Virtua Walker 87 is an experimental VR walking simulator prototype, developed by the secretive Silicon Valley startup AGL. Virtua Walker 87 had a limited beta release in September 1987, but early hype faded when reports came in from selected journalists and industry insiders that the technology did not match high consumer expectations. Following a catastrophic live demonstration in San Francisco, the project was cancelled. Only 10 beta prototypes made it into public hands. Until recently, only one of these prototypes was accounted for. This non-functioning unit has been on display in the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, England, as a curiosity. In January 2017, a functioning beta prototype was discovered in a garage in Dundee, Scotland… ----- Virtua Walker 87 is a game about walking on beaches. It does not seek to shorten the walking experience, and instead seeks to emulate the actual distances and walking times on the corresponding real beaches. Virtua Walker 87 is conceived as an ill-thought out 1980s virtual reality prototype, developed by an ambitious startup that had grand ideas about virtual reality and the creation of a full sensory user experience. Neither the technology of the time nor the overall product design matched this ambition. Virtua Walker 87 was driven by hype, but in actuality it is an uncomfortable experience to endure. The graphics are limited to 2-bit colour, rendered in 3D but using a dither map technique that can unsettle and confuse. The audio is limited to an emulation of 8-bit audio. This is accompanied by a jarring synth voice-over for narration. The player must also walk barefoot on sand and gravel, to add to the full sensory experience. This makes the game more about physical endurance than a typical walking simulator controlled by a thumbstick.
Tools and Technologies:
Virtual reality head mount display (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, etc.)
A bespoke walking detection hardware was designed and developed. This comprises two Force Sensitive Resistors that detect when the player applies weight to them, while walking on the spot. This data is captured by an Arduino and transmitted over wireless connection to the Gear VR Android device.