Virtual Reality CS-1000

Last year at Retro Revival  I got the chance to don a Virtual Reality headset and step into a vintage CS-1000 VR pod.

Me, sticking it to the virtual man.

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Since then, the owner of this particular pod and other VF gear has teamed up with Andy at the Retro Computer Museum to have the equipment available at their gaming shows and the exciting prospect of having two pods linked together for multiplayer gaming.

Check out this 1990’s episode of Gamesmaster featuring the VR game Dactyl Nightmare running on two VF pods.

It’s been ages since I’ve popped down to the museum and having an item to drop off and collect I thought I’d take a little time out from our DIY work  and go see what they’re up to…

…and as luck would have it, a glimpse at the technology behind one of the Virtuality pods

Virtuality

 

That’s the Matrix there and it’s powered by Commodore Amiga technology.

 

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This particular unit is having a few video issues but owner Simon was confident that they could be resolved. By the time I’d finished drooling over some the museums software archive a little later on, video of  Dactyl Nightmare was being displayed on one of the headset tv screens.

 

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The CS-1000 pod in storage and awaits a clean and it’s brain refitting. Hopefully this second unit will be up and running soon and fingers crossed, will make an appearance at one of this years retro gaming events.

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Donning the VR Helmet again?

Exciting news coming from Revival Events as we count down the weeks until to their big retro gaming event in May – They’ve only gone and found a working Virtual Reality!

This unit will be available for visitors to sample.

VR_Booth

Back in the early 90’s when VR was was state of the art and a technology that would change the world, I was working for IBM  and through some contract or another there was a team of engineers that were involved in the initial setup of a VR centre. I’m not entirely sure what IBM’s involvement were (i think theyprovided the high end workstations)  but short story was,  I somehow managed to blag my way to accompany the engineers and a have looksee for myself.

There were three VR booths in total so I climbed into one and donned the helmet with the help of one of the engineers. You stood in the centre of the booth which some sort of roofless cage that had a padded barrier about waist height which would stop you from wandering off and hurting yourself once plugged into the VR world.  I managed to grab myself a good few hours on one whilst the other engineers did their IBM engineering thang.

The huge VR helmet looked a lot heavier than what it actually was and I was surprised on how light it was considering the tech inside and what i hoped wouldn’t be a giant needle that would connect my brain to the monster 486 PC rigs 🙂

Just nippin out for a pint of milk luv.

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You also had  sort of wired grip that you held in one hand and this would be reproduced in the VR world allowing you to interact with the environment or in the case of one of the games, hold a sword. The grandfather of the wii-mote?

Expecting some kind of funky sci-fi tunnel effect I ‘plugged into VR’. Sadly, nothing like that…just static.

 

Tron-Tunnel

Those initial tech demos which were mainly 3D rooms that you could ‘walk’ and look around. There was nothing much to do here other than to get used to the VR helmet tracking system which relay the image on screen based to the helmet  movement. You could  also manipulate certain items using your digital hand which really was cool. Tried as much as I did though I still couldn’t Virtual flip the bird.

 

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Despite the low refresh frame rate, primitive polygon graphics and camera flicker. This was fascinating stuff alright and at times you really felt part of this new world.

After the tech demo, I got chance to play a game and a opportunity to really interact with the VR environment  Details are a little sketchy as it was a long time ago but I seem to recall the VR world being set in some sort of medieval/fantasy castle and I remember stone walls, draw bridges and flaming torches on the walls. I also remember the 3D sword welding skeleton that you had to fight as well….Maybe I should have taken the red and blue pill?

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Well, when I say fight, what I mean was waving your VR sword around in the hope of either hitting ol’boney or parry any inbound blows. I’d like to say it was realistic but sadly it wasn’t. It was slow, unresponsive and the screen flicker gave you a head ache…..but, it was a first step into something us Tron loving gamers had been dreaming about  for year.

 

 

Sadly, VR never really caught on but who knows now that entertainment technology is steering towards immersible experiences with 3D, motion control console gaming and augmented reality – I for one am really excited about those Google Goggles..sorry glasses.

Still, as a fan of older retro technology be it cool or crap, I’m really looking forward to trying out that retro chic VR booth at Revival and donning the helmet again.

See you on the other side?