Palmer Luckey, the creator of Oculus, has created a virtual reality headset that intentionally kills people.
Named ‘NerveGear’, the system aims to closely tie people’s virtual life to their real one – by bringing them both to an end at the same time.
If someone dies in a virtual reality game or experience while wearing the headset, then they will be killed in real life at the same time, Mr Luckey said.
It does so by detecting the specific shade of red that shows when a person dies, meaning that developers could easily integrate the system. Once that red shows, three explosive modules explode, “instantly destroying the brain of the user”.
Mr Luckey said that the system is still unfinished. He aims to make it impossible to remove or destroy the headset so that people would be stuck inside virtual reality.
And because of the limitations of the design, and the danger that it could fail and kill people at the wrong time, he has still yet to try it out himself, he said in a blog announcing the new system.
Mr Luckey said that while the technology at the moment is “just a piece of office art”, intending to be thought-provoking about game design. But he also said that it seems to be the first time such a system has been created, and “it won’t be the last”.
“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,” Mr Luckey wrote in the blog post announcing the ‘NerveGear’.
“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.”
The technology was created to commemorate the events of the anime Sword Art Online, and was announced on the date a similar fictional technology is created in that game, and the name of the equipment is taken from that. In SAO, players are put into a virtual dungeon and must fight their way out – but if they are unsuccessful, they die in real life.
Mr Luckey is most famous for creating Oculus, the virtual reality company, and its early headsets. The company was bought by Meta, then Facebook, in 2014, and the two have been gradually integrated.
He left the company in 2017, amid criticism of his pro-Trump political views, though Facebook has always denied that was the reason Mr Luckey was fired.
Since then, Mr Luckey has been continuing his interest in virtual reality but also focusing on defence technologies. In his blog post, Mr Luckey mentioned that NerveGear was built using “explosive charge modules I usually use for a different project”, which may be related to that work.