If you aren’t already aware, virtual reality is an environment simulated by a computer that imitates (simulates) real-world environments. It doesn’t stop there though. Virtual reality can also simulate physical presence in both real and imagined worlds. The technology regarding virtual reality continues to advance and carries the potential to have the ability of recreating other sensory experiences; touch, smell, taste, etc.
While the technology of virtual reality is already a big success and useful for a variety of areas, including the medical, military and tech communities, it’s definitely not a new technology. Matter of fact, virtual reality can be traced back to more than a century with the first mention happening in the 1860s. This is when panoramic murals of 360 degree art were staring to make an appearance. Keep in mind, this is rather an archaic description of VR but this also shows us just how far this virtual technology has come.
Virtual Reality Simulators
The first simulators were actually introduced in the 1920s and can now be found just about everywhere. Take a look at game simulators (golfing, flying, etc) in addition to systems that were designed for educational and professional use like the spacecraft simulators.
The first visual flight simulator used for the US Air Force was developed in 1966 by a Thomas A. Furness III.
Goggle VR Simulator
The very first goggle-based virtual reality system was named Pygmalion’s Spectacles and came about in the 1930s. It was intended to record holographic images of fictional scenarios; touch and smell included. The Sensorama prototype was developed in 1962 by Morton Heilig, who had a vision of creating something that would utilize all of the senses, bringing the viewer into the activity they were happily watching. He used the prototype to produce 5 short films which engaged multiple senses of viewers such as smell, sound, sight and touch.
Head Mounted Display VR System
The first, or that which is considered the first, head-mounted display virtual reality system was created in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland and his student, Bob Sproull. The user interface and realism of this unique device was very primitive but due to the weight of the system it was suspended from a room’s ceiling.
The Aspen Movie Map
The Aspen Movie Map was actually a raw simulation of the real-life, beautiful Aspen Colorado and was developed in the late 1970s. It made it so users could actually wander among the Aspen streets, choosing from three different modes, which included winter, summer and polygons. Polygons mode was just a simple 3D model of Aspen. The winter and summer modes were based on a variety of pictures taken around the city during the seasons.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that the concept of VR really starting to become mainstream due to Jaron Lanier, a modern pioneer of the field at the time. VPL Research is a company founded by Lanier in 1985 in which some of the most influential gloves and goggles of the VR systems during that decade were developed.
If you remember significant happenings of the early 1990s you likely recall when the Mars rover came about. Designed by an MIT graduate and NASA scientist, Antonio Medina created this virtual reality system so that the rovers could be ‘driven’ in real-time.
The Beginning of Virtual Reality Gaming
The world of VR gaming didn’t quite start taking shape until this time as well (early 1990s). This is the time when the very first, mass-produced, multiplayer, networked, location-based VR system was introduced by a VR researcher, PhD Jonathan Walderh. The system was launched in 1992 and called “Virtuality.” While primary users were based in the United Kingdom it came to be a big hit in over 17 countries with more than 42 million plays. Users enjoyed features like exoskeleton gloves and headsets.
Nintendo then came to partake in the VR gaming world in 1995 with the system first labeled “Virtual Boy.” Later on through the 90s even more features were released for VR gamers including Cybermaxx, Forte Technologies’ VFX-1 and iGlasses.
During the 1990s you would see many VR gaming systems in arcades throughout the world. Including racing and shooting, there are many of these games that still exist and thrive today. Of course, when they first came about they were rather simple and only simulated particular aspects of real-life.
Virtual Reality Systems in the 2000’s
Nowadays VR technology has risen even higher with modern gaming systems. Just like the Move by Playstation, the Wii and Kinect by Microsoft. All of these VR systems track and send motion input of each player directly to the gaming console.
The Oculus Rift is the latest of those who crave VR gaming and it is designed as a headset system. It provides users a field of view of 110 degrees, complete tracking of head orientation, and a USB interface with an aim of 1920×1080 resolution or better. Oculus VR was the company behind the creation of the Oculus Rift, but has since been bought by Facebook in the spring of 2014 for a total of $2 billion.
However, Sony has since announced at the March 2014 Game Developers Conference that is currently in the process of developing a system that will rival the Oculus Rift. As of now the prototype is being referred to as “Project Morpheus.”
It’s not uncommon today to see VR technology being implemented in many ways. Whether for helping to train military or or building personal self confidence with virtual reality sex, it’s safe to say that only time will really tell what VR has in store for our future.