Nintendo Virtual Boy

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Nintendo’s Virtual boy (also known as the VR-32 during development) was the first portable game console capable of displaying "true" 3D graphics out of the box. While most video games are forced to use monocular cues to achieve the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional screen, the Virtual Boy was able to create a more accurate illusion of depth through the effect known as parallax.

The Virtual Boy system uses a pair of 1x224 linear arrays (one per eye) and rapidly scans the array across the eye's field of view using flat oscillating mirrors. These mirrors vibrate back and forth at a very high speed. Each VB game cartridge has a yes/no option to automatically pause every 15–30 minutes so that the player may take a break.

The Virtual Boy is iconic for its monochromatic use of red LED lights. The use of the red LED lights was chosen for being the least expensive, the lowest drain on batteries, and for being the most striking colour to see, The use of other LED colours proved to be too cost prohibitive and would have forced the system to retail for over US$500.

The Virtual Boy, being a system with heavy emphasis on three-dimensional movement, needed a controller that could operate along a Z-axis. The Virtual Boy’s controller was an attempt to implement dual digital (D-Pads) to control elements in the aforementioned 3D environment.

It was reported by many that prolonged use of the Virtual Boy gave you headaches and some even claimed it to induce seizures, though this was largely down to players not following the instructions properly and failing to set the machines up for their own eyes. This is done with the controls on top of the unit, there is a dial to turn, which looking into the machine if done, will allow four squares to be clearly seen, that has now determined the width of the person's eyes. Then the slide control does the focus.

The power for the unit comes into the Joypad, which is either by a battery compartment which clips to it, or through a mains unit, that also attaches.

Other controls and ports are under the unit, and include a volume control, and slot for the joypad, taking the control and power into the unit, also there is a port four the 2 player cable, although none were officially produced.

The machine's appearance at trade shows in 1995 were met with much negativity, and Nintendo very quickly lost faith in the project. They had never given Gunpei Yokoi and his team much support, opting far more resources to Project Reality, that would become the Nintendo 64 .

Yokoi would leave the company under a cloud, despite all he had achieved and the machines he had helped create, such as the Game Boy. His development company Koto Laboratory would go on to develop the Wonderswan hand held for Bandai, before his tragic death in an road traffic accident in 1997.

Sadly the Virtual Boy was only released in Japan and North America, and was discontinued less than 1 year later selling around 770,000 units. For this reason it is now considered a valuable collector's item, 19 titles were released in Japan and 14 in America, there were exclusive games in each region, making the total 21 in all, they could be played in either territory, as there were no region restrictions on the console.


Japan Titles (Exclusive in Red) USA Titles (Exclusive in Red)
Mario Tennis Mario Tennis
Galactic Pinball Galactic Pinball
Red Alarm Red Alarm
Warioland Warioland
Mario Clash Mario Clash
Teleroboxer TeleroBoxer
Jack Bros Jack Bros
Vertical Force Vertical Force
Virtual Golf Virtual Golf
J-League Baseball World League Baseball
Panic Bomber Panic Bomber
Insmouse Nester's Funky Bowling
Virtual Bowling 3D Tetris
Virtual Lab Waterworld
Space invaders  
SD Gundam Dimension Force  
Virtual Fishing  
Space Squash  


Manufacturer: Nintendo
Date: 14th August 1995

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH4595. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

Nintendo Virtual Boy

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