed out under a cloud of conflicting reports about his political affiliations several years later. His dedication to Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and bare feet led many to believe that the Silicon Valley character Keenan Feldspar, played by Haley Joel Osment, was a parody based on Luckey. These days he’s moved into defence tech, knowledge that will surely unnerve you by the time you reach the end of this article.

He is a strange and divisive character, to say the absolute least. This brings us to his latest pitch.

The rundown on the NerveGear reads, for all intents and purposes, begins like a fairly standard investor pitch. I held the dream of a device that did not yet exist. A more perfect virtual reality headset that can transport the wearer to a fully realised, immersive game world so realistic that the digital world and the real will simply blend together.

And also if you die in the game, the headset will kill you in real life.

Indeed, the title of the blog post in which Luckey lays out his manifesto for the device is “If you die in the game, you die in real life.”

The NerveGear is named for the VR headset in the popular Japanese media multihyphenate Sword Art Online, a story in which people are trapped inside a VR MMORPG and told they can only escape the game by completing it. If, at any point, their hit points drop to zero, the headset bombards the user with high-powered microwaves, killing them instantly. The franchise began as a series of light novels and now spans anime, manga, music, and even games. And, apparently, Luckey is a big fan.

The anime version of the show arrived around the time the Oculus Rift began to take off. Wanting to get closer to their favourite show, SAO fans in Japan began buying the device en masse, turning Japan in the Rift’s second most popular market. That’s when the emails to Luckey began.

“Literally thousands of people reached out to me asking variations of ‘Have you seen Sword Art Online?” reads Luckey’s post. “‘When will you make the NerveGear real?!’”

Well, apparently Luckey wants to give the fans what they want — death in a high-tech stack hat.

“The idea of tying your real life to your virtual avatar has always fascinated me,” reads Luckey’s post. “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.”

Ok Luckey, bring it down a little, man. That’s worrying.

“Pumped up graphics might make a game look more real, but only the threat of serious consequences can make a game feel real to you and every other person in the game. This is an area of videogame mechanics that has never been explored, despite the long history of real-world sports revolving around similar stakes.”

Palmer Luckey, are you okay?

“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.”

Jesus fucking Christ.

But Luckey saves the most deranged gear for last. Describing the way the (I have to stress) fictional headset murders the user in SAO, Luckey laments that he’s not been able to recreate anything approaching the complexity of the headset’s souped-up microwave emitter without external devices.

“In lieu of this, I used three of the explosive charge modules I usually use for a different project, tying them to a narrow-band photosensor that can detect when the screen flashes red at a specific frequency, making game-over integration on the part of the developer very easy. When an appropriate game-over screen is displayed, the charges fire, instantly destroying the brain of the user.”

“This isn’t a perfect system,” says Luckey, before detailing an anti-tamper system that would prevent the user from removing or destroying the headset once it’s on. He presumably wrote these sentences giggling like a maniac. Who gets to decide if the headset goes off though? Luckey has an answer for that too, stating that he has not “had the balls” to use the monstrosity he has built, he believes that the final say on whether the device explodes is tied to a “high-intelligence agent that can readily determine if conditions for termination are actually correct or not.”

For now, the device exists as a piece of office art, unable to murder anyone unless Palmer presumably feels he has been wronged in some capacity. “It is … as far as I know, the first non-fiction example of a VR device that can actually kill the user,” he says, adding, terrifyingly, “It won’t be the last.”

He then closes out the post with what I think may be the most sinister deployment of this phrase to date.

“See you in the metaverse.”

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