When was virtual reality invented?

Many people assume that virtual reality is a recent arrival on the technological scene, but in fact, it goes back much further than many of us realise.

There are three separate issues here which are discussed as separate articles within this section. They include:

  • How did virtual reality begin?
  • Who invented virtual reality?
  • Who coined the term virtual reality?

Virtual reality timeframe

These provide a framework for virtual reality which spans a period of more than 70 years. In this time we saw the development of the first simulation device, the first form of interactive multimedia theatre, and the first head mounted display (HMD) and the use of virtual reality in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI).

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’.

Research into virtual reality continued into the 1990’s and that combined with the appearance of films such as The Lawnmower Man helped to raise its profile.

More information about these can be found in any of the three articles listed above as bullet points.

The re-invention of virtual reality

But the growth in popularity of virtual reality was matched by a growth in public expectations which then over hyped the abilities of this technology. This led to dissatisfaction with virtual reality in general and a scaling back of many research activities in this area.

However, virtual reality has not disappeared and has instead been repackaged as virtual environments instead. This is done to prevent any unrealistic expectations as regards this technology which keeps it in the domain of science fact and not science fiction.

Virtual reality has re-invented itself into something which fits our vision and expectations of what this technology can do. One example of this is the development of virtual reality games for the Playstation 2 and 3, Xbox, Mac and PC.

These games have become popular with children and adults and continue to push the boundaries of gaming technology.

It looks like virtual reality is here to stay for the time being.