A couple of decades ago, immersion in the world of virtual reality seemed like a fantasy. However, technology does not stand still, and today people use the possibilities of VR almost daily, from playing games on a smartphone to using virtual reality headsets.
Like most information technologies, augmented and virtual reality emerged as a military byproduct. Half a century after the first applications, VR technologies are gradually becoming a part of everyday life in many areas. Read about the VR history in our material.
It All Started With Games
The reality that exists in parallel with the usual way of life was described in numerous science fiction novels and films of the 20th century. However, attempts to look at familiar things from the other side have been made before.
In 1838, the physicist Charles Wheatstone described the principle of depth perception and three-dimensional structure — stereopsis. Based on his discovery, he created the first stereoscope — a device designed to perceive three-dimensional images.
Wheatstone used a pair of mirrors at 45 degrees to the eyes of the viewer. The physicist proved that the brain combines images of objects obtained from different points, as a result of which the object seems three-dimensional.
Military, Art, And IT
In parallel with the military in the middle of the 20th century, those who professionally knew how to immerse a person in a fictional world, representatives of the entertainment industry, film and game creators, approached the idea of virtual reality:
• In 1957, in the USA, Morton Heilig created the first virtual simulator “Sensorama”, which allowed him to ride a motorcycle through the streets of virtual Brooklyn.
• In 1968, when Ivan Sutherland’s first virtual reality helmet appeared, the image changed with the turn of the head. The following year, Tom Furness created the first visual systems for US Air Force pilots that displayed information about the flight, but such devices did not become widespread until the late 1980s.
• In the 1990s, Nintendo released the Virtual Boy console, which is considered the first set-top box capable of playing 3D graphics. The VR headset was based on stereoscopic LED eyepieces that used sensors to track the user’s eye motion.
It is worth noting that the first devices for VR were imperfect and often caused side effects in the form of dizziness or nausea in users, and their price tag was very high.
In the 2000s, the technology seemed to stall until relatively inexpensive and advanced virtual reality headsets began to appear on the market. Oculus Rift VR glasses were considered a breakthrough in the industry, which projected an image using LCD screens, tracked head turns, and had several degrees of freedom.
Against the backdrop of interest in the industry, similar products are beginning to appear, such as the PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, and other devices that allow you to run games in immersive mode.
Paying attention to the promising industry, IT giants began to offer their innovations in the field of VR. As of 2014, having no serious products of its own, Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion. It is believed that around this time, Mark Zuckerberg became interested in virtual reality, which he would later propose to insert into the concept of the metaverse.
How Will VR Change In The Future?
Virtual reality will change communication since for full-fledged contact it will not be necessary to be directly with the interlocutor in the same location. There will be VR chats and equipment that will scan users, record their movements and speech, and transmit them over long distances.
The need for the live presence of employees in the workplace will disappear since they can always be gathered in one virtual room. Projects — in design, architecture, and modeling — can be visualized and transferred to a virtual three-dimensional format.
Virtual reality training allows for highly realistic simulations, which are particularly valuable in fields where real-life training can be costly, dangerous, or impractical. For example, VR can simulate medical procedures, military training, emergency response situations, or complex machinery operations.
The rapid development of VR contributes to the active promotion of virtual and augmented reality technologies in the development of technical teaching aids in many areas. This technology allows not only significantly reduces the cost of the learning process but also improves its quality.
Today, VR technologies help design and manufacture equipment, teach how to interact with complex devices, and repair and maintain them. They create a virtual environment for preparation and training, which in reality are associated with high risk.
In recent years, virtual reality technology has reached a level suitable for use in the training of various specialists. The key problem, according to experts, is the lack of adequate means of simulating tactile sensations.