Possible Worlds: The Social Dynamic of Virtual Reality Technology

By Ralph Schroeder | Go to book overview

2
From the Ultimate Display to Reality Built for Two and Beyond

Origins and Lull

The term "virtual reality" was coined by Jaron Lanier in the late 1980s ( Rheingold 1991:15-16), but the origin of virtual reality technologies can be traced back to Ivan Sutherland's work on interactive computing and head-mounted displays in the mid-1960s ( Ellis 1991:325; Palfreman and Swade 1991:95-97). As we shall see in a moment, there were a number of forerunners to Sutherland's work in entertainment and other technologies. It is Sutherland's work, however, that has provided the foundation for much of the subsequent research related to VR. Sutherland was based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT) and Harvard and partly funded by the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency ( DARPA). 1

In a paper he contributed to the International Federation of Information Processing Congress in 1965, entitled "The Ultimate Display", he outlined a model for human-computer interfaces that has continued to inspire the thinking about computer-generated virtual environments ever since ( Sutherland 1965:506-508). His idea was for a computer display that would simulate the physical world and that the operator could interact with directly by means of the senses. Such a display would offer new possibilities for displaying complex information. In a subsequent paper presented at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in 1968, he explained how "a head-mounted three- dimensional display" could be built using a position sensor plus computer graphics to generate a three-dimensional world ( Sutherland 1968:757-764). Sutherland moved to the University of Utah and by

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