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What Is Virtual Reality?

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Virtual Reality (VR) is the computer-generated simulation of a 3D environment that can be interacted with in a physical way by a person using special electronic equipment.

The effect is commonly created by VR headsets consisting of head-mounted goggles with a screen in front of the eyes, but can also through specially designed spaces with multiple large screens.

A person using virtual reality equipment is able to take a look around the artificial world. With high quality VR and integrated extras, users can move about in the world and interact with virtual features or items.

VR systems that include transmission of vibrations and other sensations to the user through a game controller or other devices are known as haptic systems.

If you're looking to create a fully immersive experience that will have visitors flocking to your stand and recounting their experiences for months to come, you should definitely consider hiring a virtual reality solution.

But where did it all begin?

The History of Virtual Reality

The exact origins of virtual reality are disputed, due to the difficult task of pinning down the EXACT definition of a product that creates an alternative existence.

Elements of virtual reality appeared as early as the 1860s! French avant-garde playwright Antonin Artaud took the view that illusion was not distinct from reality, advocating that spectators at a play should suspend disbelief and regard the drama on stage as reality.

The first references to the more modern concept of virtual reality came from science fiction. Stanley G. Weinbaum's 1935 short story Pygmalion's Spectacles describes a goggle-based virtual reality system with holographic recording of fictional experiences, including smell and touch.

In the 1950s Morton Heilig wrote about what he called an "Experience Theatre" that could encompass all the senses in an effective manner, thus drawing the viewer into the onscreen activity - an early precursor of 4D experiences.

In 1962 built a prototype of his vision which he called the Sensorama, along with five short films to be displayed in it while engaging multiple senses such as sight, sound, smell, and touch.

Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull, created what was widely considered to be the first head-mounted display (HMD) system in 1986 - the Sword of Damocles.

Virtual reality came to the public’s attention in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. This can be attributed to pioneering computer scientist Jaron Lanier who introduced the world back in 1987 to the term virtual reality.

Atari founded a research lab for virtual reality in 1982, but the lab was closed after two years due to Atari Shock, otherwise known as the North American video game crash of 1983. Despite the crash, its hired employees such as Tom Zimmerman, Scott Fisher, Jaron Lanier and Brenda Laurel, kept their research and development on VR-related technologies.

Lanier founded the company VPL Research in 1985. VPL Research developed several VR devices like the Data Glove, the Eye Phone, and the Audio Sphere.

The 1990s saw the first widespread commercial releases of consumer headsets. In 1991, Sega announced the Sega VR headset for arcade games and the Mega Drive console. It used LCD screens in the visor, stereo headphones, and inertial sensors that allowed the system to track and react to the movements of the user's head.

In the same year, Virtuality launched and went on to become the first mass-produced, networked, multiplayer VR entertainment system.

In 1991, Computer Gaming World predicted "Affordable VR by 1994". By 1994, Sega released the Sega VR-1 motion simulator arcade attraction, in SegaWorld amusement arcades.

The 2000s marked a drastic acceleration in VR technology. By 2007, Google introduced Street View, a service that shows panoramic views of an increasing number of worldwide positions such as roads, indoor buildings and rural areas.

Palmer Luckey designed the first prototype of the Oculus Rift in 2010. In 2013, Valve discovered and freely shared the breakthrough of low-persistence displays which make lag-free and smear-free display of VR content possible.

And now...

By 2016 there were at least 230 companies developing VR-related products!

Facebook has 400 employees focused on VR development; Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Sony and Samsung all had dedicated AR and VR groups.

On April 5, 2016, HTC shipped its first units of the HTC VIVE SteamVR headset. This marked the first major commercial release of sensor-based tracking and haptic development, allowing for free movement of users within a defined space.

In early 2017, a patent filed by Sony showed they were developing a similar location tracking technology to the VIVE for PlayStation VR, with the potential for the development of a wireless headset.