VPL Research was a company founded in 1984 by Jaron Lanier, who is often regarded as the person who coined the term virtual reality. He is also credited with further popularising the term.
The company was started in the corner of Lanier’s cottage, in Palo Alto, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area, made famous for its dense population of high-tech companies and technology enthusiasts.
As one of the first companies ever to sell virtual reality products, VPL also implemented some of the first applications of virtual reality, including a programming language to develop such applications.
The company developed a wide range of both virtual reality software and hardware. Some of the innovative products VPL developed in its time include:
- The DataGlove – a device which uses a glove as a form of input. Virtual reality gloves are one the most popular symbols of virtual reality as a whole.
- The EyePhone – a head-mounted display unit which is used to visually immerse its user into a virtual environment. To further the level of immerse, each LCD screen provided a slightly different image to create the illusion of depth. The HMD is also the most popular virtual reality symbol.
- The AudioSphere – a unit which uses stereo tocreate the illusion of 3D sounds. This means a more realistic perception of sounds from all dimensions is achieved which further creates a more convincing virtual experience.
- Isaac – a real-time 3D visual rendering engine, which is controlled and works with Body Electric to create the virtual environment.
- Body Electric – a visual programming language used to control and program all other components as part of the whole VPL virtual reality experience.
Bankruptcy & Patent Acquisition
VPL Research, however, filed for bankruptcy in 1990 and in 1999, all of its patents were bought by Sun Microsystems, another company active in virtual reality research and development. Sun Microsystems was not known to have sold any virtual reality products and, due in part to Oracle’s acquisition, it is unknown whether anything will come of the VPL patents.