VR has been the Next Big Thing before. Many times. Let us not forget these key developments — and notable failures — in the quest to augment reality.
The Sensorama 1962
The arcade-booth-size Sensorama stimulated all five senses and had 3-D effects, but it failed to take off.
Sword of Damocles 1968
Researcher Ivan Sutherland created a head-mounted VR unit. The heavy contraption had to be suspended from the ceiling, earning it the above-mentioned moniker.
Atari’s arcade game had 3-D vector graphics and cool viewing goggles. The U.S. Army was so intrigued, it commissioned a special version for training.
”Virtual Reality” Early ’80s
VPL Research’s Jaron Lanier is often credited with popularizing the term.
The Holodeck 1987
Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted the VR space playroom. Finally Data had a place to practice social skills (and cross-dressing!).
Sega VR 1991
This headset was designed but never released. One developer alleged it was scuttled due to health risks from prolonged use.
The Lawnmower Man 1992
VR got the Hollywood treatment in this cult classic about a doctor who plays mind games with a greenskeeper.
Nintendo Virtual Boy 1995
A total flop thanks to a heavy headset and monochrome display. Its demise signaled the end of the first age of VR.
”Virtual Insanity” 1996
The world according to Jamiroquai: “Future’s/ Made of/Virtual insanity.” And also fuzzy hats.
Second Life 2003
Linden Labs’ online VR-style game generated massive buzz — but faded to an online ghetto for sexy avatars.
Nintendo Wii 2006
The gaming system with a handheld motion-sensing controller was an instant smash, renewing interest in immersive gaming.
Microsoft Kinect 2010
Much like VR tech, this system of voice and camera controls put players into games. It sold 8 million units in its first 60 days.