Sega VR
Official press image
ManufacturerSega
TypeVideo game accessory
GenerationFourth generation
Release dateCancelled

The Sega VR is an unreleased virtual reality headset developed by Sega in the early 1990s. Planned as an add-on peripheral for the Sega Genesis and only publicly showcased at a number of trade shows and expositions, its release was postponed and later cancelled outright after Sega ran into development issues. At least four in-progress games for the hardware were in development before its cancellation.

The project was largely driven by Sega of America; a more successful, separate, and officially released attempt at a virtual reality headset, the Mega Visor Display, was overseen by Sega's Japanese amusement divisions and United Kingdom-based collaborators Virtuality, and would be used in the VR-1 theme park ride and the Dennou Senki Net Merc arcade game. The similarly titled VR-1 is not to be confused with the Sega VR.[1]

Features

The Sega VR's design was based on an IDEO virtual reality head-mounted display containing LCD screens in the visor and stereo headphones.[2] The headset tracking solution was developed by a small electronics company called Ono-Sendai that had been experimenting with VR headsets. The method employed was only capable of tracking two degrees of freedom but was very inexpensive, costing only around $1 per unit, making it affordable for the consumer market.[3] The device used a magnetometer to detect azimuth relative to the Earth's magnetic field and an optical sensor measuring the refraction of light at the boundary of a gas and fluid to detect tilt.[4]

Development

Sega of America, flush with funds from the success of its Mega Drive/Genesis, announced the peripheral in 1991.[2] It was later seen in 1993 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Chicago, where it was demonstrated by Alan Hunter and appeared close to a finished product.[5][6] The event stated that the headset was planned to use the Genesis hardware and would be released in late 1993 at US$200 (equivalent to $410 in 2022) with four confirmed launch games and the possibility of a port of arcade game Virtua Racing.[7] Sega later announced release was slated for early 1994, according to Electronic Games.[8]

The Sega VR headset was never released to the general public and it vanished from release schedules in 1994. There are conflicting reports as to why the product was cancelled. Sega officially claimed to have terminated the project because the virtual reality effect was "too realistic", so users might move while wearing the headset and injure themselves.[2] However, Tom Kalinske, then president and CEO of Sega of America, stated that the system would not be released due to reports of it inducing motion sickness and severe headaches in users.[9][2] Mark Pesce, who worked on the Sega VR project, says a SRI International conducted research on the product and warned Sega of the "hazards of prolonged use".[10]

Games

Only four original games are known to have been in development.[11]

Sega also announced a port of Sega AM2's hit 1992 arcade game Virtua Racing as a launch game for the device, though it is not known how far this reached in development.[7]

Legacy

Following the cancellation of the Sega VR, a few further attempts were made by Sega to develop virtual reality technology. A similar peripheral was reportedly made, but never seen, for the Saturn.[2][16]

While Sega of America undertook development on the Sega VR, Sega of Japan endeavoured to create their own virtual reality project. Sega entered into an agreement to collaborate with the pioneering Virtuality Group on a VR arcade project in 1993.[17] Following this the two companies entered into negotiations to build a new headset by combining their previous development assets in the field of VR.[1]

The result of the agreement was the Mega Visor Display, publicly released for the first time in July 1994 as part of the VR-1 attraction installed at Sega's flagship Joypolis indoor theme parks in Japan, as well as SegaWorld London and Sega World Sydney.[1] Alongside the attraction, the MVD was praised in reviews at the time for its advancements in ergonomic design and graphical output, and was supposedly not fully matched in performance until the 2010s.[1]

A second project to utilize the Mega Visor Display, the Dennou Senki Net Merc arcade game, was later demonstrated at Japan's 1995 AOU (Amusement Operators Union) show, using the Sega Model 1 arcade system board to produce its 3D graphics.[18] Net Merc subsequently received much more muted reception, with the game's flat-shaded graphics compared unfavourably to the Sega Model 2's textured-filtered graphics when showcased.[19]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Kevin Williams. "The Virtual Arena – Blast From The Past: The VR-1". VR Focus.
  2. ^ a b c d e Horowitz, Ken (December 28, 2004). "Sega VR: Great Idea or Wishful Thinking?". Sega-16. Archived from the original on January 14, 2010. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  3. ^ "The Story of Sega VR: Sega's Failed Virtual Reality Headset". www.designnews.com. Retrieved November 9, 2023.
  4. ^ US5526022A, Donahue, Michael J.; Pesce, Mark D. & Groot, Marc de et al., "Sourceless orientation sensor", issued 1996-06-11 
  5. ^ Sega V.R. U.S. Debut @ 1993 Summer CES in Chicago, retrieved November 8, 2023
  6. ^ "SegaVR". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved December 30, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Electronic Gaming Monthly, Video Game Preview Guide, 1993
  8. ^ "Electronic Games 1994 01". archive.org.
  9. ^ Vinciguerra, Robert. "Tom Kalinske Talks About His Time Overseeing Sega As Its CEO in the 90s; Reveals That Sega Passed on Virtual Boy Technology, Considered Releasing 3DO". The Rev. Rob Times. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  10. ^ Robson, Wayde. "WARNING: 3D Video Hazardous to Your Health". Audioholics. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  11. ^ Vinciguerra, Robert. "Sega VR Console: To Obscurity and Beyond". The Rev. Rob Times. Retrieved December 30, 2013.
  12. ^ Sega-Nuclear-Rush, OldSkoolCode, May 31, 2023, retrieved November 8, 2023
  13. ^ Unreleased Sega VR Headset Emulated On HTC Vive!, retrieved November 8, 2023
  14. ^ "Iron Hammer [SEGA VR - Unreleased] - Unseen64". Unseen64: Beta, Cancelled & Unseen Videogames!. June 16, 2008. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  15. ^ Iron Hammer @ VGH2K8 [SEGA VR (MD/Genesis) - UNRELEASED!], retrieved November 8, 2023
  16. ^ Gaming Gossip. Electronic Gaming Monthly. Issue 70. p. 54. May 1995.
  17. ^ "Sega Teams Up With W. Industries For Its VR Game" (PDF). Game Machine. No. 445. Japan: Amusement Press. August 15, 1993. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 23, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  18. ^ "Netmerc, Arcade Video game by SEGA Enterprises, Ltd. (1994)". www.arcade-history.com. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  19. ^ "NEXT Generation Issue #June 6, 1995". June 26, 1995 – via Internet Archive.