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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 23:18 GMT
From Pong to VR
Nolan Bushnell, BBC
Bushnell: Revered as father of the video game industry
By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida

The future of gaming lies in virtual reality, where you can touch and feel the action, says the man who created the seminal arcade game Pong.

Nolan Bushnell, now chief executive officer of online arcade-based gaming company Uwink, reckons virtual reality is set to make a big comeback after falling out of fashion in the late 1990s.

"There was a bit of a flurry in the late 80s and early 90s with those headsets that you move around," he told the BBC programme Go Digital.

"The technology was difficult, it was expensive and it caused many people to have headaches. But the core concepts of the technology were, and are, sound," said the man revered as the father of the video game industry.

"As some of the price structures come down, there will be a big resurgence of VR technology."

Virtual contact

Mr Bushnell envisions a world where you could become a world champion in a contact sport like judo, without ever stepping into a real arena or without ever meeting your opponent face-to-face.

"You'll be able to play sports games in which you will have to use your whole body," he said.

Early video game Pong, BBC
Pong: Where it all started
"In order to play the video game well, you'll have to have a certain level of dexterity and physical stamina."

This would work through a series of bracelets on your arms and legs, together with a headset. A computer would track the motion of your body parts, and critique you on your technique.

"The next level is the area of haptics, the area of touch and feel," he said, "so that if you are playing you get the feeling of the ball striking your paddle."

"But more than that, if you miss the ball and it bounces off your elbow, you'll be able to feel it. The technology that is coming along is mind boggling."

World online

The man who founded Atari in 1972 and subsequently launched the video game revolution with Pong envisages a gaming world without borders, where literally thousands of people can play together in virtual worlds.

At Uwink, he has been developing arcade-based games, placed in bars and airports, which allow thousands to compete in online leagues.

"It gives you an extended world community of friends," he said.

"While the world of atoms is better than the world of bits when it comes to playing football, if it's not possible, then the world of bits makes a lot of sense."

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See also:

25 Sep 01 | Science/Nature
04 Jun 01 | Entertainment
30 Jul 01 | dot life
24 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
24 Sep 01 | Science/Nature
01 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
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