Precursor: Early technology that blurred the lines between the physical and virtual worlds.
Augmented Reality: Technology that adds virtual elements to the user’s real-world environment.
Virtual Reality: Technology that allows users to immerse themselves in a fabricated reality.
1930’s: The Link Trainer
The Link Trainer was a commercial flight simulator patented 1931 that was entirely electromechanical. The U.S. military bought six of these devices for $3,500 which would be around $50,000 today.
1940’s: Sawyer’s View-Master
Sawyer’s View-Master debuted at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair and was originally intended as an educational device for adults, but became a children’s toy. It is estimated that overall sales have topped 100 million viewers and 1.5 billion reels
The binocular-style image reel viewer offers stereoscopic, 3D pictures that are mounted in a case of Bakelite, the first entirely man-made plastic.
1950’s: The Sensorama
The Sensorama was designed mid-50s and patented 1962. The arcade-style theater cabinet provided fully immersed film experience by stimulating all five senses.
The device included stereo speakers, a stereoscopic 3D display, fans, smell generators and a vibrating chair.
1960’s: The Telesphere Mask
The Telesphere Mask was patented in 1960 and was the first head-mounted display. The device featured stereoscopic 3D and wide vision with stereo sound, but lacked motion tracking.
1970’s: Aspen Movie Map
The Aspen Movie Map provides an interactive virtual tour of Aspen, Colorado. The device acted as a precursor to Google Street View.
The tour was created with roof-mounted cameras on cars and played back on a touch-screen display, with navigation buttons that allowed users to move around.
1980’s: VPL Eyephone
The VPL Eyephone was an immersive headset and glove released in 1989.The device sold at at a price point of $9,400 and used hand to head tracking to immerse users in a computer simulation.
1990’s: Nintendo Virtual Boy
The Nintendo Virtual Boy was a portable 3D video game console and the first home virtual reality device for gaming. The device sold around 770,000 units and utilized a dual screen design to create the illusion of 3D using 2D images.
2000’s: Virtuality Gaming Machines
Virtuality Gaming Machines were enclosed gaming stations that consisted of a headset and hand controllers plus a gaming pod. The first sale was for two machines to British Telecom for $78,000 each
2010: Microsoft Kinect
The Microsoft Kinect is a motion-sensing gaming system that was launched in 2010. The device creates a digitized version of the user that interacts with the virtual world on screen.
2011: iPhone Virtual Reality Viewer
The iPhone Virtual Reality Viewer is a pair of 3D iPhone goggles that provides users with an immersive, three-dimensional viewing experience. The goggles have 360-degree movement and use existing mobile devices.
2012: Oculus Rift
The Oculus Rift is a digital entertainment headset. Its kickstarter campaign raised $1 million in three days and the device was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion
2013: Tactical Haptics VR Motion Controller
The Tactical Haptics VR Motion Controller is a Responsive gaming joystick. The grip of the controller simulates pushing, pulling and twisting forces. The Kickstarter for the device launched in 2013, but did not reach its $175,000 goal.
2014: Google Cardboard
Google Cardboard is a foldable cardboard viewer with a price point of $15. 5 million viewers were sold in the first 19 months it was available. The device fits an Android phone.
2015: Samsung Gear VR
The Samsung Gear VR is worn around the user’s head with eyes enclosed. The device requires a Samsung phone to operate and uses an accelerometer and gyroscope for an immersive experience. It is sold at a price point of $99.
2016: Microsoft Hololens
The Microsoft Hololens is a holographic headset with a price point of $3,000 for the developer edition. It is a standalone device with no phone involved.