A Brief History of VR

Histories of Virtual Reality


Virtual optical interfaces can be traced to examples of 360-degree art in the panoramic murals that began to appear in Italian murals in the 1560sAt first floor level, Baldassarre Peruzzi painted the main salone with frescoes of a grand open loggia balcony with city and countryside views. The perspective view really only works from a fixed point in the room otherwise the illusion is broken.

The notion of the 3D goggles has been around for a long time, and Stanley G. Weinbaum proposed a google glasses like system for virtual reality in the 1930s in his short fiction called the “Pygmalion’s Spectacles, which included his hypothetical design for goggles that would display holographic recordings of fictional experiences.

Morton Heilig was famous in the 1950s for his “Experience Theatre”, which was an attempt to include all the senses in the cinematic experience, by expanding the view to encompass the individual audience and attempted to include them in the onscreen activity. Heilig built a working prototype of his virtual reality device, called the Sensorama in 1962, as a large cabinet device that had to be sat inside. The prototype had five short films and stimulated the senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch. This is a concept that we see emerge time and time again, just recently plastics for 3d printing became available that would give off different aromas when used. The use of smell and body posture has been also anticipated in the immersion effect.

In 1968 Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull, create the augmented reality (AR) and VR head-mounted display (HMD) system. Rudimentary and exceptionally heavy, the HMD was supported from the ceiling. The device had a basic user interface and a wire-frame virtual environment and was called The Sword of Damocles.

In 1990 Jonathan Waldern, a VR PhD, demonstrates “Virtuality” a Computer Graphics exhibition staged at London’s Alexandra Palace. His garage startup company would go on to produce the Virtuality as a line of virtual reality gaming machines found in video arcades and adventure parks and game stores in the early 1990s. I remember playing these multiplayer at about the same time that i first reader Neuromancer in 1992. The VR machines delivered almost real time (less than 50ms lag) gaming via a stereoscopic visor, joysticks, and networked units for multi-player gaming. Virtuality was the first mass-produced, networked, multiplayer VR location-based entertainment system. Costing up to $73,000 per multi-pod Virtuality system, they featured headsets and exoskeleton gloves that gave one of the first “immersive” VR experiences.

The famous, or infamous, Virtual Boy was created by Nintendo and was released in Japan and in North America in 1995.

In 2014 Facebook [invested] $2 billion into  Oculus VR[Palmer Luckey] created his first VR prototype at age 18 in his parents’ garage in 2011, which was a headset that included a 90-degree field of view. Luckey developed a series of prototypes over ten months increasing the range to a 270-degree field-of-view, while also decreasing size and weight.The 6th iteration was named the “Rift,” and He first started Oculus VR in order to facilitate the Kickstarter campaign

9,522 backers pledged $2,437,429 to help bring this project to life.

The VR unit relies on a series of cybernetic feedback loops between the CPU, the Worn device, the user’s Body, and the graphics output and visual display which is also an input device for the on-screen direction and movement. Putting the headpiece on is very much like putting on a mix of  Ned Kelly’s Helmet and Tony Stark’s Iron Man visor – it’s a mix of the primitive and the advanced.

Student VR projects :

Ethics and VR Journalism

Teach yourself how to build a VR demo in Unity: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Exploring Virtual Reality

Immersive Storytelling with VR