Merging or creating new worlds with virtual worlds is not just a 21st-century technology.
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The earliest attempts at creating technology depicting augmented and virtual reality can be found in the 1920s. Upon transitioning into the mid- to late 20th century, AR & VR technology has skyrocketed. Today, products equipped with the technology are available for purchase at a variety of retailers, big and small.
Most commonly, virtual reality products are modeled in the form of masks, glasses, or some other form of facewear. In 1960, the Telesphere Mask – developed by Morton Heilg, cinematographer and VR pioneer – became the first ever head-mounted display (HMD). Operationally, the Telesphere Mask used stereoscopic technology, 3D imagery, widescreen vision, and stereo sound to simulate a virtual reality for the user.
In 1977, the first wired glove – known as the Sayre Glove – with AR/VR technology was invented by scientists at the Electronic Visualization laboratory at the University of Illinois. In 1982, glove-modeled AR/VR technology underwent renovation, introducing the Power Glove and Dataglove. Both gloves were created by Thomas G. Zimmerman and Jaron Lanier – using an optical flex sensor and ultrasonic and magnetic hand position tracking technology.
Quickly following, AR/VR emerged into arcade machines and video games. More interestingly, NASA and Nintendo got their hands on the technology to create video game consoles and full-body suit simulations.
In the present day, there are several AR and VR products on the market. The Google Cardboard offers an affordable eyewear virtual reality simulation, retailing for $15. Gamers have the option of the Sony Playstation VR add-on, and Samsung, HTC, and Microsoft have similar options for virtual reality headsets as well.
While the future of virtual reality is unknown, AR & VR is changing the way we interact with the world. The technology has merged into education: giving students virtual field trips, language immersion, and game-based learning. In business, it allows for real-time, hands-on collaboration on projects, as well as virtual and augmented assistance in field service work. In healthcare, these technologies provide accessible therapies and enhance physician training.
Here is a visual representation of the history of AR and VR, and where it is heading for the future (original source here):