Hilarious 1996 News Clip Warns About the Dangers of Virtual Reality

By Matt Novak on at

Are you excited for our virtual reality future? Well, don’t get too excited just yet. Because there are hidden dangers! Or at least that was the message from this hilariously alarmist NBC News segment from 1996.

Brian Williams (look at that baby face!) introduces the report:

In focus this evening, those so-called virtual reality games. When they were first unveiled the science of it all was staggering, but now there’s some evidence that’s have a staggering effect, literally, on some who use it when they try to return to the real world.

The reporters even talked with researchers at the University of Central Florida who had published a 1996 study on the effects of virtual reality:

Kay Stanney, a researcher at the University of Central Florida is studying the real world consequences of virtual reality for NASA. Experts warn of possible dizziness, nausea, and loss of coordination after extended exposure. It’s hard to know who will be effected and to what extent.

The video then gets particularly funny when they show a woman involved in the study wearing a VR helmet. Particularly because we don’t see how she faired standing on one leg with her eyes closed before the VR experience:

And twenty minutes later she’s still having problems. Her symptoms could easily be mistaken for drunkenness.

The reporter also talks to a VR company spokesman who points out that the motion sickness you might feel is comparable to riding a roller coaster. But as he points out, VR tech has a benefit that roller coasters don’t: If you’re feeling sick, you can just take off the VR headset.

And as expected, the kicker to the segment goes right back to being incredibly alarmist:

Most manufacturers warn players to take regular breaks, but experts say until legislation catches up with technology, it is up to each user to make sure their virtual experience does not become a real world nightmare.

A real world nightmare? Don’t be too hard on NBC News. Given the over-the-top media coverage for practically every technological advance in the 1990s, there must’ve been legislation that every news report end with that phrase.


This article originally appeared on Paleofuture, a Gizmodo blog looking into the future that never was