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Reality as we know it sure has evolved (at least in the visually entertaining way)! Today, VR has enhanced the way we build, communicate, and of course, play. The hardware is ever-shrinking while the software is allowing us to think, to imagine, in amazing ways. Considering Virtual Reality in the early days, and how far we’ve come, there’s no telling where we’ll be next year, much less Tomorrow.
1838 Stereoscopic Photo Viewers
Leading research of the day, demonstrated that the brain processes two-dimensional images from each eye into a single object of three dimensions, giving the user a sense of depth and immersion. It took 101 years for a savvy entrepreneur to turn this process into the View-Master toy.
1929 Link Trainer
Training a new pilot was dangerous (and costly) work back in the post WWII era. Edward Link brought the U.S. Army the first flight simulator, which was entirely electro-mechanical. It was controlled by motors that linked to the rudder and steering column to modify the pitch and roll. A small motor-driven device mimicked turbulence and disturbances. It was truly a time (and life) saver!
1950s Morton Heilig’s Sensorama
The Sensorama was an arcade-style theater cabinet that would stimulate all the senses, not just sight and sound. It featured stereo speakers, a stereoscopic 3D display, fans, smell generators and a vibrating chair. The Sensorama was intended to fully immerse the individual in the film.
1960 Telesphere Mask
Morton Heilig’s next invention was the Telesphere Mask which was the first example of a head-mounted display (HMD). The headset provided stereoscopic 3D and wide vision with stereo sound.
1965 The Ultimate Display
Ivan Sutherland described the “Ultimate Display” concept, as one that could simulate reality to the point where one could not tell the difference from actual reality. His concept included: A virtual world viewed through a head mounted display (HMD) that appeared realistic through augmented 3D sound and tactile feedback. It would be the basis for the VR philosophy of today.
1968 The Sword Of Damocles
Ivan Sutherland (and his student Bob Sproull) made his previous vision a reality with the creation of the first VR / Augmented Reality head mounted display. TSOD was now connected to a computer, not a camera. It was a large and scary looking contraption that was too heavy for any user to comfortably wear, and was suspended from the ceiling (hence its name). The computer generated graphics were very primitive wire-frame rooms and objects.
1991 Virtuality Group Arcade Games
Ownership of cutting edge virtual reality hardware was still far out of reach for “regular Joes” but, the Virtuality Group launched a range of public arcade games and machines in which players would wear a set of VR goggles, and play on gaming machines with real-time (less than 50ms latency) immersive stereoscopic 3D visuals. Some units were also networked together for a multi-player gaming experience.
1993 SEGA VR Headset
Sega announced the Sega VR headset for their Genesis console at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1993. The wrap-around prototype glasses had head tracking, stereo sound and LCD screens in the visor. Despite having created four games for this product, technical development difficulties kept this promising advance off of store shelves.
1995 Nintendo Virtual Boy
The Nintendo Virtual Boy was a gaming console that was hyped to be the first ever portable console that could display true 3D graphics. It was released in Japan and North America but it was a commercial failure due a lack of color in the graphics (the games were in red and black). Despite other technical glitches, users found that the console was just too uncomfortable for any kind of extended play.