Reki Kawahara's "Sword Art Online" has seen a great rise in popularity ever since its inception in 2009, spawning video games, an anime series, spin-offs and more. In fact, it seemed like the only thing that SAO hadn't done was engage in what made it so popular to begin with: virtual reality.
Or, rather that was the case, until IBM Japan announced in February that it was working on a VR project based on the series titled "Sword Art Online: The Beginning." For those unfamiliar with the series, the first part of the series follows the adventures of Kazuto "Kirito" Kirigaya after he gets trapped in a VR MMO titled "Sword Art Online." In theory, being trapped in a game would be fun, but that fun turns to terror when you realize that death in the game means death in real life.
While it would be safe to assume that the same circumstances would apply to IBM Japan's project, other details about the game have remained unclear - until now. A video of the game has recently surfaced online, which can be viewed below:
The demonstration focuses mostly on the technology behind the project, though it does feature some gameplay, as well. The chance to participate in the real-life creation of the popular light novel was too good to pass up for most, reportedly garnering the attention of 99,800 applicants, though only 208 were actually chosen. Those who did have the honor of being chosen were able to scan their bodies, which were then rendered as 3D avatars for the demonstration. They then manipulated their in-game avatar using a variety of hardware, including an Oculus Rift (Developer Kit 2) for head-tracking and VR visuals, Leap Motion and Ovrvision for hand manipulation, a Microsoft Kinect 2 for body movement, and lastly, special footwear to detect foot movement.
The hardware was labeled "Nervegear Prototype," which is named after the virtual hardware used in the source material.
As mentioned before, we don't get to see much gameplay. We do, however, see players placed in a bazaar-like environment where they're tasked with manipulating world objects. Later on, players went head to head with The Gleam Eyes, the boss of the 74th Floor.
IBM Japan refers to the project as a "virtual reality massive multiplayer online game (VR MMO)." However, it has not stated whether the project will continue beyond initial tests, or if these tests will lead to a larger project.