two people wearing virtual reality headsets

The History of Virtual Reality: When Was VR Invented?

Although virtual reality (VR) may seem like a new, emerging technology to some, it has actually been around – in some form – for over sixty years! Virtual reality history and the contributors of the platform have paved the way for what we now consume today as thrilling entertainment.

When Did VR Come Out?

In 1957, Morton Heilig invented the Sensorama, an arcade-style reality simulator that worked by having the viewer sit in front of the machine with their head placed between panels and look at 3D-style images while being exposed to specialized smells and sounds to create an immersive experience. While this is a far cry from the virtual reality of today, the Sensorama has been credited by many as the first VR device. You can see the progression of VR even in more modern times through the many variations of virtual reality headsets introduced to the public, from the EyePhone – not to be confused with the iPhone – to the Samsung Gear VR, the most well-known headset. Even though virtual reality has come a long way from its “classic” counterparts, it’s constantly being improved and modified to better fit into the lives of the modern consumer.

The First Virtual Reality “Headset” Invention

Technically, Jaron Lanier, founder of VPL Research, created the EyePhone head-mounted display and Dataglove in 1987. The term “virtual reality” was coined by Jaron Lanier, although many have contributed to the development of VR since. 

The infographic below is a brief timeline illustrating the history of virtual reality throughout the years:



1957: Morton Heilig invented the Sensorama, a simulator with 3D images, smells and sounds to create a new reality.

1968: Ivan Sutherland and his student, Bob Sproull, created the first AR/VR mounted display connected to a computer called the Ultimate Display.

1987: The term “virtual reality” was coined by Jaron Lanier, founder of VPL Research, and he creates the EyePhone head-mounted display and Dataglove.

1991: The Virtual Group created arcade machines with VR headsets, immersive stereoscopic, 3D visuals and a multiplayer gaming experience called the Virtuality 1000.

1993: SEGA unveiled prototype, with wrap-around goggles, head-tracking, stereo sound, and LCD screens at the Consumer Electronics Show called SEGA VR.

1994: SEGA installed a motion simulator arcade game with 3D polygon graphics in stereoscopic 3D at SegaWorld called the SEGA VR-1.

1995: Nintendo unveiled the first portable stereoscopic 3D gaming console called the Nintendo Virtual Boy.

2005: eMagin launched a headset with a 360-degree horizontal field of view (FOV), head-tracking, OLED display, and hi-fi sound called the eMagin Z800 3D Visor.

2012: Palmer Luckey created a prototype of his modern, lightweight VR headset, the Oculus Rift.

2014: Facebook purchased Oculus for $2 Billion, and Google announced their cardboard stereoscopic headset for smartphones, aptly named Google Cardboard.

2015: Samsung released their VR headset that’s compatible with only Samsung smartphones called Samsung Gear VR.

2016: Facebook released their Oculus Rift VR headset, HTC released their top-of-the-line Vive VR headset, and Playstation released their VR headset to be used with the PS4!

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