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Gaming History You Should Know – The Early History of Virtual Reality October 12, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Gaming History You Should Know, Uncategorized.

I know it’s not Sunday, but where I’m from today is a bank holiday and because of that we’ve had essentially a three-day weekend. I know that’s not the best excuse but hey, I didn’t want to have to wait another week to highlight this great video.

Welcome back to Gaming History You Should Know, an ongoing series where we highlight some of the best independently produced gaming documentaries from across the web. Today, we’ll be talking about Virtual Reality (VR). In today’s day, VR is seeing something of a second renaissance. VR setups like Oculus, Vive and PlayStation VR have a modest install base and even I have to admit I’m becoming an enthusiast.

However, with the power of modern PCs (and consoles) capable of pushing high 3D resolutions, and refresh rates, today’s VR gamers can look forward to a decent immersive experience. However VR is not a new concept and it’s first wave of popularity came in the early-to-mid 90s. 3D games like DOOM were just entering the market, pushing the demand for high-end PCs, and smart businessmen had the idea to provide a gaming experience that made you feel like you were INSIDE the game. Enter Virtuality.

In the early 90s, Virtuality developed (at the time) real-time 3D games with the intention to pair it with Virtual Reality setups. However, due to the cost of computer hardware and limitations at the time, their setups were big, expensive, and graphics were limited to keep consistent framerate. With a single VR unit costing around (at the time) $20,000, home VR setups were just impractical. However, arcades of the day were seeing a second wave of popularity thanks to recent arcade releases like Mortal Kombat, and investing in something like a VR machine and renting time on it seemed like a no brainer decision. This is how I had my first VR experiences.

Check out this great documentary produced by the YouTube channel Nostalgia Nerd. When people of my generation think of Virtual Reality (with all its highs and lows) they think of one of these Virtuality setups!

While the company may have long since folded, sold and resold many times over the years that’s not to say that Virtuality’s VR prospects were a complete failure. While they didn’t have access to the same technology we do today, it is incredible to see just what they could do back then. Since the company couldn’t use the same tiny motion tracking gyroscopes that are so common to have in every smartphone, controller and tablet today (since they weren’t invented yet) the tricks they used to compensate for their limitations should still be celebrated. They were able to produce VR games with full real-time head tracking in the days before even Quake hit the market.

I like to think VR will continue to prosper in today’s technology market. VR headsets for the PC and PlayStation are already out, and they will continue to function on newer hardware. So with the hardware in place, all we need now is the software. That, would be an article for another time.


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