Virtual reality may well have started to hit the mainstream only in the last couple of years but, incredibly, it was predicted as long ago as 1935 in s sci-fi short story called Pygmalion’s Spectacles by a writer called Stanley G. Weinbaum in which characters wore headsets which not only presented a 3D view of the world, they could also experience touch and smell.
The first actual development of what we could relate to the VR of today didn’t come along for more than 30 years when, in 1968, a scientist called Ivan Sutherland invented what is now considered to be the first ever head-mounted display system for VR. But the primitive nature of the tech, compared with today’s lightweight headsets, was highlighted by the fact that it was so heavy it had to be suspended from the ceiling.
The 70s and 80s saw the gradual development of VR tech both in universities like MIT and by games companies like Atari and the primary uses were intended for military, medical and flight training applications. It wasn’t until the 90s, however, that it really started to make an impact and a major milestone was the introduction of the Sega VR headset specifically for arcade games.
As technology advanced so did VR development and when Facebook paid $2 billion for Oculus Rift in 2014 it was obvious that its time really had arrived.
With increasingly affordable headsets as well as the sheer number of companies working on the software for VR it is now starting to touch millions of peoples’ lives in countless ways and via many sectors.
One example that is getting many observers excited is the virtual reality casino which could have major ramifications for the whole gambling industry. That’s because, in the years since online casinos first started to become popular, the one thing that they lacked was the ambience and atmosphere of the real thing. In fact the very first examples were little more than video games.
Since then many of the leading online casinos have launched “live” versions with real dealers playing in real time but it’s only with the introduction of VR that this is likely to become a truly immersive experience. In fact, the potential is huge whether players are enjoying roulette, blackjack or poker there’s no reason why it shouldn’t feel like being in their choice of the world’s best casinos – which may not be quite such good news for the casinos themselves.
But it’s not just online gaming that’s set to be transformed by VR as its reach is almost limitless. Take holiday brochures for example – very soon you may be able to take a virtual tour of the hotel you’re thinking of booking. And at work conference calls could soon be a thing of the past with “face to face” virtual meetings replacing them.
So we may have come a very long way from the time when the human neck couldn’t support a VR headset on its own and the world we could see through one was very far from reality – but it’s certain that we still have a very long way to go.