Around 25 years ago, I visited the Forest Fair Mall in Cincinnati, a large, sprawling mall that has since closed down. One of the greatest features of this particular mall (to an 11-year-old kid) was the basement arcade. Running the full length of the mall, it had everything you could want: a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, mini golf, laser tag.
But the pièce de résistance was a pair of Virtuality pods, a virtual reality (VR) experience created by the Virtuality Group. The Virtuality 1000 featured a stereoscopic head-mounted display helmet (HMD), an exoskeleton touch glove and gun, and a waist-high ring used to track a player’s movement within the enclosure. This specific VR experience was a local user multiplayer experience: Take on all comers in a high-energy laser battle!
My father patiently waited in line with me and handed over the $10 for me to play. By the time I reached the front of the line, I was bouncing off the walls with excitement. As the helmet was lowered onto my head, I closed my eyes, mentally preparing myself for the wonders of the virtual world I would be entering. Where would I be transported to? A lush, Amazonian jungle? A gleaming futuristic metropolis? Surely my imagination could not prepare me for the wonders I was about to behold.
Thus prepared, opening my eyes, I found … a mostly empty, boxy world populated by pixelated characters. Confused and disoriented, I glanced around the crudely rendered environment, the tracking barely keeping up ...