The VR64 retro virtual reality headset is as cool as it is totally unnecessary.
Remember the Commodore 64 home computer? No? That makes sense. After all, the revolutionary device was released all the way back in 1982, a year some of you younger folks probably consider the stone age.
However for many veteran gamers the infamous system still holds a special place in their hearts, serving as a constant reminder to how far we’ve come in computer technology. In fact the Commodore is still so loved that one fan in particular decided to breath new life into the archaic computer system by combining it with one of today’s hottest new technologies: virtual reality.
Developed by YouTuber 64jim64, the one-of-a-kind VR64 headset manages to bridge the gap between 8-bit and modern gaming technology by merging classic 80’s style graphic with immersive VR. By utilizing just three separate components, a $10 plastic VR goggle, a $26 304 x 200 pixel LCD screen and a cheap power transformer, Jim was able to mirror what players would see on a standard CRT television (if you’re under 17, google it) onto a VR headset. This allows him to enjoy the beautiful resolution of the Commodore 64 mere inches from his lucky face. Oh man, I’m getting some serious Vietnam flashbacks of the Virtual Boy…
However what’s especially interesting about this project is the fact that Jim actually developed his own original game to be played on the home-brewed set-up. This wasn’t by choice either, as the Commodore 64 obviously did not support any VR games during its initial run, forcing Jim to design his own compatible experience. As a result, Jim created Street Defenders, a simplistic shooter that tasks you with gunning down waves of aliens, robots and ninjas all approaching you from various alleys that lead directly to you.
Rotating your head changes which alley you’re looking down, allowing you to survey your environment for enemies and cut them down with an assortment of different firearms before they get too close. Jim was actually able to achieve an impressive level of 3D effects by utilizing a variety of cheeky techniques. The result is an interesting experience that pushes the boundaries of what the Commodore is capable of.
The initial idea for this time-traveling VR headset came from a school project Jim had been assisting his daughter with. As part of her science fair presentation studying VR goggles, Jim and his daughter created their own “Google Cardboard” style goggles, as well as several 3D images and a 360-degree film. This process is what led Jim to the question that would eventually birth the retro VR headset he’d always dreamt of: “Why can’t this be done for our beloved commodore 64?”
The result was the VR64, a VR headset so obscure you’d probably only see at a hipster arcade in Brooklyn. Jokes aside though, this is an incredibly impressive display of ingenuity that shines a spotlight on the potential versatility of virtual reality. While most major studios are out to discover the future of this growing technology, Jim and other amateur developers are proving that taking a step backward isn’t always a bad thing. I personally would love to see some of our favorite classics adapted for virtual reality. Star Fox VR anyone?
Jim recently debuted his device for the first time at a Vintage Computer Midwest (VCFMW) event in Elk Grove Village, IL. Unfortunately Jim isn’t mass-producing this bad boy just yet, so you’re out of luck if you were looking to purchase. However, the creative father did upload his personal build instructions for crafting your own VR64 headset, as well as a free link to his Street Defenders game you can burn to a floppy. He also includes links to sticker sheets for decorating your headset and Street Defenders disk. Commodore 64 not included.
Check out his blog for more info on this insane project. You can also get a better look at how the game actually looks in-headset with this Google Cardboard-compatible video.