Virtual Insanity

Interestingly, Atari were planning on releasing a virtual reality headset for the Jaguar. I remember reading about this contraption in Games Master Magazine and was really interested to see how the whole plan would pan out. Sadly, as we now know, Atari pulled the plug - quite literally - on the project when testers of the hardware reported becoming 'woozy' whilst playing with the headset. The company hauled in to design the peripheral, Virtuality, were reportedly instructed to redesign the VR unit and came back with a better, higher resolution model but by this time the writing was on the wall and Atari cancelled the project.

I find the sheer scope of such a project fascinating, and it demonstrates the faith Atari were willing to put into the Jaguar. The great appeal of the Jag for me probably lies in all of these unanswered 'what ifs' and untapped potential that seems to permeate every aspect of the console - the team-tap that only got one compatible game, the console link-up option, the proposed modem...all in a time when this kind of thing was unheard of in the console market. Maybe the VR headset was a step too far in an era that wasn't ready for it, but we'll never know if it could have caught on because of Atari's inability to handle more important and urgent aspects of the Jaguar's business model: getting high profile games and developers onboard.

According to Wikipedia, only two prototype VR headsets are known to still exist and only one game (Missile Command 3D) was shipped with compatibility built in. Here are some images I found on Google of the VR headset:





It's funny that now, in 2013, the Oculus Rift is getting all the media coverage yet Atari had similar plans way back in the early 1990s for a home-based virtual reality experience. Looking at the comparative videos of contemporary dedicated VR machines, the quality would probably have been questionable, but again, you have to admire Atari for even attempting something so audacious with the technology of the time.

There's a much more in-depth look at the Jaguar VR and the functions of the various components of the device here at JagCube

1 comment:

  1. I think the true credit should be given to Virtuality and the incredibly talented guys working there at the time. They're the ones who did all the R&D, development and sunk their money into the Jaguar VR until it basically put them out of business because Atari never paid them since they cancelled on them. I owned the blue unit pictured above and created JagCube. The JagVR was a very complex system and pushed the limits of the technology available to them for the 90s.

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