Oculus Rift Founder Developing Working NerveGear Headset from ‘Sword Art Online’

A dead girl and her NerveGear headset from 'Sword Art Online'
A dead girl and her NerveGear headset from 'Sword Art Online'

On the 10th anniversary of when the fictional game Sword Art Online went live, the creator of the Oculus rift VR headset revealed the development of the virtual reality headset based on the series, including its deadly side effects.

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November 6th, 2022 was the 10th anniversary of when ten thousand gamers logged in, and were ultimately held hostage in the VRMMORPG Sword Art Online by fictional creator and antagonist of the light novel and anime – Akihiko Kayaba.

The only way out of the virtual world of Aincrad is to complete all one hundred levels of the game. However, if the players died in the game, or if the NerveGear was abruptly removed, the player’s headset would unleash powerful microwaves upon the brain, effectively killing them.

The NerveGear VR Headset from ‘Sword Art Online’

Super-fan and founder of Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey, revealed on his blog that he is halfway towards bringing the highly sought after NerveGear headset to life. This includes the deadly function of the headset bombarding the user’s brain with powerful microwaves upon them dying in the game.

Luckey has always been fascinated by the idea of the high stakes of tying one’s actual life to a virtual in-game avatar. “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.” he said.

‘Sword Art Online’ Episode 9 “The Blue-Eyed Demon” (2012), Aniplex.

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“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.”

The good news for Sword Art Online and gaming enthusiasts is that Luckey is at the halfway point to recreating the perfect functioning rendition of the NerveGear. Unfortunately, he has only managed to calculate the equations of recreating the lethal half of the NerveGear. 

‘Sword Art Online’ Episode 1: “The World of Swords” (2012), Aniplex.

According to Luckey, the NerveGear contains a microwave emitter which can be overdriven to lethal levels. This function was something fictional creator Akihiko Kayaba kept secret from regulators, contract manufacturing partners, and even his own employees.

However, Luckey has struggled to recreate this aspect of the NerveGear without attaching the headset to a gigantic piece of equipment like Yuuki’s medicuboid, seen in the second season.

‘Sword Art Online’ II Episode 22: “Journey’s End” (2014), Aniplex

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Instead, Luckey opted for three explosive charge modules which are being used for a different unspecified project, then tied to a narrow-band photosensor that detects the headset when the screen flashes red at a specific frequency.  “When the appropriate game-over screen is displayed. The charges fire, instantly destroying the brain of the user.”  

Luckey has confirmed he next plans to recreate the anti-tamper mechanism of the NerveGear, which makes it impossible for the user to remove or destroy the headset.  He recognizes the massive amount of risks which come with the huge variety of failures that could occur, and kill the user at the wrong time.

‘Sword Art Online’ Episode 1: “The World of Swords” (2012), Aniplex.

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“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.”

‘Sword Art Online’ Episode 14: “The End of the World” (2012), Aniplex.

Currently, the NerveGear prototype is a piece of art in Luckey’s office, or as he describes it, “a thought-provoking reminder of the unexplored avenues in game design.” He also considers it to be the “first non-fiction example of a virtual reality device with the ability kill the user. It won’t be the last.” 

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