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VR Interfaces: Sega VR


Overview of Sega VR
The Sega VR, was vaporware that Sega planned to release as an add-on to the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive console in 1991, 1992, and 1993. Finally in 1994, it quietly disappeared from Sega's release schedules, and was all-but swept under the rug. A few prototype proof-of-concept systems were made, and demonstrated at various gaming expos in 1992 and 1993.

Precious little information about the Sega VR has survived, but what is present hints strongly that Sega knew of the downsides of their device. It used two LCD monitors to offer basic stereoscopy, and the whole unit stood proud of the face, held on by straps to either side and on top of the head. There was even a slot for a game cartridge in the front of the device itself, so that games specifically coded to take advantage of stereoscopy could be played.

The Sega VR had an onboard processor and 16kb of internal memory for this purpose. Display refresh rates are unknown, but a similar product that was actually released at about the same time, the Nintendo Virtual Boy achieved refresh rates of 50hz, so it is safe to assume the Sega VR was not far behind. The original Sega VR press release that was published in Sega Visions magazine, August/September 1993 gives us a little more detail:
From the moment you strap on the headset, you know that your gaming life will never be the same again. The world you see through the twin eye-pieces of the virtual reality (VR) headset responds as if it were another world, one you can explore by moving around without leaving your chair. [...]

You are playing Nuclear Rush, the game that will be bundled with Sega VR, Sega’s new virtual reality headset. [...]

Welcome to the year 2032. Get ready for a cataclysmic trek into a post-nuclear gold rush, where low-level nuclear waste is bartered as an energy source. You are posing as a nuclear pirate, piloting a hovercraft through radioactive wastelands guarded by heavily armed robots and drones.

Nuclear Rush was itself never released. After all, what's the point of releasing the program when the hardware it requires to run. was itself never released?

The following video, although low quality, is one of a precious few that have survived, to tell the tale of the single prototype unit's appearance in North America in 1993:

Ultimately it seems that the device was pulled after numerous complaints, and the Stanford Research Institute tested the prototype out rigorously, with their final report warning Sega that prolonged used constituted a 'health hazard'.

In the end, it was just too big, too bulky, the screen refresh rate was far too low and the latency considerable. It was a great idea for an early commercial HMD or head mounted display.

However, the technology level of the 1990s, was just not sophisticated enough to make it into a workable product. Especially not at the extremely low price point of US $199 that they were pushing for. Even modern HMDs struggle to dip below twice that price due to the costs of manufacturing to a safe standard.

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