History of VR
The exact origins of virtual reality are disputed, partly because of no exact definition in the past. The first references to the more modern concept of virtual reality came from science fiction.
Brief Key Events
1838 – Stereoscopic photos & viewers
In 1838 Charles Wheatstone’s research demonstrated that the brain processes the different two-dimensional images from each eye into a single object of three dimensions. Viewing two side by side stereoscopic images or photos through a stereoscope gave the user a sense of depth and immersion. The later development of the popular View-Master stereoscope (patented 1939), was used for “virtual tourism”. The design principles of the Stereoscope are used today for the popular Google Cardboard and low budget VR head mounted displays for mobile phones.
View-Master, a stereoscopic visual simulator, was introduced in 1939
1960 – The first VR Head Mounted Display
Telesphere Mask was invented (patented 1960) and was the first example of a head-mounted display (HMD), though for the non-interactive film medium without any motion tracking. The headset provided stereoscopic 3D and wide vision with stereo sound.
From the 1970s to 1990s, the virtual reality industry mainly provided VR devices for medical, flight simulation, automobile industry design, and military training purposes.
1989 – NASA Gets Into VR
NASA, with the help of Crystal River Engineering, created Project VIEW which was used to train astronauts. VIEW looks recognisable as a modern example of VR and features gloves for fine simulation of touch interaction. Interestingly, the technology in these gloves leads directly to the creation of the Nintendo Power Glove.
A VPL Research DataSuit, a full-body outfit with sensors for measuring the movement of arms, legs, and trunk. Developed circa 1989. Displayed at the Nissho Iwai showroom in Tokyo
NASA Ames's 1985 VIEW headset