As VR headsets become a reality, let’s hope they’re better than these 1990s efforts

The Oculus-Rift VR headset.
The Oculus-Rift VR headset.
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The Oculus Rift has become the first of the new wave of virtual reality (VR) systems to reach customers.

The first kit was personally delivered to pre-order buyer Ross Martin by the firm’s founder Palmer Luckey last week, with other early adopters taking delivery from Monday.

Rift, along with high-end rival the HTC Vive and lower-priced kits such as the Playstation VR, heralds a new era of accessible virtual reality. The £499 system pairs a home PC with a sensor-packed headset featuring a high-resolution screen and headphones to completely immerse users in a virtual world.

These virtual worlds can be anything from wrap-around gaming experiences - everything from first-person shooters to climbing simulators - to 360-degree documentary films designed to place the viewer in the heart of the story.

With technology finally having caught up with the concept of VR to deliver realistic-feeling experiences, Luckey is confident his product will take off, declaring on Twitter than he was “Getting ready to flood our servers with Rifters.”

While the Rift and its rivals might represent a new and hopeful dawn for virtual reality the concept has been around for a long time and has cropped up in various forms across popular culture. Here are a few of the best, and worst.

The Matrix

The ultimate virtual reality. The hit 1999 film presents a world where those inside the Matrix have no idea they are living in a computer-generated world, being used in the real world as a power source for sentient machines. The groundbreaking first film spawned two poor sequels depicting an uprising against the machines and a host of comics, books and animations exploring the Matrix further.

Lawnmower Man

This 1992 movie tells the story of a scientist (played by Pierce Brosnan) who tries to use VR to help a simple-minded gardener become smarter, only for his experiments to go disastrously wrong. At the time, the graphics were ground-breaking but now are outdone by even a basic smartphone.

3. Star Trek’s holodeck

Throughout the Next Generation’s run members of the Enterprise’s crew would use the holodeck to relax or explore in virtual worlds. Episodes saw characters exploring everything from the Wild West to the Victorian London of Sherlock Holmes, usually with some malfunction forcing them to fight for their lives.

4. Existenz

Body horror maestro David Cronenberg took on VR in this 1999 film starring Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The story of world where organic games consoles plug directly into players it explored how people interact and react with technology and boasted a plot so complex it left viewers with a worse headache than an early VR rig.

5. Cyberzone

Part of the early-90s VR craze, this BBC2 teatime show was fronted by Red Dwarf star Craig Charles. It used then-state-of-the-art technology to create 3D worlds where two teams competed in a variety of “physical” challenges. It lasted a single series and is probably best remembered for Charles’s repeated chants of “Awooga!”