When did virtual reality come out?May 20, 2018
By 2018, Virtual Reality has become one of the fastest growing industries in the tech sector. There a dozen brands of VR headsets available in the market and hundreds of producers of VR content. But none of this happened overnight. Virtual reality had a long development time. In this article, we will try to explain how virtual reality came into the mainstream. Since VR is a congregation of technologies, it does not have a one ‘inventor’ or a specific time as its date of arrival to the market.
The idea of a simulated existence has been around for decades with the earliest version of VR seen as far back as 1950. But even before that, in the 1920s Edwin Link created the first flight simulator to train new pilots. That device can be is considered to be the first virtual reality tool in the modern times.
The term virtual reality refers to a simulated environment in which a user can interact with the surrounding by using special tools. It came into existence because of continuous development of the idea that started back in the 50s.
Morton Heilig’s Sensorama experiment is considered by many people as the first virtual reality experiment. The sensorama theatre experiment was made up of an enclosed booth that contained a viewing screen that showed stereoscopic images. It also contained speakers to produce directional sound, a device that could emit smell and an oscillating fan to replicate the wind movement.
The rotating chair gave the users a way to move according to a prearranged system. Together, the sensorama unit tried to replicate a sensory-based experience and tried to trick the brain into believing it is having a real experience.
The unit was too bulky and there were too many technical challenges to make the experience realistic. But the experience in itself was well beyond the thinking of that age.
In 1961, the Philco Corporation produced the earliest version of the head-mounted device called the Headsight. This device had a separate video screen for each eye and used a magnetic motion tracking system linked to a camera. Whichever way the user’s head moved, the camera followed. It was created to assist the military to observe dangerous situations without physically being present at the location.
The experiments to recreate an artificial reality continued through the 80s and 90s. In 1987, a computer scientist called Jaron Lanier coined the term virtual reality and became the founder of visual programming lab (VPL). They were the first company to sell VR equipment like the EyePhone, a head-mounted display, and Dataglove the first haptic tool.
By 1991, VR arcades machines were seen across America. A company called Virtuality Group produced arcade machines that came with VR goggles that provided an immersive 3D experience and had low latency. They even had the potential to network a few devices to provide a multi-user gaming experience.
Today, advanced VR headsets are available in the market that can easily trick our brain into believing the simulation is real.