Virtual reality (VR) is a new, exciting technology to be explored. Only a few years ago, it seemed to be something straight out of science fiction; its roots can be traced into film history of the 1950s. The ‘Sensorama’, invented in 1956, presented short films in specially outfitted movie theaters with corresponding sounds and smells. Its creator, Morton Heilig, used this early VR technology to further immerse the viewer into a storyline.
Though no vocabulary existed for the technology until 30 years after this cinematic appeal to the senses, today Heilig is recognized as the “father of virtual reality”.
Modern virtual reality is experienced by its user through a wearable screen. It encodes head, eye, and motion tracking and conveys them onto an LCD display. This makes it possible to transform 2D images into 3D environments. By manipulating the senses, the user accepts the “reality” presented to them.
With no separation between your sight and the ‘world’ in front of you, virtual reality allows for a deeper submersion than does augmented reality.
The VR boom in the late 1980s was too short-lived to make real strides. Silicon Valley’s VPL invested heavily in the new technology only to declare bankruptcy a few years later. After the market failure of several VR systems in the 90s, interest in its development was lost until very recently.
In the last decade, virtual reality has been sought after by innovators as being the latest in computing technology. According to Palmer Luckey, it is the “final platform”.
Luckey founded Oculus VR, which sold to Facebook for $2.3 billion in 2014. As an authority in the industry, he has a definite understanding of the limitless applications of VR.
As its original backers hoped, VR is already advancing the fields of education, science, exploration and career training. It has also been implemented in treatments for lazy eye and PTSD. VPL’s original founder, Jaron Lanier has made the modest comment that virtual reality is merely the “next logical step” in human innovation.
Following Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR, Mark Zuckerberg took to his personal page to write: “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected…we can start focusing on what platforms will come next.” Zuckerberg added that “Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream…The future is coming and we have a chance to build it together.”