Palmer Luckey, the creator of the original Oculus Rift headset, says he’s modified a VR headset such that it can kill the user for real. The provocative art project is inspired by the anime Sword Art Online in which players who are trapped in VR die for real if they die in the virtual world.

In the anime Sword Art Online, November 6th, 2022 is the day in which the VRMMORPG goes public, and the same day that players learn the dire circumstances of their situation. As the story goes, unbeknownst to those who joined the game, the NerveGear VR headset they are wearing will kill them in real life if they die in the virtual world. They will also die if someone attempts to remove the headset from their real body.

Though there’s a long history of anime based on virtual reality, Sword Art Online rose to popularity right around the time the Oculus Rift was starting to gain traction through its record-breaking 2012 Kickstarter.

Luckey, the creator of the Oculus Rift, recounts the many people that asked him if he knew of the anime Sword Art Online at the time that he was getting the newly founded company, Oculus, off the ground. Not only did Luckey know of the series, he has become something of a mega-fan… the kind that would receive figurines of him and his wife dressed as the show’s main characters as a wedding gift.

Through Luckey’s unique experience as a VR pioneer, mega-fan of Sword Art Online, and later founding of a defense technology company, there could hardly be someone more apt to do what came next…

On November 6th, 2022—that significant date in Sword Art OnlineLuckey claims he made a headset capable of killing its user via three explosive charges that could be triggered if the player dies in virtual reality.

A picture of the headset—a modified Quest Pro—which Luckey says can kill its user | Image courtesy Palmer Luckey

[…] I used three of the explosive charge modules I usually use for a different project, tying them to a narrow-band photosensor that can detect when the screen flashes red at a specific frequency, making game-over integration on the part of the developer very easy.  When an appropriate game-over screen is displayed, the charges fire, instantly destroying the brain of the user.

Luckey believes the ultimate realism in VR can only come from having such extreme stakes.

The idea of tying your real life to your virtual avatar has always fascinated me—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. 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.

For now Luckey calls the project “a piece of office art,” but seems interested in pursuing the idea further still… even if he’s not ready to wear the thing himself.

This isn’t a perfect system, of course.  I have plans for an anti-tamper mechanism that, like the NerveGear, will make it impossible to remove or destroy the headset.  Even so, there are a huge variety of failures that could occur and kill the user at the wrong time.  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.

A piece of “art,” indeed, though Luckey tells Road to VR that the explosives and trigger mechanism on the headset actually work, rather than being merely conceptual.

Though the idea seems rather morbid at face value, Luckey argues that it’s no different than the extreme consequences that underlie certain extreme sports. “This is an area of videogame mechanics that has never been explored, despite the long history of real-world sports revolving around similar stakes,” he writes.

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Although this appears to be his first concrete step toward a headset that could kill the user, it isn’t the first time he’s dealt with the idea of a virtual reality game with real consequences to players.

Back in 2017 Luckey explained how he was drawn to the concept of tying one’s virtual mortality to their actual mortality, saying that he was interested in building a game that imposes “serious results” (short of death, but still meaningful) on the user to ratchet up the stakes of the game.

The setting of [Sword Art Online] was ‘If you die in-game you also die in the real world’. This setting became obvious right after the launch of SAO. This is a very extreme result. If a player makes the wrong decision he will have the result of his death. This is different to a normal game where you just shoot stuff, and it does not matter when you die because you can just respawn countless times.

Right after hearing the concept of SAO I was drawn to it. Even now after several years I am thinking about the concept of a game in which you have the same serious results in the real world as in the game world. It is going to cause a ‘real result’ which makes the game ‘real’. It is a game in which no mistake is allowed, you have to seriously think about everything.

There are some examples of hyper-niche games which do have relatively serious consequences, like Lose/Lose which not only deletes itself from your computer when you lose, but also deletes random files on your computer each time you kill an enemy. There’s also some hardcore ‘permadeath’ MMO players who are sworn to delete their characters if they die in the game, which could mean hundreds if not thousands of hours of their lives going to waste if they follow through with the promise.

Though Luckey was gifted a miniature of himself wearing the clothes of Kirito, the hero of Sword Art Online, one must wonder if Kayaba Akihiko, the villain of the story, might have been equally appropriate… Luckey even uses a picture of Akihiko as his Twitter avatar.

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  • timelessicons

    I’ll stick to the quest 2 for now. lol He seems to be a brilliant guy though. Thanks for making VR finally become what it is so far. :)

  • Caven

    Tying VR to mortality is stupid. People tend to avoid dangerous activities in real life precisely because of the risk of death. So if avoiding death in VR means living a virtual life just as boring as real life, why bother? I wouldn’t go anywhere near most of my favorite VR experiences if failing at them could kill me.

    • Nepenthe

      There are those people who gravitate TOWARD dangerous activities in real life because of the risk of injury or death.

      • Caven

        Even then, such people expect to succeed at those activities. They don’t tend to try things with such a high chance of death that they’re almost certain to fail. And for the few that do, they don’t tend to live long enough to experience much of the thrill. Note that even the sorts of violent felons who ambush armored car shipments stop well short of the criminal antics that can be found in the typical GTA game.

    • Max-Dmg

      It would make the death penalty more fun for prisoners.

      • Max-Dmg

        Get 8 people on death row to play in a live streamed match.

    • Nevets

      Easy fella, it’s not really going to happen.

      • Caven

        Well, obviously he’s not trying to produce an actual commercial product, and I think it’s safe to say nobody’s going to be sneaking booby-traps into the assembly lines for VR headsets.

        I was specifically talking about Palmer Luckey’s fascination with mortality in VR making VR feel as real as possible. Sure, the idea makes for interesting fiction, but it undermines a lot of the appeal of VR. It’s readily apparent in the fiction that explores the idea. Note that the characters who find themselves in VR with actual life-and-death consequences generally do not enjoy that fact, and only deal with it because they have to for one reason or another. Outside of extreme thrill-seekers, it’s an idea that lessens the appeal of VR instead of enhancing it, so it’s odd to me that such a vocal proponent of VR is fascinated with an idea that would make VR worse.

        • Nevets

          Fair comment, but the guy’s clearly a few strawberries short of a full punnet. He was never a peace and love guy in the first place

    • Sven Viking

      It’s a joke in reference to a science fiction story about a villain trapping people in VR.

      • Caven

        Certainly the headset itself isn’t a serious attempt to create a product, but I was talking about Palmer Luckey’s fascination with the idea of mortality in VR. He seems to think it enhances the VR experience, and I disagree.

  • Octogod

    This is Luckey doing his best to disparage Meta after the bad blood between them. Yet, he had no qualms about cashing their check or using that money to fund his right-wing, pro-Trump propaganda.

    Luckey can’t even predict drone usage in global wars, and he runs a global drone defense company. He predicted Ukraine would get destroyed in hours in February 2022. Turns out his defense predictions are about as accurate as his VR ones.

    • Max-Dmg

      They can use them in a reality show Saw film.

    • Sven Viking

      He predicted Ukraine would get destroyed in hours in February 2022.

      A source would be nice since everything I’ve seen him say has been the opposite of that?

    • Jistuce

      In fairness, a LOT of people predicted Ukraine would be destroyed very rapidly. No one thought that Russia could be anywhere near as incompetent as they actually have been.

  • Nothing to see here

    This story implies that Palmer Lucky has a suicide infatuation. To discuss or even design such a device is one thing. To actually build one is another thing entirely. Palmer, please get some help. Straight faced serious about this.
    FD: I am a big fan of Sword Art Online. It’s a wonderful basis for a fictional story.

    • Max-Dmg

      They come with the safety warning at the start for tripping over obsticles incase you hurt yourself.

    • His wife is shouting you down …. lol
      She’s counting the hours where she can finally
      divest herself of him and spend all of his dough.
      Which is why she married ‘im in the first place.
      Whether that be through a divorce
      or him blowing his brains out, she cares not. lol

      • Sven Viking

        Excellent long-term planning considering they’ve been dating since he lived in a trailer and repaired iPhones for a living.

  • James

    He is really nuts & dangerous.

    • MeowMix

      lookup who his brother-in-law is, it helps explain a lot especially with respect to his political accusations.

      • Jonathan Winters III

        Matt Gaetz. Ouch.

      • Tommy

        Lol, it must run in the family, even by marriage.

    • kontis

      He is totally nuts and I realized that already on MTBS3D forum 10+ years ago, but the funniest part is when he speaks to camera he sounds 100x more rational, honest and intelligent than 90% of professional suit-wearing analysts in the most prestigious media outlets.

      Isn’t that kinda bizarre when you think about it?

      • ViRGiN

        hey did you find that Valve Full Body Tracking SDK already?

      • Yeah, I was gonna say, after the Facebook aquisition,
        he was doing interviews all over the place: seemed 100% rational.
        Crazy people are good at that kinda shit. lol
        Google image search: PALMER LUCKEY & WIFE.
        Then wash your eyes out with Clorox afterward ….

      • Nevets

        No it’s not bizarre unfortunately, it is quite commonplace. That is why bad people tend to rule the world.

      • Jistuce

        It doesn’t sound bizarre at all. It sounds… normal? Dosen’t EVERYONE act different in a business setting than they do when shitposting on the internet?

    • Max-Dmg

      And has a stupid name.

    • Ohhhh yeah …. lol

  • brandon9271

    I might give this a try. I hate Fresnel lenses THAT MUCH.

  • T0X1N

    Jesus! This guy completely went off the deep end. It’s a video game for F sake! A make believe fantasy to unwind and relax in. Not an actual reality! Mixing real mortality with Virtual reality is COMPLETELY insane! This is the stuff from a damn Saw movie! This guy needs to get help!

    • Max-Dmg

      He probably invented the Euthanasia Coaster too.

    • Nepenthe

      I know, and he’s totally serious about manufacturing it! He’s got to be stopped!

  • lnpilot

    This is a scheme to cull stupid people from the gene pool. If you put on one of those headsets, you earn a Darwin Award.

  • ViRGiN

    First killer drones, powered by killer AI, and now killing headsets.
    Good job Palmer. Now give me my fucking Ready Rift One you crazy millionaire.

  • lnpilot

    This totally defeats the purpose of VR. It’s like a chocolate bar made of shit.

    • bluetoothbday

      Hahaha this comment is hilarious

    • Nevets

      It’s like a toy gun that works exactly the same as a real one.

    • ViRGiN

      I think it would work on my head.

  • ViRGiN

    > The kit can also function as a third-party headphone adapter on fully-functional Rifts, but I don’t have any plans to distribute the kit for that purpose – I am doing this because I feel bad for people who bought a Rift from me and can’t use it properly anymore, not to make using third party headphones slightly more convenient! Maximizing the number of people in the VR ecosystem is also important to me, and the people who have been using their headsets for years on end tend to be among the most engaged, most valuable users who dump tons of money into the content ecosystem. Properly functioning, high quality audio that does not rely on fumbling with third party headphones and cables is an important part of getting users to regularly engage, and the market research bears it out – there is a reason everyone is building audio into their headsets, even companies that initially doubted the importance.

    I’ve been waiting for 1,358 days already you buffon. #FuckPalmerLuckey

    • Sven

      Did you fill in the form and forward your Oculus Support ticket refusing to repair or replace? I’ve never been able to find someone who followed the instructions and didn’t receive anything, so I’d been wondering if maybe the publicity just pushed Facebook to change their support policies and as a result nobody actually met the requirements, but perhaps you’re the first I’ve run into?

      • ViRGiN

        I’ve followed 100% of instructions. At the very beginning, they did not want to replace the headset/repair it. After a week or two, they changed their stance and actualy replaced my headset in full.
        That still does not change the fact that I traded my full personal data, full name, full adress, phone number etc to Palmer under the pretense that he will send me the Ready Rift One.
        Regardless, he promised to release relevant files to allow everyone to make their own.
        Palmer just stopped responding, and *SURPRISINGLY*, no news outlet in the WHOLE world ever covered the follow up of his promise. UploadVR will outright BAN you for even suggesting this topic.

        • Sven

          Ah thanks, good to know! At least it prompted them to change their stance and got you a new headset, so the end result was better than the audio kit. I guess that’s likely what happened with other people too, which would explain why I haven’t been able to find anyone still waiting for it to fix their Rift.

          • ViRGiN

            I don’t believe this was ever a widespread issue, but Palmer offer to fix it definietly pulled some strings in customer service. If you google the subject, there are hundreds of websites who covered the good news, but not a single one made a followup. There were a few posts on reddit asking what has ever happened to it, but in classic reddit fashion, they were brushed off as “who cares, the headset is old”. Defenders of billionaire.
            This whole thing was nothing more than tongue in cheek to Zuckerberg. He never intented to deliver anything ever. He claimed thousands reached out to him, yet like you noticed, almost nobody ever talks about it. Most headsets were already past warranty at that point, mine included. Overall there is a big lack of knowledge about warranty and customer rights among people. Like the broken elite straps. Hundreds broke “on its own” already, yet not a single evidence ever popped out. People have home security cams recording all the time etc. Not a single video of it snapping was ever published. I have mine since day 1, so for over 2 years now for Q2, and it’s as good as new. Yeah, things can happen to anything – even Carmack one broke – but it’s not an issue when you literally have a warranty. Yet those who fell victim to it acted like they lost 50 dollars, when all they ever had to do is contact customer service. Heh.

          • Sven

            Mine started as a hairline crack and then broke as I was wearing it one time about two months from purchase. No problem getting it replaced other than going through the support/return process and needing to wait a month or so. I’d guess there was a bad batch or something.

        • Octogod

          Upload VR is literally paid, often by Meta.

          I found their media kit online. They charge by post and even per tweet to shill whatever creators want. Talking about this sort of thing is bad for the Meta cash.

          Uplowlife VR is more like it.

          • ViRGiN

            Yup. UploadVR literally refused to cover news of Contractors VR becoming a top selling game and getting the best ever mod support implementation natively on standalone device, claiming they do not have the time. But then they accepted Contractors as advertising. Just bunch of shills spreading toxic positivity. Heaney is the worst offender of them all.

          • Octogod

            I didn’t know that but it totally makes sense!

          • ViRGiN

            Also another fun fact, the last news on UVR containing “Palmer” or “Luckey” was from April 2021.
            They are completly family-safe VR-is-always-great team of sponsored by Luckey shills. Palmer invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions into back-then UploadVR startup.
            Lots of controversial figures have been employed, incl operation manager Kyle Riesenbeck who scammed hundreds of people under false promise of making a VR game. He is also known for some sexist remarks to people on the internet.

      • ViRGiN

        I’ve followed 100% of instructions. At the very beginning, they did not want to replace the headset/repair it. After a week or two, they changed their stance and actualy replaced my headset in full.
        That still does not change the fact that I traded my full personal data, full name, full adress, phone number etc to Palmer under the pretense that he will send me the Ready Rift One.
        Regardless, he promised to release relevant files to allow everyone to make their own.
        Palmer just stopped responding, and *SURPRISINGLY*, no news outlet in the WHOLE world ever covered the follow up of his promise. UploadVR will outright BAN you for even suggesting this topic.

      • ViRGiN

        also fun fact, i got downvoted very likely by the real palmer luckey @palmertech . he used that name for years prior to oculus

  • CIR

    This makes russian roulette seem like a reasonable and reliable alternative.

  • Dennis Tman

    I feel like this was Lucky’s way of warning people about Zuckerberg and his agenda

    • I think you’re on to something there.

      Humourless boring people don’t understand Luckey is a troll.

      • ViRGiN

        “warning people about Zuckerberg”?
        palmer confirmed years after being fired that facebook is the best thing to happen to vr.
        it boils down to facebook vr, or no vr at all.

  • lnpilot

    Something is seriously wrong with anyone who builds a VR headset like this. Palmer needs to see a mental health specialist.

  • sfmike

    What you would expect from the gun loving Trump supporter Luckey is.

    • ViRGiN

      haha a guy called @PalmerTech downvoted you. it might be the real Palmer itself lol
      PALMER YOU FUCKER! Where is Ready Rift One?

  • Jonathan Winters III

    Musings of a myopic millionaire.

  • kontis

    There is no such thing as a sane genius and he 100% is a genius (for more than just one reason), so expecting normalcy from such a person is naïve and irrational.

    All the greatest minds in history, that currently are admired, were crazy, but people rarely read their full biographies and only learn in school about some of the their achievements. Or they romantize them too much and interpret their mental struggles and failures as “secret knowledge” like the internet did with Nikola Tesla.

    • Max-Dmg

      Even Newton was crazy when he invented gravity.

      • And Data on STAR TREK: TNG said
        he was a leading suspect in an unsolved murder case. lol

        • ViRGiN

          hey man, did you see the modio blog?
          > In the time that Contractors has been live on modio, over fourteen million pieces of content have been downloaded by over two-and-a-half million players.

      • Nevets

        Invented gravity haha

  • ToJaNatan

    Isn’t that illegal ?

  • Andrey

    As a die-hard SAO fan who was waiting for this moment (November 6, 2022) for ten years and was brutally destroyed yesterday (instead of announcment of a VR SAO Project Bandai Namco aka Bamco decided to release the second part of the worst game in SAO gameverse history (Alicization Lycoris) named Last Recollection; and Bamco’s producer Futami literally made fun of PSVR2 and generally during the whole event you could feel that they are thinking “Bleh, current-gen VR is ^&%$ , it is not a full-dive technology, so we won’t even try to develop something for it”), I firstly wanted to write a huge wall of text with my life story, what place SAO takes in it, why this ranobe/anime is the best candidate for the greatest VR game of all times (and why SAO is the best potential system seller for ANY VR device) or even why it can become, if created properly, the very first real metaverse, as well as why Reki Kawahara is a the only true evangelist of VR and all of that…
    But you know what? I don’t care anymore. Humanity just missed it, the greatest homage opportunity in history. There won’t be another November 6, 2022. And all those people who had the resources, IP rights, money, etc. – just &^%$#@ it up. Right in front of the Kawahara-sensei himself.
    It;s pretty ironic how Japan and japanese were positioned №1 techological country in the world all those years, yet there were almost nothing from them in VR (the only thing I remember that actually released and you could buy – FOVE headset with eyetracking; there is also HaritoraX and some other VR-related devices, but nothing even close like Oculus/HTC/Valve/Pico/Pimax, etc.). And even after so many years there are still almost no anime games in VR too, though there are dozens, hundreds of titles that would work greately in VR! They literally have a golden mine under them but they continue to be ignorant.
    And about Luckey – he is just another weaboo who was exiled from his own company – and I believe it was for a reason. With this act he just proved everything I was thinking about him. There are so much good things about SAO, but he chose to create something awful like that. For what? Just to show off on social media. There is just no practical use. As a SAO fan I can’t say “Hey, it’s pretty good!” or something – it’s blantly stupid, looking almost like a mockery towards the title.
    Whatever. He can actually wear it and kill himself and I won’t care.
    Everything is lost anyway.

    • Fre Kandei

      WTF

    • Nevets

      Cool story, bro.

    • Jistuce

      It’s okay, we still have Brain Burst in 2039 to look forward to.

  • Tommy

    Headset is code named Kirito…

    • Max-Dmg

      But the winter is coming.

      • Tommy

        Lol. good point

  • gothicvillas

    No restart level with this one, huh

    • Max-Dmg

      I think you get 3 lives.

      • Sven Viking

        There are three cylinders so I guess three deaths at least.

  • Max-Dmg

    People are dying to play it.

  • Nepenthe

    People taking this seriously. :o)

  • Max-Dmg

    Do you get refund if it kills you due to a game bug? Like falling out the level or the controller battery died when you tried to press jump.

    • Sven Viking

      Yes you just need to open a support ticket.

      • decidueye1234

        Give God your best regards

      • Max-Dmg

        I dont think support tickets have worked or been responded to for about the last 10 years.

        • Sven Viking

          I wouldn’t know since I haven’t died yet.

          • Max-Dmg

            I died a few years ago, living off the life insurance now.

  • *sigh*
    Why must all smart people be both nuts
    AND tie themselves into those bullshit Japanese cartoons …??
    Mother of God, that makes my skin crawl right of the fucking bone.

  • Brandong Smirf

    If he can make it legal to sell this then he’s basically just invented a super easy way around euthanasia and suicide laws nice.

  • NL_VR

    I wonder how the us Christian nutjobs reacts to this devilish device.

  • alxslr

    Hey guy, just make a game that does not let you play for the rest of the day if you die in it and you’ll get rid of the Star Trek Generations “Nexus” effect… without having to kill yourself :-(

  • Well, I tell you this, you wouldn’t be seeing a lot of people actually playing such a “game”. Lol

    • ViRGiN

      it would be worth the risk as a duel – palmer vs other player; the winner takes all his wealth

  • Read this article while playing Smoke Halls from Bonelab in the background. 100x more creepy.

    Very on point for Luckey, that’s hilarious XD

  • david vincent

    It seems that working for the military didn’t make Luckey better…

  • Sven Viking

    Much of his history is recorded from the time at the ModRetro forums, MTBS3D etc. Better than making things up out of your own head at least.

  • Gabe Zuckerwell

    Weeb

    • ViRGiN

      Oops, I keep using my second profile by mistake

  • dogbite

    Seems to be good bang for the buck.

  • ViRGiN

    I want this headset !
    Just to make Road to VR people happy!

  • Cooolone

    You can build one one that give you a quick painful tazed but doesn’t kill you, that could achieve the consequence factor and be practical.

  • Toni Mishev

    lel if he hire me i will stay there by his side till he dies in the game and just pull the trigger not that hard XD i want some money tho its considered a service after all XD

  • leonhma

    Evolution will sort this idea out pretty quickly..

  • BananaBreadBoy

    The people all over the internet and in this bloody comment section acting like this is a serious product for being sold and anything beyond an art piece and a nerds tinkering project in insane.

    Ignoring how tongue and cheek the blog post is, this whole thing is a glorified SAO reference. Dude was such a fanboy of this show that his wedding cakes toppers were SAO character outfits.

  • Muki EX

    The actual story: Billionaire who’s really into anime makes SAO-inspired headset as an art piece.
    The clickbait: Palmer Luckey is making a headset THAT CAN KILL YOU.

  • Kenny Thompson

    Allow me to be the first person to decree, ‘this man is a genius.’ Everyone stand back and behold the future of the metaverse.

  • Kenny Thompson

    Spoiler, Lucky Palmer runs both the ViRGiN and the CaryMGVR accounts.

  • That’s a cute joke, but I’d hate to think of any you are dumb enough to actually believe it. You can clearly see those are plastic tubes, hot-glues on to a Quest Pro. They don’t even have connecting wires. They’re parts of a irrigation system from gardening supplies. Have you never seen a flower bed watered in your ENTIRE LIFE???

    To the people here that believe this joke, please stop posting. Actually, please stop breeding. I fear for the future of all mankind.