Before the 1950s

The exact origins of virtual reality are disputed, partly because of how difficult it has been to formulate a definition for the concept of an alternative existence.Elements of virtual reality appeared as early as the 1860s. The first references to the more modern concept of virtual reality came from science fiction. Battlezone, an arcade video game from 1980, used 3D vector graphics to immerse the player in a VR world.(Atari).
The VR industry mainly provided VR devices for medical, flight simulation, automobile industry design, and military training purposes from 1970 to 1990.

David Em became the first artist to produce navigable virtual worlds at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL),
In 1979 Eric Howlett developed the Large Expanse, Extra Perspective (LEEP) optical system. The combined system created a stereoscopic image with a field of view wide enough to create a convincing sense of space. The users of the system have been impressed by the sensation of depth [field of view] in the scene and the corresponding realism. The original LEEP system was redesigned for the NASA Ames Research Center in 1985 for their first virtual reality installation, the VIEW (Virtual Interactive Environment Workstation) by Scott Fisher. The LEEP system provides the basis for most of the current virtual reality helmets available today.

In 1992 researcher Louis Rosenberg created the Virtual Fixtures system at the U.S. Air Force’s Armstrong Labs using a full upper-body exoskeleton, enabling a physically realistic virtual reality in 3D. The system enabled the overlay of physically real 3D virtual objects registered with a user’s direct view of the real world, producing the first true augmented reality experience enabling sight, sound, and touch.

A VPL Research DataSuit, a full-body outfit with sensors for measuring the movement of arms, legs, and trunk. Developed circa 1989. Displayed at the Nissho Iwai showroom in Tokyo In 1999, entrepreneur Philip Rosedale formed Linden Lab with an initial focus on the development of VR hardware. In its earliest form, the company struggled to produce a commercial version of “The Rig”, which was realized in prototype form as a clunky steel contraption with several computer monitors that users could wear on their shoulders. The concept was later adapted into the personal computer-based, 3D virtual world Second Life.


A 2013 developer version of Oculus Rift from Oculus VR, the company Facebook acquired in 2014 for $2 billion By 2007, Google introduced Street View, a service that shows panoramic views of an increasing number of worldwide positions such as roads, indoor buildings and rural areas. It also features a stereoscopic 3D mode, introduced in 2010.Then Google announces Cardboard, a do-it-yourself stereoscopic viewer for smartphones. The user places their smartphone in the cardboard holder, which they wear on their head.

In 2015, Michael Naimark was appointed Google’s first-ever “resident artist” in their new VR division. By 2016 there were at least 230 companies developing VR-related products. Facebook has 400 employees focused on VR development; Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Sony and Samsung all had dedicated AR and VR groups.