History of virtual reality

How VR technologies appeared and developed

History of virtual reality

The VR technology boom happened in the 2010s and the world became obsessed with virtual reality. Like many other inventions, VR glasses were first described in science fiction literature.

In 1935 Stanley Weinbaum published Pygmalion's Glasses, a short story in that the protagonist is transported to a fictional world with the help of glasses. this is quite the concept of virtual reality, but the first real VR glasses are still far away.

Virtual reality machines

Nearly 20 years after the story's release, cinematographer Morton Heilig creates the Sensorama, the first virtual reality machine (1962 patent). Now we would compare this car to a 4D attraction - a large booth in which full-color 3D video was combined with audio, vibrations, smells, and other effects.

All the same Heilig in 1960 patented the Telesphere Mask, the first head-mounted display (HMD). This provided a stereo 3D image with a wide view and stereo sound, only the headset did not yet have motion tracking. In 1966, the first flight simulator for the Air Force appeared. It was greatly contributed to the development of virtual reality. Later the military made a big contribution to VR, constantly improving flight simulators.

And finally, in 1968, the Sword of Damocles appeared - the first virtual reality headset. It was created by Ivan Sutherland, one of the ideologists of VR, with his student Bob Sproull. To be more precise, it is more of an AR headset. The glasses were connected to a computer that generated images of various shapes. These 3D models changed perspective as it moved its heads due to a tracking system. And with the help of two cathode ray tubes, the user could see a three-dimensional image superimposed on real objects.

The first device was bulky, heavy, attached to the ceiling, so it was impossible to move it. A little later, the scientist will create a second model, already lighter, with ultrasonic sensors tracking movements.

In 1975, computer artist Myron Krueger creates an interactive VR platform VideoPlace, that assumes several dark rooms with large screens. Krueger used computer graphics, projectors, video cameras, video displays, and location technology, but did not use glasses. Users could see their computer-generated silhouettes mimicking their own movements. In addition, users in different rooms could interact with the silhouettes of other users in the same virtual world. This led to the idea people can communicate in the virtual world, even if they are not physically close. As it is happening today.

First VR glasses

In 1979, McDonnell-Douglas Corporation first integrated VR into a military helmet. The pilot's gaze was tracked, so that the computer generated the necessary image. And three years later, Sayre gloves are created, that could track hand movements. The tracking mechanism can be described in such a way: light emitters and photocells were placed on the fingers and when the fingers moved, the amount of light falling on the photocell changed, which was converted into electrical signals.

In 1985, VPL Research, Inc. founded, this company was the first to start selling VR glasses and gloves. Led by Thomas Zimmerman and Jaron Lanier, who popularized the term "virtual reality", the company has developed a variety of VR hardware: DataGlove, EyePhone HMD, and Audio Sphere.

Between 1986 and 1989, American virtual reality pioneer Thomas Furness developed a flight simulator known as the Super Cockpit. The training cockpit was equipped with 3D computer maps, enhanced infrared and radar images, and the pilot could see and hear in real time. The tracking system and helmet sensors allowed the pilot to control the aircraft using gestures, speech, and eye movements.

A little later, based on the DataGlove from VPL Research, Inc., Mattel, Inc. released the Power Glove, an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System controller. But the gloves never caught on, it was difficult to use for ordinary users.

Arcade machines

In the early 1990s, the Virtuality Group launched "Virtuality" VR arcade machines that gamers could play in a 3D game world. The system made it possible to combine machines for multiplayer games, and popular arcade games like Pac-Man made their own VR versions. Such mass entertainment made virtual reality more understandable and closer to users and was able to popularize this direction of the gaming industry.

In the early 1990s, SEGA announced they were working on the SEGA VR headset, which was intended for arcade games and the Mega Drive console. The design of the headset was inspired by popular films such as RoboCop and featured a visor with LCD displays, stereo headphones and head tracking sensors. However, the headset was never released due to the company's concerns about users' health. SEGA felt that the immersive experience in VR would be too realistic. But now we can say that the computing power of the headset would not be enough for such an effect.

In 1995, Nintendo releases the Virtual Boy console. 3D monochrome video games could be played on this console. It was the first handheld console to display 3D graphics. it was sold for only a year, then it was removed from production, recognizing it as a commercial failure. It lacked color graphics, lacked software support, and was awkward to use.

At the same time, two more home VR headsets are being released: I-Glasses from Virtual IO and VFX1 from Forte. Two years later, VR is being used in therapy for the first time. The project was known as Virtual Vietnam and was intended to treat PTSD in war veterans.

Oculus and modern VR headsets

The real breakthrough in the VR industry happened in 2012, when the world saw the first prototype of the Oculus Rift at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. For several years, a young self-taught engineer, Palmer Lucky, has been developing his VR headset and sharing his successes on the forum, where he was noticed by John Carmack, co-founder of id Software. In that year, Luckey founded Oculus VR and launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $2.4 million.

Two years after the creation of Oculus VR, Facebook became interested in the company and bought it for $2 billion. It was a defining moment in the history of VR. That's when the popularity of VR began to rise rapidly.

Sony announced a VR headset for the PlayStation 4, Google released Cardboard, Samsung announced the Samsung Gear VR - the possibilities of virtual reality are becoming available to the general public.

Many companies such as HTC, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft Sony, Samsung are starting to develop their own VR headsets. In 2016, HTC releases the HTC VIVE. It was the first commercial release of a touch-tracking headset that allowed users to freely move around in space.

“In 2019, virtual reality becomes real,” is how Forbes magazine describes this year. It was at this time that the standalone Oculus Quest headset hit the market, and the number of monthly connected VR headsets on Steam for the first time exceeded 1 million.

The transition from wired VR headsets to standalone ones has greatly advanced this technology among users. Now VR is used not only in immersive gaming, but also to help treat psychological disorders, learn new skills and in creativity.

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