1838: Sir Charles Wheatstone found that humans can only perceive 3D because the brain combines two photographs of the same object, but from different points. He later invented the stereoscope.
1935: Nearly 100 years later, sci-fi author Stanley Weinbaum presents a fictional model for VR. The story, “Pygmalion’s Spectacles,” is about VR glasses in which the character is fully immersed in an interactive environment when wearing them.
1956: Morton Heilig, a filmmaker and inventor, invented the Sensorama. It gave the feeling of an immersive 3D world. Six short films were developed for this booth and inside there were full-color displays, audio, vibration, smell and atmospheric effects like wind.
1960: Four years later, Marton Heilig invents the first head-mounted display (HMD) called Telesphere Mask.
1961: Comeau and Bryan, both engineers, invent the first motion-tracking HMD. However, it was only used for the military to detect threats from a distance. After that, this technology was mainly used for the military because they had the money to fund it. It was then mainly used to build better flight simulators.
1968: Ivan Sutherland, a computer scientist, and Bob Sproull created the first virtual reality HMD. It was called “The Sword of Damocles.” It could only show simple virtual wireframe shapes, but they changed the perspective to the movement. That was the birth of AR. Because the device was too heavy, they had to strap it from the ceiling.
1969: Myron Krueger, a computer artist, created Glowflow, a succession to AR. The computer-generated environments could respond to the people in them.
1972: The General Electric Corporation built a computerized flight simulator. Using three screens, this simulator had a 180-degree field of view.
1975: Myron Krueger invented the first interactive VR platform VIDEOPLACE without the use of HMD or gloves. Through the use of projectors, video cameras, video displays, position sensing and computer graphics, the user could see the imitated movements of his silhouette.
1978: Aspen movie maps were developed. These maps were used to familiarize soldiers with remote locations. They made stop-motion images from a first-person perspective in a car. It was the first Street View version.
1979: McDonnell-Douglas Corporation integrated VR into an HMD. It was called the VITAL Helmet and was for military use only. To adjust the computer-generated images, the technology followed the pilot’s eye movements.
1980: StereoGraphics company invented stereo vision glasses.
1982: Sandin and Defanti invented the Sayre gloves. They monitored the movements of the hands. It is the beginning of gesture recognition.
1985: Thomas Zimmermann and Jaron Lanier founded VPL Research Inc. They were the first to sell VR glasses and gloves.
1986: Thomas Furness developed the Super Cockpit. It was the first flight simulator with computer-generated 3D maps. The pilot could control the plane through gestures, speech and eye movements. A year later, Jaron Lanier made the term “virtual reality” known to the public.
1989: Scott Foster founded Crystal River Engineering Inc. Through this company, real-time binaural 3D audio processing was developed.
1990: Jonathan Waldern introduces Virtuality. It was the first mass-produced VR entertainment system and was an arcade machine for gamers. That same year, Tom Caudell coins the term augmented reality.
1991: Antonio Medina, a NASA scientist, develops a VR system to control the Mars robot rovers. The company SEGA tries to release the first VR headset for the general public to buy, but it was never released because it was claimed that people could hurt themselves due to the VR effect being too realistic. However, the real reason could be that the processing power was too limited.
1992: Louis Rosenburg of Armstrong Laboratories, USAF, invents the first immersive mixed reality system, called Virtual Fixture.
1994: Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino describe mixed reality as “anywhere between the extrema of the virtuality continuum.”
1995: Affordable VR headsets for home use were released
1997: Georgia Tech and Emory University created VR war zone scenarios for veterans to help them recover from PTSD.
2001: Z-A Production released the first PC-based cubic room. It was called the SAS Cube.
2007: Google introduced the Street View virtual map.
2010: Google adds stereoscopic 3D mode to Street View.
2012: Palmer Luckey develops the prototype of the Oculus Rift. He was 18 years old at the time.
2014: Facebook buys Oculus VR, Sony announces it is working on a VR headset, Google releases Cardboard, and Samsung announces the Samsung Gear VR.
2015: Since then, the technology has evolved significantly and is now used in many areas, from teaching to fighting diseases to gaming.
- History of VR – Timeline of Events and Tech Development, Dom Barnard (06.08.2019), https://virtualspeech.com/blog/history-of-vr
- The History of Artificial and Virtual Reality AR/VR, o. A. (05.06.2020), https://avtsim.com/the-history-of-ar-vr/