SEGA VR — RIP 1993

Did you know that SEGA created a virtual reality headset in 1993?

Sega’s rise at the beginning of the 1990’s, largely spurred by success of the Mega Drive (Genesis) console, prompted them to invest heavily in the creation of new hardware. One of the many R&D projects announced by Sega was Sega VR, a virtual reality headset, first announced in 1991. The display provided internal LCD screens, stereo headphones, and sensors capable of detecting inertia, which allowed the device to track head movements.

Initially planned for release in 1994 with several games developed specifically for the headset, the Sega VR was shown at consumer electronics shows in 1993.

Sega’s offical press release:

Official Sega Press Release: 1993

Welcome to the Future

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. Turn your head to the left, and the scene changes accordingly, bringing a new part of the virtual world into view. The armored robot that you could only hear a moment ago is now directly in front of you, guns blazing.

You hit the fire button on the controller and your guns come to life, rockets weaving a deadly trajectory toward their mark. Wham! The robot is history. But there’s no time to gloat. Dozens of others are waiting to take its place.

You are playing Nuclear Rush, the game that will be bundled with Sega VR, Sega’s new virtual reality headset. With its stereo optics, full stereo sound and sophisticated head-tracking technology, Sega VR is sure to take you to The Next Level in gaming. In addition to Nuclear Rush, Sega is planning to release three more VR games to work with Sega VR.

Sega VR works by combining three technologies into one awesome experience. Let’s take a closer look.

Stereophonic Sound

We have two ears for a reason, and it isn’t because one ear in the middle of your face would look funny. With two ears, you can tell which direction a sound is coming from and so localize it in space. Suppose the sound of an explosion comes form your right. The sound wave traveling toward you will reach your right ear first, then continue on its journey to your left ear. Not only will your right ear hear the sound a split second earlier, but the sound will be slightly louder. Sega VR’s built-in stereo headphones make use of the psychology of perception to recreate the three-dimensional world of sound. When you’re wearing the Sega VR headset, you will be able to hear sounds from all directions, even those coming from above or below.

Stereo Vision

Your two eyes also help you localize an object in space. When your eyes focus on an object, each eye receives a slightly different image, a phenomenon scientists call binocular parallax. Binocular parallax is the basis of the technology behind 3-D movies, where polarizing lenses cause each eye to receive a slightly different image.

Likewise, Sega VR will create the impression that you are exploring an alternate reality. As your eyes shift focus from one object to the next, the binocular parallax constantly changes to give you the impression of a three-dimensional world.

Head Tracking

3-D glasses are convincing only if you keep your head still. If you have ever tried ducking to avoid a 3-D “object,” you know that the illusion fails as soon as you move your head. This is because the 3-D effect is the same wherever you happen to be in the theater, so that moving your head left or right (or up or down) has little effect on the image. The boxing glove of the jet of water will still be coming straight toward you.

To make the virtual reality experience more true to life, Sega VR uses head-tracking technology to modify the image as you move your head. Turn your head to the left, and the scene changes accordingly, bringing another part of the virtual world into view. Tilt your head up, and you can see the mother ship gliding by overhead.

Sega’s revolutionary technology works by monitoring head movement through special sensors embedded in the headset. To make sure the system responds rapidly, the sensors monitor head movement more than 100 times each second. Move your head, and the screen responds almost immediately.

The combination of stereo sound, stereo vision and head tracking can create the impression of a virtual world. And you won’t be limited to just one virtual world — with four different games under development, Sega VR will be your passport to alternate realities.

Welcome to the NEXT WORLD

Nuclear Rush

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.

Iron Hammer

Pilot an armed skimmer gunship on a high-speed search-and-destroy mission in this game of interplanetary warfare. Skim over water, ice, grassy planes and rocky terrain through 30 levels of dusk-to-dawn alien combat zones.

Matrix Runner

Play an elite superhacker in this unique cyberspace voyage. You have to explore the dark, winding databanks of the Matrix to solve the mysterious disappearance of your colleagues, knowing that you might be the next victim. In your travels, you will collide with strange semi-humans and vulture-like beings.

Outlaw Racing

Take on 20 other cars in this crush of dirt-track combat. Crash and smash into walls and flip end-over-end in a mud-filled fight to the finish line. The stereo sound will engulf you in the roar of engines and the screeching of tearing metal as you speed for the flag.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade