The Story of VR

A Brief History of Virtual Reality

THE STORY OF VR

The idea of a '360' world in art all began around 1810 with 360 degree panoramic paintings.

THE STORY OF VR

These paintings were intended to fill the viewers entire field of vision, making them feel present at an historic event or scene.

THE STORY OF VR

In 1838 the first stereoscope image was created, using twin mirrors to project a single image.

THE STORY OF VR

As is often the way, the concept of what we understand as 'Virtual Reality' came from the mind of science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum (Pygmalion’s Spectacles) in 1930.

THE STORY OF VR

The story poses the idea of a pair of goggles that let the wearer experience a fictional world through holographics, smell, taste and touch.

THE STORY OF VR

In 1956 the Sensorama was created by Morton Heilig a cinematographer in the Hollywood motion picture industry. He wanted to see if it was possible for people to feel like they were 'in' the movie.

THE STORY OF VR

The sensorama was an arcade-style theatre 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 STORY OF VR

The Sensorama experience simulated a real city environment, which you 'rode' through on a motorcycle. Multisensory stimulation let you see the road, hear the engine, feel the vibration, and smell the motor’s exhaust in the designed world.

THE STORY OF VR

In 1960, Heilig also patented a head-mounted display device, called the Telesphere Mask. Many inventors would build upon his foundational work.

THE STORY OF VR

By 1965, another inventor, Ivan Sutherland, offered “The Ultimate Display,” a head-mounted device that he suggested would serve as a “window into a virtual world.”

THE STORY OF VR

Even after all of this development in virtual reality, there still wasn’t an all-encompassing term to describe the field.

THE STORY OF VR

This all changed in 1987 when Jaron Lanier, founder of the visual programming lab (VPL), coined (or according to some popularised) the term 'virtual reality'.

THE STORY OF VR

In 1991, The Virtuality Group launched a range of arcade games and machines. Players would wear a set of VR goggles and play on gaming machines with immersive stereoscopic 3D visuals.

THE STORY OF VR

In 1993 Sega announced the Sega VR headset for the Sega Genesis console The wrap-around protoype glasses had head tracking, stereo sound and LCD screens in the visor.

THE STORY OF VR

However, technical development difficulties meant that the device would forever remain in the prototype phase. This was a huge flop for Sega.

THE STORY OF VR

The rise of smartphones in the first 15 years of the 21st century with their high-density displays and 3D graphics capabilities has enabled a generation of lightweight and practical virtual reality devices.

THE STORY OF VR

2016 was a key year for virtual reality with multiple consumer devices including the pioneering Oculus Rift, these devices seem to have finally answer the unfulfilled promises made by virtual reality in the 1990s.

THE STORY OF VR

From here on in, the sky is the limit...

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