Oculus Creator Designs VR Headset That Can Kill Wearer

Gruesome development. Founder of Oculus, Palmer Luckey, creates prototype VR headset that can actually kill wearer if avatar dies online

The founder of Oculus has created perhaps one of the most disturbing tech devices ever, for the Metaverse and virtual reality world.

Palmer Luckey founded Oculus, which was acquired by Facebook (now Meta) back in 2014 for $1.9 billion in cash and common stock.

In a blog post, Luckey revealed he has developed a virtual reality headset, called NerveGear, that can actually kill the wearer in real life if their avatar dies in an online computer game.

Lethal NerveGear VR headset. Image credit Palmer Luckey

Gruesome development

The development of this prototype headset prompts the question….why? Why invent such a device in the first place?

Luckey revealed the lethal headset was inspired by the events of an anime called Sword Art Online (SAO), which features a similar contraption.

“…NerveGear, the incredible device that perfectly recreates reality using a direct neural interface that is also capable of killing the user,” wrote Luckey in his blog post. “The idea of tying your real life to your virtual avatar has always fascinated me – you instantly raise the stakes to the maximum level and force people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with the virtual world and the players inside it.”

“Pumped up graphics might make a game look more real, but only the threat of serious consequences can make a game feel real to you and every other person in the game,” he added. “This is an area of videogame mechanics that has never been explored, despite the long history of real-world sports revolving around similar stakes.”

Luckey in his blog admitted that he had been fired from Facebook in 2017. After his departure from Facebook (Meta), he founded defence contractor Anduril Industries.

Luckey noted in his blog that “the good news is that we are halfway to making a true NerveGear” (i.e. a device that kills the brainwaves of the user).

“The bad news is that so far, I have only figured out the half that kills you,” he wrote. “The perfect-VR half of the equation is still many years out.”

The NerveGear from the SAO anime apparently contained a microwave emitter that could be overdriven to lethal levels.

Explosive charges

Luckey however has had to rely on conventional munitions to add a lethal angle to his gruesome prototype.

Essentially the headset comes equipped with three explosive charge modules positioned above the visor.

“In lieu of this, I used three of the explosive charge modules I usually use for a different project, tying them to a narrow-band photosensor that can detect when the screen flashes red at a specific frequency, making game-over integration on the part of the developer very easy,” wrote Luckey. “When an appropriate game-over screen is displayed, the charges fire, instantly destroying the brain of the user.”

“This isn’t a perfect system, of course,” he wrote. “I have plans for an anti-tamper mechanism that, like the NerveGear, will make it impossible to remove or destroy the headset. Even so, there are a huge variety of failures that could occur and kill the user at the wrong time.

“This is why I have not worked up the balls to actually use it myself, and also why I am convinced that, like in SAO, the final triggering should really be tied to a high-intelligence agent that can readily determine if conditions for termination are actually correct,” said Luckey.

He concluded the blog by saying that the prototype is “just a piece of office art, a thought-provoking reminder of unexplored avenues in game design. It is also, as far as I know, the first non-fiction example of a VR device that can actually kill the user. It won’t be the last.”

He finished with a cheerful “see you in the metaverse” message.