V-Rtifacts

Tag Archive: 1992

W-Industries Unscripted

W-Industries (Virtuality) always seemed to have a PR person riding herd on any video material that was released about the company or products. Everything the public saw was tightly scripted and edited.  But… here’s a 1992 video from inside the factory that’s more of a home movie cum operations tutorial. We are guided through some of the guts of the Series 1000, the pre-play systems, and the assembly area.

Don’t forget to turn on the YouTube subtitles, the audio track is in Swedish.

The Games That Would Be King

From 1991 to 1996 W Industries Virtuality systems defined the image of VR in the location based entertainment arena. Here in the US, Horizon Entertainment was their sole distributor. W Industries was remarkably innovative with their use of technology, but their “innovations” in finances were not so successful. Arcade operators had a difficult time breaking even; motivated by their IPO, W extended credit to these operators to bolster their sales figures; and by 1996 W was in receivership leaving stockholders and vendors less than whole.

However… Virtuality, first using an Amiga platform and later a 486 PC, achieved a remarkable quality of game play for those early years. This collection of videos will give you a flavor. Thanks go out to Fronzel who generously compiled many of these. Watch! (more…)

VRASP, Pix-Elation, and Phlogiston

1992 brought a non-virtual swarm of young and eager students to every VR event (and there were WAY too many) under the sun. Perhaps there were massive show discounts for attendees who were too young to drink legally, but members of the Virtual Reality Alliance of Students and Professionals (VRASP) were everywhere. You’d think this would be a major annoyance for the corporate crowd, but au contraire; what a joy to hang with the best and brightest… no hype, no BS, none of the pretentiousness so evident elsewhere in VR-land. VRASP directors included both VR industry management and an incredibly motivated and knowledgeable cadre of university students.

VRASP was the brainchild of Karin August, a Rutgers alum, and all around energizer bunny (Karin where are ya now??) Among other things, she and her cohorts had no problem moving right into a spare room at my company’s office; in exchange we got a full page inside-cover advertisement in VRASP’s almost-monthly publication Pix-Elation (Read a sample issue: Pix-Elation Issue 11) Taken from VRASP’s statement of purpose:

VRASP encourages immersion, interaction, and information dissemination amongst our membership, as well as between people and technology. Each VRASP Cell holds educationally-oriented meetings and events at which VRASP members get to socialize “ftf”, sharing their eclectic knowledge and cooperatively pursuing a future where Virtual Reality is a Reality.

There was certainly an element of socialization from Gordon Biersch to the Carnegie Deli, and this was reflected in their ‘zine: Pix-Elation. Columns like: “Dear Glovey”, “Lawnmower Lounge Lizard”, and “Fraunhofer Frolic” put the tease on; was Captain Beefheart inside?  Anyway, no need to pimp ’em further. Just read the ‘zine and weep!

Siggraph ’92 Wrap

The media drops in on Siggraph ’92 in Chicago:

Definitely a show that I outsmarted myself on. Had an exhibitor’s badge from a friend (thanks Marilyn!), and while touring the exhibits before opening I found a booth where the exhibitor had bailed… it was empty. Grabbed my PhotoVR computer gear and Flight Helmet out of the car along with a company sign stashed in the spare tire well, and setup “our” booth. Nature (and I) abhor a vacuum. But, as the video above clearly demonstrates: if you’re not in the show program, you’re not gonna be on TV.

The show wasn’t a total waste, met up with a college kid who was brimming with VR helmet ideas. Just a year later, Brad Burnett had launched his own company and a new head mount product, the Tier1.

Limitations and Drawbacks

Nina Ziv’s 1992 Merrill Lynch VR industry research report has an amusing section: Limitations and Drawbacks of VR Technology, in which she identifies “several problems with virtual reality technology which must be addressed if it is to succeed.”

  • Inadequate Image Resolution
  • Time Lag Between the User and the Virtual Reality System’s Response
  • Limited Position Tracking Systems
  • Cumbersome Equipment
  • Interpretation of Body Movements
  • Total Representation of the Senses
  • Simulation Sickness
  • Cost Factors

She concludes: “Moreover, by the turn of the century, it is predicted that this technology will be widely available for business and home use.” The century turned 10 years ago and I’ll leave it to the readers to decide how many of these Limitations and Drawbacks have been overcome.

Warning Will Robinson, Warning!

Flashback to 1992. My Silicon Graphics rep, Len, walks in the door with a guy from Sportland,  a mega entertainment center down near the auto-malls north of Philadelphia. You know: pizza, birthday parties, arcade games, bumper cars, tokens, and more tokens. They’re both hyped on the potential of VR in the arcades (I thought that hype was supposed to be my job.) I was pitched on the idea of investing my sweat and money, as they were going to franchise something and make millions (billions??) The warning lights were blazing, so I settled for a cash-on-the-barrel development contract. Len arranged to lend this guy a tricked out SGI system and vouched for the helmet loaner from Virtual Research. Six weeks later the Voyager started raking in the millions at Sportland.

Fast-forward to 2 months later. Len’s been knocking on Sportland’s door for a month trying to get a purchase order for the loaner computer and Virtual Research calls me daily to see where the hell their loaner helmet was. Finally, Len and a couple of burly confederates charge into Sportland during operating hours and carry off the SGI, monitor, and VR helmet.

Read the Voyager Investors Information Kit. With cash flow like that, Len must have been crazy to shut ’em down.

Apologies for the monotone narration – That’s part of the pitch!

“Clearly In The Development Stage”

We knew it was in the development stage, but did the Computer Chronicles have to remind any potential customers. That’s OK because the conference’s resident AI expert (didn’t AI bubble and burst in the 80’s) tells us: “… the resolution is low, the headgear is uncomfortable, but what’s exciting is … the promise of the technology.” Watch and learn:

As usual … I’m at the tail end of the video, long past my sell-by date.

Lawrence Taylor Teams Up With Virtual Reality

Sidelined in early Nov. 1992, LT was moving on to bigger and better things… Virtual Reality. The VRI-LT Press Release says it all:

Virtual Reality, Inc. (Electronic Bulletin Board — VIRT) has announced today the signing of an agreement with Lawrence Taylor’s All Pro Sports Products, Inc. for the development, commercialization and worldwide marketing of virtual reality sports and entertainment games.

Somewhere I’ve got a photo of Jerry Garcia wearing a VRI head mounted display. Gotta dig through the cartons of analog images.

By the looks of its VRI-Brochure, VRI was covering all the bases. The stock listing and suits bucked the trend in the VR biz.

<p>Virtual Reality, Inc. - eye logo</p>