Virtual Reality

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 graphic 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.

Video for Elders Reacting to the Oculus Rift


[The Virtual Yellow House Project]

The Yellow House was the brainchild of Sharp and filmmaker Albie Thoms, modelled on the failed artist community set up by Vincent van Gogh in Arles, France, during the late 1880s (Thoms 2012). Set up in Macleay Street, Kings Cross, by Australian artist Martin Sharp in 1970, and running through to early 1973, the Yellow engaged local, national and international artists who visited the three-storey terrace building and helped shape the artistic and cultural development of this experimental and communal space. Painting, music, theatre, film, puppetry, light shows and mixed-media performances were held in Spaces with titles such as the Stone Room that were filled with textured walls, artistic recreations of famous artworks such as The Great Wave by Hokusai, and sculptural pieces which became one with the immediate environment.

The Stone Room featured in the original Yellow House Gallery

Over the next three years, the 3-storey terrace at 57-59 Macleay Street became the site of a living, breathing artist community. The exterior was painted yellow, and the interior became an art history museum, with the walls, ceiling and staircases painted and sculptured, and installations put in place to reflect the tastes and interests of anybody who cared to participate. Art, music, drama and film were created, performed and exhibited at the Yellow House by its residents and visitors until the doors were closed early in 1973. The building became an exhibition gallery, artist’s studio, performance space, living quarters and meeting place.

The re-creation of the Yellow House in a 3D virtual reality (VR) environment will make use of contemporary photographic and audiovisual archives applied to technologies such as the Oculus Rift, to facilitate art historical, media, communication and graphic design studies. Resources to be utilised include photographs taken in the Yellow House by photographer Greg Weight and artist George Gittoes, over 30 hours of film footage from Yellow TV produced by Albie Thoms, ABC television documentary and news footage, original building plans from the City of Sydney Council Archives, and oral history accounts by those involved. This material will be used to create a replica space in 3D and add original textures to that virtual space. The prototype developed for this project will, in the initial phase, enable students and researchers to interact with University of Wollongong Library collections focused on Australian counterculture art and publishing movements during the 1960s and 1970s. T

The project will also create an open-access teaching and learning tool which can be freely used, modified and adapted for a broad range of applications beyond recreation of the actual Sydney-based Yellow House. These applications will include interactive exhibition spaces and 3D digital archives sourced from the library and archival collections external to the University of Wollongong. For example, the State Library of New South Wales has a dispersed collection of material relating to the Yellow House and the art of Martin Sharp, whilst the archives of Albie Thoms are located in the National Library of Australia and National Film and Sound Archive collections in Canberra.

The primary aim of the Yellow House project is to provide an opportunity for students, academics and the public to engage with library and archival collections in new, innovative and productive ways, and demonstrate the active application of curriculum‑driven, technology-enhanced learning experiences. It will create an open access 3D, immersive and interactive VR gallery based on the Yellow House. Using Oculus Rift and similar virtual reality technologies, students and researchers will enter the virtual Yellow House gallery and engage with its historic elements, learning from, and being actively stimulated by, the experience.

The UOW Yellow House – Library Page

In addition, they will be able to modify and adapt their own Yellow House room using the open data object created as part of the project.

The VR experience will serve as a virtual gallery space for experimentation and collaborative experiences between academics and students and as a means for experiencing not only the University of Wollongong Library’s expanding digital collections but also other relevant material brought to the space by the participants.

In the first instance, the Yellow House VR gallery will be available to students to present their own work and use the virtual gallery as their own space.

The Yellow House web portal will provide the gateway to the virtual reality Yellow House space, along with open data files of this product for reuse, experimentation and redesign by others.

It will be an extension of existing work undertaken by the University of Wollongong Library, including the acquisition and digitisation of significant historical Australian collections: including OZ magazine Sydney (1963-9) and London (1967-73), the Garry Shead and Martin Sharp edited Arty Wild Oat (1962) magazine, and Richard Neville’s The Living Daylights (1973-4).

The Yellow House portal will be integrated with the Library’s existing Digital Collections portal (University of Wollongong Library 2015), and include the technical capability for students and other users to share their experiences and stories regarding experiments with the open source files, thus offering students a new model in which to engage with content.

See also:

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