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Dead medium: the Nintendo Virtual Boy, the Logitech Cyberman 3D mouse, the Nintendo Power Glove
From: plichty@eznets.canton.oh.us (Pat Lichty)
Source(s): Ownership, retail market observations.

Bruce,


Here are a couple "fresh kills" that I thought you might

enjoy.

Dying Medium:

Nintendo Virtual Boy

1995-

In the halcyon rush to capitalize on the pop cultural fad of virtual reality,

Nintendo produced what amounts to a cross between a Super NES and a

head-mounted display. The gaming device is two to three times the size of

other commercial head mounted display devices. Furthermore, due to its

bulkiness and weight, the Virtual Boy sits perched atop a table stand. This

causes the player to sit hunched over the device, reminding me of the old

Edison Kinetoscopes.

The Virtual Boy rests comfortably atop the face if it's used in a reclining

position, with the stand resting on the viewer's chest.

The display itself is a monochrome red of fairly high resolution (well

above 320x200), and offers personal adjustments for optical parallax and

focus. The control has six buttons and two "joypads", much like those

offered on the Sony PlayStation. In July 1996, there were only about 20

games extant for this platform.

According to discussions with various local and regional retailers, the

Virtual Boy sales were lackluster, and were not up to Nintendo's

expectations. I would speculate that the Virtual Boy's market failure was

due to its monochrome display, its cumbersome ergonomics, and the fact

that no one else can watch the user play. The competitive spirit is a big

part of the enjoyment of gaming.

Currently, the Virtual Boy is still on the shelves, retailing for around $95.

The used apparatus are commonly available for around $40, with games

selling for about $25.

One ironic point of note: as I sifted through the Virtual Boy titles on the

shelves, the title displayed most prominently was "Water World."

Dead medium:

Logitech CyberMan (3D Mouse)

Source(s): Owners' manual, personal experience.

Another entry in the race to capitalize in the VR craze of the mid-nineties

was the Logitech CyberMan mouse. A three-buttoned horn-like

appendage connected to an ovoid base, the Cyberman was a masterpiece

of design aesthetics. The user could push, pull, turn, and twist the mouse-

like control horn to control movement and rotation in three axes, with six

degrees of freedom.

Furthermore, the Cyberman featured tactile feedback in the form of

vibration through the "mouse."

To sense its location, the device read its position through pressure-

sensitive resistive films. These materials also allowed the CyberMan to

sense the degree of twist in the control horn, enabling it to control the rate

of spin during game play. The tactile feedback was created by a motor

with an offset weight, which vibrated with an often startling thrumming

noise.

In operation, the CyberMan was extremely inaccurate. Its location

method was imprecise, and its plastic construction was flimsy. It was

difficult to operate in graphical user environments, such as Microsoft

Windows. However, the CyberMan was supported by game

manufacturers, such as ID and Apogee. In games such as Descent, the

Cyberman performed wonderfully. It's still my personal favorite I/O

device for 3D games, along with the Virtual I/O glasses' head tracker.

The CyberMan was discontinued by most national retailers in mid-1995,

and hasn't been heard of since.

Would the Nintendo Power Glove be considered 'dead' even though it

has a vital cult following? I would argue it is, due to its death as a

mainstream gaming i/o device.

Ever your loyal necronaut,

Pat Lichty (plichty@eznets.canton.oh.us)