VFX1 Virtual Reality Headset LinkBox

 

[Kevin Mellott's] take on the VFX1 was to update it so it can be used with modern computers requiring just a USB socket and VGA feed.

The VFX1 is a Virtual Reality Headset that hit the market in the first half of the 90’s. The headset was the first of its kind to hit the home market and was ahead of its time. The VFX1 was developed and marketed by Forte Technologies, who’s assets where purchased in 1997 by Vuzix who now produce modern day Video glasses with optional tracking system.

What [Kevin] has achieved is nothing more than remarkable. The original system required a massive ISA card and a link from this card to the Feature Connector on the display card. [Kevin] did away with the ISA card and FCON replacing it with what he calls the LinkBox. This LinkBox has serial or USB out and accepts stereo/mono VGA input or RGB.

The system can now be used with modern day computers including laptops. Those into VR should really check this out.

The original promotional video for the VFX1 from 1995

[Kevin’s] Updated take on the VFX1 with LinkBox that he designed

Comments

  1. flink says:

    So many levels of win.

  2. polossatik says:

    lovely, but I see no information on how it’s done

  3. I remember wanting one of those so bad after seeing it in a PC gaming mag…like, a hundred years ago…

    And man, I can barely get my head around what it must have taken to make such a proprietary piece of old tech work with modern hardware. Damn good hack!

  4. polossatik says:

    ha, on http://mellottsvrpage.com/VFX1LinkboxComplete.htm he offers to send out a 35mb file with all the information. I’m sure HAD can host this, no?

  5. rasz says:

    about 200ms delay between head move and screen change :/
    doesnt look like he updated electronics in the helmet

  6. jack says:

    Why not just use the mouse and keyboard and the headset instead of a monitor. You could easily sit down at a desk and move your head like that and use the keyboard and mouse as usual :D

  7. willrandship says:

    s/more/less @ nothing more than remarkable

    The way it’s phrased sounds like criticism, not praise :P

    Very cool project. One of my favorite games, Descent 1, supported this helmet IIRC. What was the resolution on that helmet, anyway?

    • I think Kevin did a super cool job,its remarkable what he has been able to accomplish as little was known as to how the headset communicated with the giant ISA card etc, First it had to be discovered that the VFX1 used something called Access Bus which was an advanced Ic2 Bus, then the addresses had to be worked out for each item on that bus, and then the protocol of how to talk to the items and what to expect to be received from the headset and cyberpuck, I have nothing put prase for Kevins work i myself own three VFX1 setups and Kevins work has helped to keep this retro VR system up and running. regards Richard

    • Ryan Spicer says:

      The two LCDs were 320×240 if I recall correctly — not high-resolution by any means, but in 1995 it was amazingly cool, playing Quake 1, hooked up to my old Cyrix 586.

      I have an old VFX-1 in a closet somewhere. I’ve contacted Kevin and got a copy of his 35mb bundle of info, and I’m hopeful that soon I’ll be able to build a LinkBox and get the thing alive. 320×240 is a limiting factor for sure (and one of the LCDs in mine has a dead pixel and a stuck red pixel, which was super-annoying) but still! New life for old hardware!

  8. Galane says:

    How does the cost of buying one of these old units and building the link box compare to just buying a new unit?

    It’d have to be a heck of a lot cheaper to offset the low resolution.

    • Updating the optics is something that im going to be doing with some of my VFX1 units, The good thing about the VFX1 is the imersion of the headset the tracking which includes the Cyberpuck, The VFX1 used the first lcd panels at the time they where the latest thing on the market. These days its easy to pick up a better set of optics for dropping in there, You then end up with a Retro headset that has nice looks works well and a nice VR platform to work on your own projects. Im currently in the works of doing such things…

  9. Haku says:

    This reminds me I still haven’t tried watching a 3D film on my 800×600 res I-Visor DH-4400VP(D) LCD glasses, the control box has two VGA inputs and two composite inputs for 3D input, it can also decode interlaced 3D footage from a single input.
    Must dig them out over the weekend.

  10. Stonewall says:

    Nice! I had a brand new one inbox out in the garage that I finally just brought inside.

  11. Unclegummers says:

    Play that slender game with the headset on

  12. BobM says:

    I bought one in 1996. It is a shame that the company could not make it because they were way ahead of the of anything even today. I am not sure I have the time or expertise to build the interface but I am very excited to see this. You did an amazing job. Every once in a while I go searching to see if anyone is building anything like it. Unfortunately No!

    Thanks for posting this. I will be looking forward to enhancements you come up with.

  13. Ray says:

    Hello! At the beginning i want to excuse for my no precise language. Few year’s ago i’ll bought the VFX1. This was great chance for start the adventure with the Virtual Reality. But when i open the box i’ll see almost complete helmet. Almost, because there no was the VIP card. And this set stay to this day non used. In internet and your great site a’ll read about LINKBOX. My question is did i have a chance for buying this with your help, because at eBay there no even one item. Of course there
    is no chance to find the original VIP card, that’s why i’ll wrote this message to you. Did you HELP me?:)I’m from POLAND. remik326@gmail.com

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