What will history books say about virtual reality?

History of Virtual Reality and What the Future Holds

What is the history of virtual reality and how did it get started?

In the 1900s, no one would have guessed that future generations would have the ability to dream with their eyes open. Virtual Reality allows the consumer to be inside an experience of their choosing. This computerized technology generates a simulated environment that fosters up all senses; smell, sight, touch, hearing, with an exception for taste.

Virtual reality is made of two ingredients. The first component is the three dimensional imagery that resembles authentic everyday objects. The second component is the amount of proficiency it has to monitor the physical movements of the user. Hence, most people wonder, what is it like to be in VR?

The Virtual Experience

Virtual Reality causes the user to lose sight of what is real. In order to do so, experts have the user experience total immersion. Immersion is “how well virtual reality is able to mimic or simulate the real world as we know it,”(kids.frontiersin.org). Let’s say an individual has traveled to the beach on a Saturday evening. Once returning home, that person may wish to revisit the beach to regain a bit of sanity from everyday society. By using a VR headset, this technology would make it as if he/she has never left.

In order for users to have an optimum experience, it requires depth of information and breadth of information. Breadth of information is an element of immersion that provides a detailed sensory experience that prioritizes the visual and auditory aspects. At the same time, depth of information merely alludes to the volume and quality that a user consumes when placed in the virtual environment. This especially applies to the graphics of their surroundings.

Basics of A Virtual Reality Headset

Today, most people know of the popular VR headsets, the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. But as amazing as they are, how do they work? Through a console or computer, video needs to be sent into the headset. The headset has the ability to track the user’s head movement. Hence, if one was to suddenly shift their head to the right, the imagery would shift along with the movement. Specifically, a system named 6DoF follows the range of movement a person’s head has.

6DoF is not the only head-tracking component a headset has. These internal components are called gyroscope, accelerometer and a magnetometer. A gyroscope is a device that maintains rotational motion. In contrast, an accelerometer is an instrument meant to measure acceleration. A magnetometer is simply a device that measures magnetism.

An effective headset requires low latency with a maximum of 50 milliseconds. If it is any higher, the user’s current reality is shattered and it would seem artificial. The user would be able to see a lag when they decide to turn or the environment within the VR is altered. In addition to this requirement, headphones really seal the deal. Headphones provide the sense of hearing that adds to the experience of immersion.

The History Of Virtual Reality In 1800s

Looking back on the past, virtual reality was not always this impressive. The first developments of VR was started by Sir Charles Wheatstone in the 1830s. Sir Charles Wheatstone was a English physicist born on Feb. 6, 1802, in Gloucester, England. He was the first individual to depict what Stereopsis, or depth perception truly is. Stereopsis describes a person with healthy vision observing an object, with each eye working at opposing angles. This information is uploaded into the brain, establishing the third dimensional reality that humans see.

By defining binocular vision, Sir Wheatstone was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1840. This led to the making of the earliest form of a stereoscope, which provided proof that the combination of two images can create a third dimensional perception of reality.

History of VR 1930 to 1960

Fast-forwarding to 1935, Stanley Weinbaum constructed a fictional prototype of a VR in the short story, Pygmalion’s Spectacles. Pygmalion’s Spectacles describes a story about a protagonist that meets his instructor who has somehow created ‘miracle goggles’. These ‘miracle goggles’ allowed one to enter a virtual world of anything he imagines.

Quickly after that, the first virtual reality gadget in the history of VR was created. In 1956, Morton Heilig invented the ‘Cinema of the Future’, Sensorama, as the first legit VR technology. Sensorama resembles a large booth that could fit a maximum of four people. It was composed of technical parts that constituted what anyone was looking for in a VR experience: vibrations, audio, atmospheric effects and smell. Morton Heilig wanted Sensorama to be used as a way to enhance a person’s cinematic experience turning a third person experience into a first person experience.

History of Virtual Reality in the 1960’s

In 1961, Headsight was the HMD built by Philco Corporation engineers named Comeau and Bryan. Headsight is a helmet that utilizes a video screen and tracking system linked to a closed circuit camera system. It was initially meant for dangerous circumstances that may involve the user needing to defend oneself. Even though it is well known that zombies only eat brains, it is always good to take precautions. The user can observe the environment outside of their home for intruders, just with a turn of their head.

The concept of Ultimate Display was invented by Ivan Sutherland who is widely recognized as the ‘pioneer of computer graphics’. Ultimate Display describes the idea of HMD being able to replicate reality to the point in which the user would be unable to differ. Mr. Ivan Sutherland’s composition is regarded as the primary blueprint for VR for years to come.

That blueprint came into a reality with The Sword of Damocles, the first virtual reality HMD. This HMD is a head mount connected to a computer that reveals to the user various perspectives as they move their heads. Then 1969 arrived with the invention of ‘artificial reality’ experience by Myron Krueger. He fostered virtual environments that reacted to people within them. That’s when Myron Krueger’s first VR platform comes in.

In 1975, Myron Krueger designed VIDEOPLACE, the first interactive VR platform which utilized video cameras, projectors, computer graphics and position-sensing technology. This room was enormous, pitch-black and did not use goggles or gloves. When a person walks in, the first thing they see is their computer-generated reflections in which the users’ actions are filmed on camera and transmitted onto the shadow. The coolest thing about this experience is that a user could see other individuals’ silhouettes if there are multiple rooms and interact with them.

History of VR in the 1980’s

In 1982, gloves for virtual reality were finally invented. These gloves were called Sayre gloves, the first wired gloves for VR. The inventors of the Sayre gloves are named Daniel J. Sandin and Thomas DeFanti. The idea of Sayre gloves came from Richard Sayre, a close colleague. In creating the Sayre gloves, Daniel J. Sandin and Thomas DeFanti used the start of gesture recognition through light emitters and photocells. This was used to overlook hand movements in the gloves. So when the fingers in the glove shifts, the light hitting the photocells converts the physical activity into electrical signals. Now both a VR headset and wired gloves can be sold as a pair.

VPL Research Inc., founded by Jaron Lanier, is the first company to sell VR goggles and gloves. In the 1980s, Lanier devoted his career studying alternative approaches to the fundamentals of physics; heterogeneous scientific simulations, fundamentals of physics and advanced information systems for medicine. VPL Research Inc. resided at the outskirts of Lanier’s cottage in Palo Alto, around the San Francisco Bay Area. VPL Research, Inc sold VR products called the DataGlove, EyePhone, AudioSphere, Isaac, and Body Electric.

One day, NASA found VR in the skirts of the 1980s. In 1989, NASA was developing VIEW, Virtual Environment Workstation Project, as a VR simulator for aspiring astronauts. However, they were missing the element of sound in their project. So they turned to Scott Foster, who had just founded Crystal River Engineering Inc. In this way, real-time binaural 3D audio processing was made.

History of Virtual Reality in the 1990’s

It’s impressive how space and VR could come together at such an early stage in the history of VR. Yet, the outcomes were extraordinary. In 1991, a VR system, Computer Simulated Teleoperation, was invented to outline a robot rover’s route from Earth to Mars. Antonio Medina, a NASA scientist and inventor of Computer Simulated Teleoperation, also helped launch VR arcade machines.

These arcade machines would have players immersed into 3D gaming. It was VR’s first mass production in the entertainment industry. Even SEGA, a gaming business, announced their efforts in creating the ‘SEGA VR headset’. This would allow VR to be dispersed in society for common use. In 1944, SEGA ended up releasing the SEGA VR-1, a motion simulator arcade machine.

Closing in on the end of the 1900s, Nintendo jumps in just in time to join the fun. Nintendo releases Virtual Boy console, a system that plays 3D monochrome video games, to the public. What was significant about this console was that it was not only portable, but it could display 3D graphics. Virtually Reality has come so far throughout the 1900s, and the growth only continues in a new era.

The History Of VR In The Early 2000’s

In 2007, Google introduces Street View as “a virtual representation of our surroundings,” (www.google.com/streetview/). A company called Immersive Media was the first contractor to photograph imagery of several cities in a moving car. Then when 2010 hit, Google created a third dimensional form of Street View.

That same year an 18 year old entrepreneur named Palmer Luckey invented the first prototype of the Oculus Rift headset. Honestly, his bank must be looking like phone numbers because Oculus Rift has an estimated net worth of $700 million according to Forbes magazine. In 2012, Mr. Luckey started a campaign for the Oculus Rift which got the ball rolling for his successful career.

However, just as suddenly Mr. Luckey gained his success, he sold Oculus Rift to Facebook for $2 billion. From that moment, VR rapidly gained a large popularity of VR. High-level businesses such as Sony, Google, and Samsung started to create outstanding products with Oculus Rift such as the Samsung Gear VR and the Project Morpheus.

Virtual Reality in The Future

As with all things, history matters, but the future matters more. While the history of virtual reality has been explored, it’s important to look at where we are going – tomorrow. Virtual Reality has skyrocketed in mainstream media these past couple of years, creating a fun and immersive experience for users all around the world. The history of virtual reality has truly taken today’s society to the next level. VR has dived into multiple industries such as the military, sports, medical, education, and even fashion.


No one would’ve thought that VR could be used in the military, yet now the United States and the UK have invested VR tech into their soldiers. In addition, the use of VR reduces the costs of training as the VR is the least susceptible to constant repairs. The trainees are able to undergo numerous simulations that prepare them for realistic scenarios they might face on the battlefield. This gives each individual scores based on how well they do. VR is utilized in multiple branches of the military such as the army, navy, air force, marines and coast guard.

In these sectors, soldiers undergo “flight simulations, battlefield simulations, medic training, and vehicle simulations”(https://www.fdmgroup.com/5-exciting-uses-for-virtual-reality/). A specific example would be Striker VR, which is used to train soldiers in their shooting skills. A soldier would have a VR Gun strapped to them at practice. Hence, they can commence in using a various number of effects called single shot, out-of-ammo, three round burst, chainsaw, pulse rifle replicants.


The usage of virtual reality in sports have been for training, watching live games, and training teams. When Super Bowl season comes around, football fans from all across the globe curse out the never-ending commercials. They’d constantly argue about which team is going to win that particular year. These fans are the ones who wish that they are at the field, fully immersed into the experience.

A VR set can allow a fan of any sport to have the most realistic experience observing a game while lounging on the couch. This is not limited to VR from a player’s perspective. Particularly in Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games partnered with NBC and BBC with a VR coverage of the action. Since it was just an experiment, the footage of the game was unavailable until the following day. Regardless, that began the growth of virtual reality in sports and partnerships with the NBA, the ICC, and even the NASCAR Race.


Today, experts claim that virtual reality can assist in the process of helping people have a healthy way of living. VR can be used to diagnose and treat mental or physical conditions. These medical conditions can range from something as small as social anxiety to Alzheimer’s disease. This VR therapy is still being tested to improve its accuracy. Hence, virtual reality is slowly making its way in therapeutic settings. This is where the term, exposure therapy comes into play.

Exposure therapy treats patients with anxiety disorders by placing them in virtual environments that are anxiety inducing. This is continuous until the patient grows to find what they are scared of, is not so scary anymore. VR is opening a new way of mental healing. In addition, VR is being used to treat mental illnesses like alcohol addiction, claustrophobia and teenage depression. Researchers suggest that VR can assist in diagnosing people of all ages for conditions like schizophrenia, ADHD and autism.


Education is what takes society into the future. Today virtual reality has entered school systems to enhance the learning of the future generations. It has become revolutionary for teachers and students alike in changing the old school system. As most people learn better by doing instead in a chair all day, discovering an innovative way to absorb information can engage learners into their lessons. Today, students can take a field trip to the Abraham Lincoln monument and suddenly to the dinosaur age in a flash. All this is possible with virtual reality and Google.

Google created Google Expedition to allow the user to travel worldwide with just their cell-phone. Currently, Google has more than 1 million students used their app in 11 countries on their own virtual quests. Studies have shown virtual reality can be used as a positive influence towards children with distinct disorders. Floreo, a tech company, used their services to assist children with Autism spectrum disorders and improve their social skills. VR seems to have no limit in what it can do for so many types of people.


The idea of Virtual Reality within the fashion industry can take consumers feet away from models on a run way. It altogether eliminates the cost of having to travel far and wide to attend such expensive shows. In 2017, “Dreaming of Italy” show took place, in which people had the chance to be virtually present for the show. This fantastic fashion show was filmed in Milan a week prior to the actual event. A viewer could walk around and observe the different articles of clothing.

Additionally, Brand owners could showcase their business without direct confrontation with other human beings. Therefore, fashion in VR could expand to even more people drawing in more customers. Customers allow brands to collect data on what they are most attracted to or allow them to make better future decisions when it comes to their design. This includes brands like Coach, Gap and Tommy Hilfiger who wish to bring awareness to their brand and increase sales. Furthermore, in case people did not get a chance to attend the event, VR is an awesome alternative.

Challenges Of Virtual Reality

Every field has their quirks and setbacks. Virtual Realities’ constant issue is creating a further organic experience than the last as well as decreasing the number of tools to do it. Virtual Reality has reportedly caused health related concerns such as headaches, eye strain, dizziness and nausea. To deal with these types of concerns that customers have, developers choose to completely eliminate induced motion that may lead to those symptoms. Throughout the history of virtual reality, there have been concerns about what the health effects might be on the human body.

However, this leads to the creativity ‘switch’ to be flipped off due to the eliminating certain features of VR. So ultimately it’s time to figure out a balance that accommodates both the consumer and the developers. In that same sense, to gain popularity developers create VR set versions of existing tv shows and games. Virtual Reality was originally made to enhance what already exists, but what if abstract imagination could be enhanced as well?

The topic of virtual crimes has been a popular subject to discuss. With the human mind being an ultimate source of imagination, the freedom that virtual reality possesses may lead society into a negative rabbit hole. Virtual Reality may lead users to perform what they’ve seen in movies, television, and books: robbery, murder, and molestation. Would any of this be deemed a crime, if it is virtual? That question is discussed frequently as it has a possibility of becoming a reality.

The Importance Of Virtual Experience

The goal in life for society is to evolve in some sort of shape or form. Virtual reality is evidence of this increasing growth. Virtual reality allows what is limited in the real world to be unlimited in an imagined world. This concept has improved society by creating a way to interact with other human beings in a more personalized fashion. A great example would be that people of all ages can connect their VR on twitch and can connect with other gamers all around the world.

The history of virtual reality has paved a way for new bonds and memories to form in the comfort of one’s home. People can sit down at a cafe, go on dates, and even have a mini dance party with friends. Especially with the conditions that COVID-19 has forced the world to endure, it opens a way for friends to still connect with each other, following social distancing regulations. As time passes, the world marches forward visualizing its’ highest form of self.