No, this is not a headline that reflects Mark Zuckerberg fully losing his mind to his pursuit of the metaverse. Rather, we are talking about Palmer Luckey, the original founder of Oculus VR who sold his company to Facebook, and has been mainly working on national defense tech ever since his departure.
While he’s had nothing to do with Zuckerberg’s flailing metaverse ambitions as of late, that does not mean he isn’t still doing weird and in this case, truly insane things with VR all the same.
Luckey has now made a custom VR headset that he claims will kill a player if they die in a video game. Like, literally. It will kill you.
Describing the headset in his blog, Luckey details how he says he made a Sword Art Online-style “you die in the game, you die in real life” headset. In that series, players are trapped in a giant, immersive VR combat sim where if they die in the game, it will kill them for real given that they are laced into “NerveGear” tech, and they must figure out a way to win or escape. Luckey’s version of this concept is a VR headset that is laced with charges that will explode “destroying the brain of the user” if they trigger an “appropriate game over” screen.
Luckey laments that he’s only halfway to designing true “NerveGear,” the Sword Art Online tech:
“The good news is that we are halfway to making a true NerveGear,” he said. “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.”
Luckey revealed the deadly headset on November 6, where November 6, 2022 is the day the first NerveGear set was activated in SAO. No coincidence, clearly.
No, no one is actually playing games on the thing. Luckey has not even tried the headset on himself, lest some sort of miscalculation on his part accidentally kill him, game over screen or not. Luckey just describes it as a piece of “office art” and claims that it’s the only VR headset in existence that can kill the user, which I have to believe is true unless a real-life Jigsaw killer is out there designing one for his latest trap to teach some addicted gamer a lesson.
Murderous video games are a longtime pursuit for Luckey, who talked about this over a year ago:
It is also notable that Luckey claims to have built weaponized gaming tech like this given his jump from VR to founding Anduril Industries, his company which makes AI-based surveillance and defense systems for the U.S. military. They recently landed a $1 billion contract to lead counter-unmanned systems to work for the United States Special Operations Command.
Given that VR tech is still trying to break past a niche to get people to play games that are actually fun, the idea that we are barreling toward some sort of Sword Art dystopia where users are signing up to play games that have the potential to kill you does…not seem plausible. Even Sword Art Online had to trick its players into being trapped with NerveGear, it’s not like they were going around selling VR headsets with murder potential written up as a feature.
As ever, Palmer Luckey is…something else. I look forward to him hosting his first Bloodsport tournament on a private island or whatever weird thing emerges next from his brain.
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