• Anisha Masur, Marketing Executive

History of Virtual Reality

What is Virtual Reality?

According to Virtual Reality Society, the definition of virtual reality (VR) comes from the definitions for both ‘virtual’ and ‘reality’. The definition of ‘virtual’ is near and ‘reality’ is what we experience as human beings. So the term ‘virtual reality’ basically means ‘near-reality’. This could of course mean anything but it usually refers to a specific type of reality emulation.

Most VR programs attempt at creating a visual experience for their audience. Today, it is being used to enhance the experience at amusement parks and entertainment environments. The concept of VR has been used for medical and military purposes apart from gaming. Though we continuously use today, it has been around for many years.


The History of Virtual Reality

Even before the virtual reality movies that immerse people into their monitors to become a part of the gaming world, this concept originated from the imagination of earlier decades. When considering the history of virtual reality, all computer graphics that simulate the real world must be taken into account.

During the 1950s, a cinematographer named Morton Heilig attempted to stimulate the different senses which gave birth to the idea of what we know today as virtual reality. He made use of a machine called Sensorama which included moving chairs and odor meters to provide a visual treat to the audience.

A few years after this conservative idea from 1950s, the notion of virtual reality emerged with Douglas Englbart’s concept of connecting computers to one screen. That’s when the world got the first real taste of VR – using the screen to visualize information.

Before the 1950s, computers were bulky machines used by the military. They were used as powerful machines that could take out a town’s power supply. From the Mark 1 to the 1960s computer technology, computers have come a long way.

In 1961, Philco Corporation devised a project called Headsight to produce visual stimulation along with a tracking system. This was also used for military purposes. For instance, pilots could now train under the Headsight to simulate flying in complete darkness.

In 1965, Ivan Sutherland tried mimicking the physical world with the use of his invention. He called it the Ultimate Display in which the invention would look like the world the person lived in. Even though Sutherland’s version focuses on 3D objects, it provides tactile stimuli considered by some to be the original concept of virtual reality.

During the 1980s and 1990s, VR became a concept of the future. With evolving graphics in video games during that time, it catered to consoles like PlayStation. As of today, Sony PS4 and Xbox One make use of these cutting-edge graphics to simulate reality. These are concepts started by virtual reality.

2017 might be a key year in the virtual reality industry. Multiple consumer devices that seem to finally answer the unfulfilled promises made by virtual reality in the 1990s have come to market now. These include the revolutionary Oculus Rift, which was purchased by social media giant Facebook in 2014 for the astounding sum of $2BN. An incredible vote of confidence in where the industry is set to go.

At Extentia’s Techquarium sessions VR devices such as Oculus Rift and apps for Google Cardboard have been frequently demoed for internal teams, customers, and college audiences.

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