Do VR Games Exist?
Virtual Reality is our speciality at Vector, and we see many different customers walk through our doors every day. Surprisingly, whilst we are a Virtual Reality entertainment centre, we do occasionally get asked questions such as “Do VR Games Exist?” and “Is Virtual Reality real?” and of course, the simple answer is yes! But how did we get here? How did Virtual Reality come into existence? Let’s start from the beginning.
The term “Virtual Reality” was coined in the mid 1980’s by researcher Jaron Lanier, a research developer who begun the creation of goggles, gear, and gloves that he felt would be necessary to experience a Virtual Reality. But before the 80’s, basic technology that helped conceptualise the idea of the virtual world had already been created.
This technology was created almost 150 years prior to the term of virtual reality being made. The Stereoscope (a device that pairs two images on each eye view) was made back in 1838, with a patent for the view-master being made in the early 1900’s. The View Master can often be found today as a children’s toy, but it should not be underestimated just how much this simple device helped to push technology toward what we have today.
In the 1950’s the Sensorama was created by Morton Heilig, an American cinematographer who is seen as the pioneer of virtual reality. The Sensorama is a large device, which showcases a 3D film and uses sound, vibration and even smells to simulate a motorcycle ride through Brooklyn. Users of the device often said that they had never experienced anything quite like it, with the experience feeling so close to a real-life motorcycle ride. This device is seen as the first major usage of Virtual Reality, but it was still quite far from the devices that we use for Virtual Reality today.
In the 1960’s Morton Heilig once again pushed the boundaries of technology and patented The Telesphere Mask, a Sensorama inspired device that could be used at home. The device is strikingly similar to VR headsets that are seen today and would have also been capable of producing smells and wind in the same style of the Sensorama. It had adjustable ear pieces and eye pieces, which considering the distance between technology then and now: this work was completely ground-breaking.
The first question on your mind might be “What happened to the Telesphere Mask?”: Unfortunately, the Telesphere mask was a commercial failure and was quickly forgotten about, with the first prototype of this device sitting in a wooden box in the home of Marianne Heilig. Whilst Heilig’s genius has been underestimated, it’s thanks to Heilig’s inventions that we have Virtual Reality in the modern world today.
Fast forwarding into the 1990’s and we will now see Virtual Reality begin to rise as NASA has developed their own uses for VR to train astronauts, with gloves that can be used to simulate touch interaction with virtual objects.
Commercially, Virtual Reality was popping up into Arcades on Virtual Reality Group Arcade Machines across America, with a wide range of mostly seated arcade games on different machines that could be played by the public, with some of these units also having the ability to network together for multiplayer experiences.
In 1993 Sega announced a prototype for Sega VR glasses as the VR hype had truly begun to arise, however, due to a large number of technical difficulties this prototype never entered households and was cancelled, despite four games being developed and completed for the product.
Nintendo had a similar product called the Nintendo Virtual Boy in 1995, however with similar technical difficulties and the games only running in red and black colouring, the Virtual Boy was also a commercial failure and was discontinued the next year.
Despite the commercial problems back in the 90’s, VR was still on the minds of the public and everyone was itching to enter the virtual world. Finally, in 2012, the Palmer Lucky truly did get Lucky with his Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift, with a whopping funding of $2.5 million dollars, showing that VR was finally destined for public use. In 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus and from then on Virtual Reality Headsets were launched onto the market and into production with Products like Google cardboard and Samsung Gear VR entering market and by 2017, we the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were launched onto the market with huge success. The public was ready for Virtual Reality and to this day, is still urging for new and exciting ways to immerse into the virtual world.
Despite the commercial success of the master creations of Heilig, it’s true that without his work, we may not be where we are today with the Virtual World. Although it does bring to wonder where VR could be now, had Heilig’s work been recognised commercially. We hope that this entry gives you an insight into the existence of Virtual Reality and has indeed answered the question of “Does Virtual Reality Exist?”.