VR Timeline

A Virtual Reality Timeline

… which will never be quite complete, but which offers a general guide of how VR and virtual environments have evolved both as technology and as concept.

When Who Where What
pre-history humankind Altamira, Lascaux, Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, etc cave paintings; storytelling; ritual dance, other ritual paraphernalia
always children everywhere imaginative (immersive) play
now humankind almost everywhere “a willing suspension of disbelief”: theatre, television, arcade games
13th Cent. Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337) Italy (3D) perspective in art 



1833 Sir Charles
England the stereoscope; improved by Sir David Brewster, 1844
1838 The Stereopticon
1928 – 1939 Edwin Land develops Polaroid glasses (1928). Shows first experimental stereoscopic (3D) film (1935). First stereo feature film produced for Chrysler Coroporation’s exhibit at New York World Fair, 1939
1929 The Link Trainer
(flight simulator)
USA Link patents original design for flight simulator. Later used for pilot training during WWII
1930 Herman Ives ??? lenticular lenses; ‘multiplexed’ 3D images capitalising on binocular parallax for the illusion of depth
1952 The Cinerama Projection System
1958 Philco Television head-mounted display (HMD)
1960, 1962 Morton Heilig New York The ‘Stereoscopic Television Apparatus for Individual Use’ ‚Äî a head-mounted stereophonic TV display (1960); and the ‘Sensorama Simulator’ (1962)
Douglas Engelbart
1965 Ivan Sutherland IFIP Congress Presents a paper ‘The Ultimate Display’, at a conference of the International Federation of Information Processing Societies,.setting forth explicit programme for the development of computer graphics and the design of virtual worlds
1966 2D molecular modeller developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
1966+ Ivan Sutherland MIT (1966); University of Utah (1966+) invents HMD (1966); first fully functional HMD with first virtual world software, January 1st, 1970
1968 Computer Graphics and HMDs first used for flight simulators.
from late 1960s to present Frederick Brooks, Henry Fuchs, Stephen Pizer, Warren Robinett Dept. of Computer Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill scientific visualisation; pharmaceutical chemistry (molcular modeling) and
medical imaging; ARM (Argonne remote manipulator) with force
feedback; ‘architectural walkthrough’ of Sitterson Hall
1970 Frederick Brooks and graduate students Dept. of Computer Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill works starts on combining force-reflection feedback with interactive
computer graphics; ARMs obtained from Argonne National Laboratories
1978+ Association pour la Création et la Recherche sur les Outils d’Expression (ACROE) LIFIA, Grenoble force-feedback devices (‘virtual violin’) for sound synthesis; transmission of gesture as a means for linking human eye-hand skills and imagination with computerised rendering tools
1983(?) Brenda Laurel, Scott Fisher, Michael Naimark, Jaron Lanier, Eric Hulteen, Susan Brennan, Thomas Zimmerman Atari Research Laboratory, Sunnyvale, California. Interactive 3D games
1984 William Gibson [n/a] the novel Neuromancer introduces the notion of ‘cyberspace’ and the Matrix
1985-1990 Scott Fisher, Warren Robinett NASA/Ames Aerospace Human Factors Research Division First use of combined Dataglove (from VPL) and HMD in the Virtual Environment Display (VIVED) system. 3D sound added. Evolves into Virtual Interface Environment Workstation (VIEW); voice commands and speech recognition. Scott Fisher leaves NASA to co-found Telepresence Research with Brenda Laurel, 1990.
198?+ Jaron Lanier, Thomas Zimmerman VPL Research Inc, Palo Alto, California Lanier and Zimmerman co-found VPL Research Inc. Evolution of Lanier’s “visual programming language” Mandala / Grasp / Embrace.
Zimmerman’s optical-flex-sensing glove (‘DataGlove’). Ann Lasco-Harvill joins VPL, 1987, to work on development of first DataSuit. First off-the-shelf vendor of VR systems from 1988.
1986 Advanced
Telecommunications Research
Kansai Science
City, Kyoto
ATR established. Multimillion dollar multidisciplinary project to enable telecollaboration in virtual spaces, without the use of HMDs, gloves or body suit, through the construction of surrounding ‘virtual rooms’
1987 VPL, AGE, Mattel VPL Research Inc, Palo Alto, California development of the $100 PowerGlove for the video games market.
1988 John Walker Autodesk Sept
1988: John Walker’s “Through the Looking Glass: Beyond User Interfaces” paper launches Autodesk’s “Cyberpunk Initiative”.
1989 Autodesk / VPL California Autodesk and VPL (DataGlove, head-tracker) begin commercial development of VR
1989 VPL & Autodesk San Francisco (VPL); Anaheim (Autodesk) ‘Virtual Reality Day’, June 7th, 1989. VPL demonstrate their RB2
(‘reality built for two’) system at TEXPO in San Francisco
Civic Auditorium; Autodesk’s “Weird Science” cyberspace demo at Anaheim.
??? Thomas Furness Human Interface Technology Laboratory (Seattle) project to overcome HMD problem of peripheral vision by inscribing images
directly to the retina
1990 HITL Human Interface Technology Laboratory (Seattle) HITL creates a virtual Seattle.
1990 ??? University of Texas, Dept of Architecture First Conference on Cyberspace (May 1990)
1991 VPL, UNC, Human
Interface Technology Lab, Media Lab
[various] “Reality
Net” ‚Äî RB2-based (?)
1992 Neal Stephenson [n/a] publishes Snow Crash
199? BICC ? Virtuosi(?) – telecollaboration through virtual presence
199? Margaret Minsky ‘The Snake Pit’, MIT Media Lab modeling haptic perception
1993 Autodesk USA Autodesk launches Cyberspace Developers Kit
1993 Division UK Division
(founded 1989) goes public and first UK VR initiative set up.
1993 John Carmack, John Romero, Adrian Carmack id Software, Dallas Doom
released; Quake released 1996
mid 1990s Mars exploration robots controlled from Earth through VR.
2010 “By 2010, that first room of Sutherland’s will have multiplied itself into a virtual cosmos. It is impossible to say, in today’s terms, how vast that future cyberworld will be.” (Howard Rheingold,
1991 Virtual Reality)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s