Oculus founder Palmer Lucky claims to have designed a VR headset that will kill you in real life if you die in the game you're playing.
In a recent blog post, Lucky discussed their new project, inspired by Japanese novel series Sword Art Online. In that franchise, November 6, 2022 is the day that a scientist trapped thousands of people in a VR MMO that could "only be escaped through completion." The headset couldn't be removed, and if a player died in-game, the 'NerveGear' headset would bombard their brain with microwave radiation, killing them in real-life.
In the post, Lucky claims to have made something very similar. The deadly microwaves wouldn't work in real life "without attaching the headset to gigantic pieces of equipment," so instead Lucky says he used three "explosive charge modules." Those were attached to a "narrow-band photosensor," attuned to a specific frequency of flashes of red light that would be easy for a developer to adapt to a game over screen. When that screen appears and the sensors are triggered, "the charges fire, instantly destroying the brain of the user."
Veering fully towards villain territory, Lucky says his headset isn't finished. For one thing, the almost-perfect VR that features in the Sword Art Online story is still "many years out," but he's also planning an "anti-tamper mechanism" that would make it impossible to remove the headset. All that said, he's not actually tested the system yet as "there are a huge variety of failures that could occur and kill the user at the wrong time."
For now, Lucky says that the headset is just "a piece of office art," but also claims that it "won't be the last" deadly piece of VR technology. I'd argue that there's a chance you'd be able to use that technology for good, but Lucky - who has courted political controversy in the years since Oculus' move to Facebook - does seem to be going full super-villain here.
Fancy something just as immersive but a little less deadly? Here's how to find the best VR headset.