Saturday, May 7

What happened to The Lawnmower Man?

Dateline: Early 1990’s. MC Hammer is shimmying across stages, Mortal Kombat changes the face of beat ‘em ups forever and virtual reality is all the rage. But what happened to it?

There was a time when even the smallest of shopping towns had a virtual reality booth providing the opportunity to fork out $10 for 10 minutes to see the world in another way. Although I never experienced standing in the little booth with enormous head gear and oddly shaped gloves, I do remember countless tales from programmes such as Beyond 2000 claiming it was the way of the future.

Movies like The Lawnmower Man, Tron and Virtuosity seemed to bring virtual/augmented reality out and into the modern world but I’ve never heard of personal use or integration into the common man’s home. In fact, to me it seems to have dropped off the face of the Earth only to return in alternate forms such as Kinect and Move (or maybe PlayStation 9 in 2078...).

From what I can tell, the only real modern day use of the VR head units is by the military who use them for training paratroopers and other training exercises, as to a few other industries.

I’m not bummed about it or complaining – based on experience with the Nintendo Power Glove controller and even having to hold a Wii-mote, there is no way I’d be keen to attempt playing games with some sort of clumsy head mounted display.

Even on a smaller scale, say like the combination of a sweat band and a pair of wrap-around sunglasses teamed with Minority Report style gloves, I still think I would be hard pressed to play.

I may have just answered my own question, being that the system may be too clumsy and cumbersome for private use, but if that’s the case why didn’t someone just make it smaller and useful?

To me it seems the old-school head unit and gloves are merely a fad of the early nineties and nothing more than a distant and vague memory. Although the potential engagement and emersion VR would create within daily gaming environments could be massive, it’s probably for the best that it’s not a big part of our lives. Can you imagine playing Call of Duty or Splinter Cell while being completely immersed in the ultimate virtual environment? See you later sanity...

Did you ever dabble in 90’s virtual reality? If you could put on a device that enabled you to have full emersion and interaction in a current gaming environment what game would you like to play?

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