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The Sega VR is a head-tracking virtual reality headset that was under development by Sega. Versions were planned for arcades and consoles (Sega Genesis and then Saturn), but only the arcade version was released, while the home console versions were cancelled.
The Sega VR was based on an IDEO virtual reality headset (HMD) with LCD screens in the visor and stereo headphones. Inertial sensors in the headset allowed the system to track and react to the movements of the user's head.
Sega, flush with funds from the success of its Sega Genesis (released as the Mega Drive outside of North America), announced the console in 1991. It was later seen in early 1993, at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (Winter CES), where Electronic Gaming Monthly noted it was an adaptation of a similar headset that Sega were already using for arcades. The magazine stated that a Mega Drive/Genesis version was planned for release in fall 1993 at $200 and would release with four launch games, including a port of arcade game Virtua Racing. Sega later announced that it is scheduled for release in spring 1994, according to Electronic Games.
Because of development difficulties, the console Sega VR headset remained only a prototype, and was never released to the general public. Then CEO Tom Kalinske stated that the system was not released due to it inducing motion sickness and severe headaches in users. It was last seen at the 1993 Summer CES, where it was demonstrated by Alan Hunter. It vanished from release schedules in 1994. Four games were apparently developed for the system, each using 16 MB cartridges that were to be bundled with the headset.
The company claimed to have terminated the project because the virtual reality effect was too realistic. Users might move while wearing the headset and injure themselves. The limited processing power of the system makes this claim unlikely, although there were reports of testers developing headaches and motion sickness. Mark Pesce, who worked on the Sega VR project, says SRI International, a research institute, warned Sega of the 'hazards of prolonged use'.
Only four original games were known to be in development.
- Nuclear Rush: A simulation in which users pilot a hovercraft in a futuristic war.
- Iron Hammer: In this helicopter simulation, gamers pilot a flying gunship a la EA’s popular “Strike” series.
- Matrix Runner: reported to be a “cyberpunk” adventure game inspired by Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher.
- Outlaw Racing: Road Rash meets Rock -n- Roll Racing in this vehicle racing/combat game.
Sega went on to other VR projects for use in arcades and a similar add-on was reported but never seen for the Sega Saturn. The project encouraged a brief flurry of other companies to offer VR products.
In 1994, Sega VR technology was utilized for the Sega VR-1 motion simulator arcade attraction, which was available at SegaWorld arcades. It was able to track head movement and featured 3D polygon graphics in stereoscopic 3D. A scaled-down version, Dennoo Senki Net Merc, was demonstrated at Japan's 1995 AOU (Amusement Operators Union) show, and it used the Sega Model 1 arcade system board to produce the 3D graphics. However, the game's flat-shaded graphics were compared unfavourably to the Sega Model 2's textured-filtered graphics.
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