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 as 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 the video game consoles and full body suit simulations.
In 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):