Since the beginning of time people have been looking for ways to entertain themselves and escaping reality has long been sought after and now dreams can become reality.
Development of VR gear has had its share of prototypes and horrible results for the past 40 or so years but the differences between the VR of the past and VR of 2018 is that…today it works. Let’s have a look at some important highlights in the history of virtual reality to better understand the journey the development process went through and how this technology that our parents once read about in Science Fiction magazines came to be the standard in technology today.
The term “Virtual Reality” was coined by Antonin Artaud in 1938 while describing the illusory nature of characters and objects in the theater. Even though you might think that has nothing to do with today’s view on the subject, the fact is that using certain props in the theater and using the right angle made a huge difference in how the audience emerged themselves in the play in a way that made them feel part of it.
The first “head set” came in 1939 and was called the View Master and was basically a stereoscope that used thin layers of cardboard to create a sense of virtual reality. Though you might consider that today a third world country cheap today, by 1930s standards that was a pretty big deal.
Flash-forward to 1968 and the first VR head mounted display connected to the computer and they named it “The Sword of Damocles” in honor of Cicero’s famous moral anecdote. This massive device hanged from the lab ceiling and allowed users to explore rudimentary wireframe environments. The device was somehow ahead of it’s time and the processing power made VR take a back seat for the next 20 years while the personal computer became more of a priority in the market.
Come 1986 and the term we use today had it’s real meaning. VPL Research started developing hardware that would allow users to explore different scenarios with the use of a giant head set called the Eye Phone(I’m not making this up) and a glove, called the data glove. a precursor to the infamous Nintendo power glove. Well even though the product was not so bad and people were actually hyped about it, the major drawback was that the set would cost the average user a whopping 18.000 dollars. As you might expect this put people off from the VR for another 10 years.
By the time the 90s hit, VR was part of popular culture being highly featured in Science Fiction movies, shows and novels and the consumers interest started to peek again. Nintendo, being a major player in the industry took a leap of faith and developed the Virtual Boy in 1995. While their concept was good and people were actually hyped about the release , the device failed to deliver what audiences hoped for and was a huge failure.
Nintendo’s failure put off other developers to pursue development on a new device for many years and people seemed to consider it a thing of the past even though it never took off the way it should have. All that changed in 2012 when a kickstarter for a company named Oculus Rift raised 1 million dollars in just a couple of days and things seemed to get back on track. By the time the Oculus released in 2016 it was all that it promised. We finally had the technology to create enjoyable experiences in VR and this was just the tip of the iceberg. Since then more and more uses for VR have been proven to be best practices in many fields from the gaming industry to the medical field and even movies.
What does 2018 have in store? We can just wait and see…or we can be a part of it.