It was in the ’80s when virtual reality first became a thing, thought the technology of the time made the experience limited, the possibilities still made it popular. It was mostly just a gimmick many could try in conventions and expos, but only the rich were able to buy the extremely bulky and not to mention expensive toys. While there have been attempts at Virtual Reality devices the common man could barely afford, the cutbacks on tech to reach the price point created flop after flop.
New technological developments and the availability of cheaper parts and labor have recently allowed companies and start-ups to create immersive devices cheap enough for a good number of people, causing a revival of VR and its rise to popularity.
Early Virtual Reality
Like most tech that seems very science fiction, virtual reality was developed by a bunch of smart guys in a lab for their work. NASA created a virtual work environment that allowed an immersive environment to work in and experiment. It did not take long for this tech to reach the private sector, mostly in entertainment and industrial use. The potential of the technology did not escape gaming companies though, with Atari and other companies of the like creating research department dedicated to VR.
First Attempt Commercial Releases
The ’90s was a time when technology boomed enough that companies were confident enough to attempt to get into the market. Sega Announced their release of a VR console with rumors of 4 game titles that would be available upon the console’s release. The device never hit the market though, but with Nintendo’s “Virtual Boy” flopping it might have been a good decision on Sega’s part. Some short-lived success was found with Arcade VR, but even those faded away, with the technology only remaining popular with VR enthusiasts.
VR in Obscurity
After failed attempts on the release of VR consoles, and the lack of returns from more successful versions of the technology VR fell into obscurity; With the idea only popular as a plot device in movies, and the technology a thing of enthusiasts and industrial use. Development still continued, albeit at a slower pace, until the Oculus was announced.
The Revival of VR
It was in the garage of an 18-year-old Palmer Luckey that the first prototype of the Oculus was created. This device, I believe, single-handedly revived Virtual Reality. The success of the Oculus Rift pushed other bigger companies like HTC, Microsoft, and Google to develop their VR devices or apply it to their own tech. The tech giant “Facebook” bought Oculus in 1st quarter 2014, further developing the tech and releasing the Commercial Version (Oculus Rift CV1) in the 1st quarter of 2015.
Virtual Reality experienced a rebirth. Though the technology started in the late ’70s and early ’80s, VR as a consumer tech is still in its infancy. Gaming and non-gaming VR entertainment now slowly becoming a common thing, the future of Virtual Reality is assured. Standalone devices like the “Oculus Quest” has even attracted the attention of Casual and Non-Gaming groups.