May 18, 2018 5

Evolution of Virtual Reality Applications

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Virtual Reality or VR was a term coined in 1987. It may come as a surprise to some people that the term VR could be born in the 80s. What would be even more surprising is the rich and old history of VR.

First attempts at immersing the user in an experience using graphics started in the year 1800s by the means of panoramic paintings. In 1838 Charles Wheatstone created the first Stereoscopic photos viewer that could display a still image in 3D. In 1929, the first flight simulator was born, thereby technically making education the first serious application of VR in an analog mechanical environment.

In 1950s, the Morton Heilig developed the Sensorama which was an arcade-style cabinet that tried to stimulate all the senses, not just sight and sound. It featured stereo speakers, a stereoscopic 3D display, fans, aroma generators and a vibrating chair.

1960 and 1961 saw the advent of the first VR Head Mounted Display (HMD) and First motion tracking HMD. In 1960 the first VR HMD was created that was connected to a computer and not a camera. Computer generated primitive wireframe objects for the VR headset.

In 1991 VR headset made their way to the Arcade and in 1993 SEGA announced its very own take on VR Headsets. In 1995 Nintendo took a stab at the VR market with its very own Nintendo Virtual Boy which was a commercial flop.

Fast forward to 2018 and few would have imagined that VR will be hailed as the next compute platform and a disruptive technology with companies like Facebook and Valve pouring millions of dollars to take VR to mass adoption.

The history of VR is rich and so are its applications and use cases that evolved over the last couple of decades. While the first attempts at VR was meant for entertainment and leisure, its been soon adopted by the enterprise for serious gaming applications such as training and education, productivity enhancement and scenario simulation.

Broadly, the applications of Virtual Reality can be categorized into the following domains:

  • Education
  • Communication
  • Analysis
  • Commerce
  • Entertainment

With times VR will continue to become more affordable and usable which would fuel its adoption into virtually all facets of society.