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The Bulletin

Video game legend Nolan Bushnell: Virtual reality poised for comeback

Posting in Education

Why is he smiling? You might have to buy the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to find out.

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Last time around, virtual reality literally made us sick. And that was that for the technology that was going to overhaul electronic gaming and have wide implications across everything from military to healthcare to educational and business uses.

But now an Irvine, California company called Oculus VR has the cure according to none other than the father of the video games industry, 70-year-old Nolan Bushnell.

You remember virtual reality. Put on some goggles and suddenly you're immersed in a three-dimensional world of tanks, terrorists, luscious ladies or whatever the games developers created. Off you went on adventures with these characters. That was the 1990s, and there was one big impediment. As Bushnell noted in an interview with the BBC,  "The problem with virtual reality has always been motion sickness."

Oculus is cracking this problem with a headset called the Oculus Rift says Bushnell, the man who back in the 1970s founded Atari and gave the world Pong, a seminal video game hit.

"In modern gaming, Mr Bushnell said he is most excited by the possibilities of the Oculus Rift - a virtual reality headset that has been backed by several influential figures in the games industry," the BBC wrote.

Hmmm. Sounds like he himself might have money in the company, which has attracted $16 million in venture funds and $2.4 million in Kickstarter donations, and which is currently selling developer kits for $300 (the target price for consumer version). So I asked Oculus via email.

"As a policy, we do not discuss investors, backers or even customers," a spokesman replied.

To that enlightening answer, I can't resist noting that for all of his impressive accomplishments - and there have been many - not all of Bushnell's investment decisions have paid off. He turned down a chance to own a third of Apple in 1976, for instance. And that was after he rejected Steve Jobs' offer to sell Jobs' personal computer through Atari.

At any rate, a lot of positive trade press is currently building around Oculus, saying among other things that the company hopes to launch Rift next year and that there will even be a mobile version supported by smartphones. Suggested tagline: Oculus Rift. No Dramamine required.

Image from andreasaronsson.com

— By on September 8, 2013, 8:57 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure