Years ago, long before Retrovolve’s Josh used the Oculus Rift while hungover, the world was fascinated by the concept of virtual reality. Developers released poorly conceived virtual reality consoles, films featured ridiculous virtual reality headsets, and Philips attempted to capitalize on the trend by releasing the Scuba Virtual Immersion Visor in 1996.
Despite its futuristic appearance, the Scuba Virtual Immersion Visor didn’t actually involve virtual reality of any sort. It was quite literally a low-resolution television set you had to wear on your head, and it may have been the least useful video game peripheral ever made.
Advertisements boldly claimed that you hadn’t played a game until you’d played it wearing an Immersion Visor. The Scuba did offer gamers a fairly unique experience, but for all the wrong reasons. It was essentially an expensive way to wreck your eyes and give yourself an assortment of painful ailments. A review in PSM #4 claims that its straps could leave semi-permanent marks on your face, and the visor seems to have been created with neck cramps in mind.
To add salt to the wound, the Scuba’s design made it impossible to get a clear view of the screen. The top and bottom were difficult to view, and corners were obscured completely. Players who used the Scuba were forced to awkwardly stumble around the screen as they tried to readjust the several-pound torture device attached to their head.
The Scuba Virtual Immersion Visor launched at $299, a hundred dollars more than the launch price for the Nintendo 64. Some may say that people who shelled out for this peripheral deserved what they got, but I can’t help but understand why someone may have been tempted into making such a ridiculous purchase.
In the late 90s, it felt like an incredible future was right around the corner. I was frequently enthralled by strange new devices that completely failed to live up to my expectations. If I’d had the cash, I too may have been convinced to affix a poor-quality TV set to my noggin.
As long as there are consoles, there will be terrible, terrible peripherals for them. Still, it’s hard to imagine anything that could out-awful Philips and their faux virtual reality headset.