Who invented virtual reality?

who invented virtual reality

Today, you can help you learn about different places or even ideas, experiencing them as if you were exactly there. It is an interesting experience and it is being applied across industries including oil and gas. I recently wondered, who invented virtual reality? This question made me go into doing research to find out where virtual reality began

The first actual Virtual Reality head-mounted display (HMD) was created in 1968 by computer scientist Ivan Sutherland. Sutherland was one of the most important figures in the history of computer graphics, having developed the revolutionary “Sketchpad” software that paves the way for tools like Computer-Aided Design (CAD).

In 1965 American computer scientist Ivan Sutherland presented the notion of ‘the absolute display’.

In his 1965 paper and corresponding speech, Sutherland laid out a vision for the future of the VR format, both predicting and spurring the move towards indistinguishable-from-real computer graphics, audio, navigation, interaction and ultimately, total perceptual immersion.

Whilst not a technological development itself, this theory was pivotal in the story of VR, guiding Sutherland’s own experimentations in VR as well as spurring innovation in VR throughout the generations that followed.

Sutherland’s head-mounted display was a project he described as “the ultimate display.” It connected to a stereoscopic display from a computer program depicting simple virtual wireframe shapes, which changed perspective as the user moved his or her head. Because these are superimposed on top of a real background, this could also be seen as the birth of “augmented reality.”

Evolution of Virtual Reality

To fully understand the evolution of this idea, we need to take a step back to see precisely how VR developed from a mere postulation, into a reality all of its own.

Notably, and somewhat predictably, the notion of ‘virtual reality’ entered the zeitgeist via science fiction, with Stanley G. Weinbaum‘s 1935 short story ‘Pygmalion’s Spectacles’. This vision of Virtual Reality told of a goggle-based contraption that offered users a holistic holographic experience that went as far as to include touch and olfactory elements.

Whether we want to go as far as saying that Stanley ‘called it’ or not, his vision did offer something for developers to aim for and does border somewhere close to the current state of virtual reality.


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