What we can from the father of virtual reality learning

What we can from the father of virtual reality learning

A look into the past shows how visionary the VR pioneers in the ‘ 60s were. What can we learn from them. The Virtual Reality-column “Views on VR” by Luca Caracciolo.

Virtual Reality as we know it today, is a lot older than you think. Already in the middle of the last century experiment, the first pioneers with technical equipment and is produced in a greatly reduced Form of virtual experiences have archived. In a loose sequence I look within this column is the most colorful personalities in Virtual Reality history. Why? Because of their ideas, thoughts about the future and her pioneering work is inspiring, and perhaps helps us to understand our world better.

Virtual Reality history: Ivan Sutherland and the “Ultimate Display”

Already in the 60s, there were ideas to be Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs): Morton brightness that had already taken care of with the Sensorama a stir, patented in 1960, the “tele-sphere Mask”: Without Motion Tracking, the Headset is enabled after all, stereoscopic 3D with Stereo Sound. More than a Video, could not see the user, however.

Ivan Sutherland, previously known by the development of the first graphics program “Sketchpad” in 1962, he published took 1965, finally, a much-publicized Essay with the title “The Ultimate Display”, in the Virtual Reality almost prophetic anticipation:

“The ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal. With appropriate programming such a display could literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked.“

Although there were, especially in the literary world of the future descriptions, virtual realities, especially with the eyeglasses, for example, by Stanley G. Weinbaum in 1935 published a Science-Fiction story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” – but Sutherland, then at the University of Harvard, worked, described for the first time, from a scientific perspective, the creation of virtual realities with a Computer.

The sword of Damocles

It should take only three more years, until he put on Hand: in 1968, he presented the first real Head-Mounted Display known as the “Sword of Damocles”: A contraption that was so heavy that it had to be attached to the ceiling, so that the wearer of the weight is not simply beaten to death.

A machine was so heavy that it had to be attached to the ceiling

Actually, it was the “Sword of Damocles” is not Virtual Reality, but Augmented Reality: The users of the apparatus were projected geometric shapes into the field of view, the receding synchronously with the movements of the head. The stereoscopic display was on the side of the ear cathode tubes placed, who were projected to be over coated mirror, directly into the eyes of the wearer.

The Motivation for Sutherlands project had a very practical Background: The scientists had seen during a visit to the Bell Helicopter Company a System that made it easier for helicopter pilots to land in rough terrain or at night. In this System, a camera on the underside of the helicopter was installed, which changed its orientation in sync with the movement of the head of the pilots. Sutherland had the idea to replace the camera through a Computer, in order to Refine the System: The birth of modern Virtual Reality.

“Virtual Reality is now on the Stand as the book press of Gutenberg times”

In his career, Sutherland is very strong with 3D Computer graphics and assistance in this field with his, founded in 1968, Evans & Sutherland’s pioneering work. His Team is specialized in Display systems for flight simulators. In some ways, he remained his dream of being an “Ultimate Display” good, after all, he helped the first major VR to improve systems – level flight simulators.

Over 30 years later, at the ceremony of the VR-industries-price Proto Awards 2015, the Jury awarded him with the “Special Founder’s Award”. On the evening of the well-tempered Sutherland about those exciting time in Harvard, and the development of the Sword of Damocles told. After all, is what it comes to Virtual Reality today, and makes an interesting comparison:

“When Gutenberg invented the book to the press, he only had a book, he was able to print The Bible. It had to be the novel was invented in order to bring the book press. Content is everything. (…) It is the great Creative people to produce content that will bring people new technologies.“

Virtual Reality may still be in its infancy, and perhaps it needs a Killer App, such as the amendment for book printing at the time. But if you look a few years into the future and enough imagination that can think of countless, then the functioning of usage scenarios for VR. Just like Sutherland over 50 years ago, in his Text “The Ultimate Display” already in the virtual worlds forecast, we can experience today with a modern see-through HMD.

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