In Part 1, I outlined where the origines of this concept came from. It appears that it was a fad as the 1970's were pretty quiet and did not bring much more to the table than what already existed.
However the 1980's, which is when I was born is where the term Virtual Reality was used for the first time. In 1987, Jaron Lanier, coined the term for the first time as there was no universal word for this technology. Although there were different terms used previously, this is the one that has stuck in our minds ever since and is the term that is still being used today. I must admit it is a good name as it expresses exactly what the technology is supposed to do. It is a Virtual World that seems so real that it should look like reality.
Jaron Lanier's company build various Virtual Reality devices, in the way of goggles and head mounts. It is funny as one of his inventions was called the EyePhone. That was years before, Steve Jobs was even thinking about a phone. In fact, he was not even at Apple at the time. The costs for these devices was a pretty penny upwards of 9,000$ and up to about 50,000$. I wonder why it did not take off !!! :)
Gaming companies were looking for something hip and new to dip their hands into. Until the 1990's the gaming industry was more console based. The arcades did have some booths, but it was far from Virtual Reality. No matter when you talk to anyone about VR, gaming always tops the list. It seems that it would be a great fit. What is a video game ? it is an interaction with a piece of software. What better than a Virtual Reality machine to do just that. The Virtuality Group released arcade machines that would have Virtual Reality head gear and you could play games. According to some sources, these could also be connected via network to play multiplayer.
Sample Virtuality Setup
In 1993 Sega attempted to create a version of VR, but it was a huge flop as it never got passed the prototype stage.
Sample Sega VR
To be honest, it does not look too bad. In fact, it looks better than Nintendo's Virtual Boy which came out in 1995. The Virtual Boy was released to the public, but I believe that it was a flop for Nintendo as well. I think that AVGN had the best review about this device.
AVGN Review of Virtual Boy
Virtual Boy Kit
As demonstrated by James Rolf from AVGN, the idea was good, but the tools and equipment were not very well thought out. I am pretty sure that this contributed to the failure of the product.
There were movies that brought the imagination of the Virtual Reality back. There was the Lawnmower Man which starred Pierce Brosnan. In the movie they use virtual reality to treat a mentally ill patient.
Then of course there is The Matrix. The movie that caught everyone's imagination and everyone was asking, is this real or not. Also, in the movie the lying down and plugging into the brain in order to see another reality of the software, is not as far fetched as the movie made it out to be. We are not plugged directly, but VR will be something similar, if ever we develop it to its full potential.
In addition, who can forget the holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I think that is the ultimate goal of VR to make it work and look like that. Walk into a room and say, Alps and you are there. I think this is one part of the Star Trek universe that people really want to make a reality. Star Trek has already influenced the creation of items like the flip phone, why not the creation of a real life holodeck.
This was part 2 of this VR series. I wanted to illustrate how far VR has come from its early days, and how games and movies alike are heading to an era where this could be a standard.
Check out for Part 3 on my opinions on what I think will happen with Virtual Reality.
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