The Evolution of Virtual Reality

Precursor: Early technology that blurred the lines between the physical and virtual worlds.

Augmented Reality: Technology that adds virtual elements to the user’s real-world environment.

Virtual Reality: Technology that allows users to immerse themselves in a fabricated reality.

1930’s: The Link Trainer

Precursor

The Link Trainer was a commercial flight simulator patented 1931 that was entirely electromechanical. The U.S. military bought six of these devices for $3,500 which would be around $50,000 today.

1940’s: Sawyer’s View-Master

Precursor

Sawyer’s View-Master debuted at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair and was originally intended as an educational device for adults, but became a children’s toy. It is estimated that overall sales have topped 100 million viewers and 1.5 billion reels

The binocular-style image reel viewer offers stereoscopic, 3D pictures that are mounted in a case of Bakelite, the first entirely man-made plastic.

1950’s: The Sensorama

Augmented Reality

The Sensorama was designed mid-50s and patented 1962. The arcade-style theater cabinet provided fully immersed film experience by stimulating all five senses.

The device included stereo speakers, a stereoscopic 3D display, fans, smell generators and a vibrating chair.

1960’s: The Telesphere Mask

Virtual Reality

The Telesphere Mask was patented in 1960 and was the first head-mounted display. The device featured stereoscopic 3D and wide vision with stereo sound, but lacked motion tracking.

1970’s: Aspen Movie Map

Augmented Reality

The Aspen Movie Map provides an interactive virtual tour of Aspen, Colorado. The device acted as a precursor to Google Street View.

The tour was created with roof-mounted cameras on cars and played back on a touch-screen display, with navigation buttons that allowed users to move around.

1980’s: VPL Eyephone

Augmented Reality

The VPL Eyephone was an immersive headset and glove released in 1989.The device sold at at a price point of $9,400 and used hand to head tracking to immerse users in a computer simulation.

1990’s: Nintendo Virtual Boy

Virtual Reality

The Nintendo Virtual Boy was a portable 3D video game console and the first home virtual reality device for gaming. The device sold around 770,000 units and utilized a dual screen design to create the illusion of 3D using 2D images.

2000’s: Virtuality Gaming Machines

Virtual Reality

Virtuality Gaming Machines were enclosed gaming stations that consisted of a headset and hand controllers plus a gaming pod. The first sale was for two machines to British Telecom for $78,000 each

2010: Microsoft Kinect

Augmented Reality

The Microsoft Kinect is a motion-sensing gaming system that was launched in 2010. The device creates a digitized version of the user that interacts with the virtual world on screen.

2011: iPhone Virtual Reality Viewer

Virtual Reality

The iPhone Virtual Reality Viewer is a pair of 3D iPhone goggles that provides users with an immersive, three-dimensional viewing experience. The goggles have 360-degree movement and use existing mobile devices.

2012: Oculus Rift

Augmented Reality

The Oculus Rift is a digital entertainment headset. Its kickstarter campaign raised $1 million in three days and the device was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion

2013: Tactical Haptics VR Motion Controller

Virtual Reality

The Tactical Haptics VR Motion Controller is a Responsive gaming joystick. The grip of the controller simulates pushing, pulling and twisting forces. The Kickstarter for the device launched in 2013, but did not reach its $175,000 goal.

2014: Google Cardboard

Virtual Reality

Google Cardboard is a foldable cardboard viewer with a price point of $15. 5 million viewers were sold in the first 19 months it was available. The device fits an Android phone.

2015: Samsung Gear VR

Virtual Reality

The Samsung Gear VR is worn around the user’s head with eyes enclosed. The device requires a Samsung phone to operate and uses an accelerometer and gyroscope for an immersive experience. It is sold at a price point of $99.

2016: Microsoft Hololens

Augmented Reality

The Microsoft Hololens is a holographic headset with a price point of $3,000 for the developer edition. It is a standalone device with no phone involved.

Sources:

  1. http://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/what-is-virtual-reality.html
  2. http://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/history.html
  3. http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1129885
  4. boingboing.net/viewmaster.html
  5. https://toytales.ca/keeping-it-reel-with-the-view-master/
  6. http://naimark.net/projects/aspen.html
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  13. kernelmag.dailydot.com/issue-sections/features-issue-sections/13516/virtuality-return-of-virtual-reality
  14. www.cnet.com/news/timeline-a-look-back-at-kinects-history
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  17. www.hammacher.com/Product/81631
  18. techcrunch.com/2014/03/26/a-brief-history-of-oculus
  19. www.roadtovr.com/reactive-grip-prototype-gdc-2014-tactical-haptics
  20. tacticalhaptics.com/reactive-grip-kickstarter-press-release
  21. www.theverge.com/2014/6/25/5842188/googles-cardboard-turns-your-android-device-into-a-vr-headset
  22. www.google.com/get/cardboard/get-cardboard
  23. googleblog.blogspot.com/2016/01/unfolding-virtual-journey-carboard.html
  24. www.wareable.com/samsung/samsung-gear-vr-review
  25. www.wareable.com/microsoft/microsoft-hololens-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-futuristic-ar-headset-735

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