An anonymous reader writes: Nintendo launched its Virtual Boy gaming console twenty years ago today. Expectations were high after the company sold tends of millions of its previous devices, but the Virtual Boy only sold about 770,000 units. It was conceived at the height of the '90s VR craze, but the technology of the time just couldn't produce the kind of experience that Nintendo (or gamers) envisioned. An article from Benj Edwards provides insight into the Virtual Boy's development and its inevitable failure.
"A major problem with the idea of making VR32 wearable, according to Makino, was that Nintendo engineers were concerned about placing a chip with high radio emissions near a user's head, since the safety of EMF radiation on the brain had yet to be thoroughly studied. Its proximity also produced visual noise in the displays. 'This meant that the internal CPU had to be covered by a metal plate,' says Makino, 'which made the whole system too heavy, forcing the goggle concept to be abandoned.' Not long after, Yokoi's console evolved from a strap-on headset into a heavier device that one could prop up onto one's face using a clumsy shoulder stand. Again, Nintendo's legal department feared liability issues; the device might cause children to fall down a stairwell while playing. ... Hobbled by liability concerns, VR32 soon evolved into a bulky red viewport mounted to a bi-pod that rested on a table."