The new frontier
Technology has been constantly improving and changing over recent decades and has now reached its zenith in the form of a fully immersive virtual reality experience in London – which lets users not only play a video game but actually live it.
Whether you are a die-hard gamer who is hungry for the next big thing or just interested in seeing for yourself the heights that technology and immersive gaming have reached, there is something to be gained by everyone at a VR centre.
History of virtual reality
Virtual reality, or VR, in principle, has actually existed for longer than you may think. The earliest recorded example of VR dates back to 1838 when Sir Charles Wheatstone created the world’s first stereoscope. A stereoscope is a device that demonstrates how the human brain can view a seemingly 2D object with depth. By viewing two photos of one object (each taken from different angles) through both eyes – one eye to each photograph – a three-dimensional image can be seen. This could be said to be the foundation of VR technology as we know it today.
Another early pioneer of VR technology, who also helped pave the way for the immersive 3D experiences of today, was a US cinematographer and inventor called Morton Heilig. Heilig created the first-ever VR machine in the 1960s, and his machine was a considerably sized booth that fit as many as four users at the same time.
Within the machine, various technologies operated in unison to simulate the experiences such as sight, sound, atmosphere and even smell. Heilig’s most famous VR experience let users feel as if they were riding a motorbike through the streets of New York, and it included full-colour 3D visuals, city smells, wind and the vibration of the bike itself.
Whilst these examples may provide some interesting insight into how VR came to be, they still remain quite different to the virtual reality headsets that you may recognise today. In a more contemporary sense, one of the most significant advancements in VR technology came in 1991, when Virtuality was launched by the Virtuality Group.
This was the first-ever VR entertainment system to be mass-produced, and it featured popular arcade games of the time in a virtual reality format whereby users could see and hear in 3D and play alongside others.
What are VR experiences like today?
In recent years, the technology behind immersive gaming and VR has excelled exponentially, and today, anyone can now experience first-hand the remarkable power of VR. Modern VR centres offer virtual reality at its best and allow players to experience a fully digitalised world, in which they can see and hear across 360º and interact with objects within their surroundings.
The majority of these experiences always give visitors a short demonstration of the full scope of VR technology before allowing them to play one of the pre-set games. This lets visitors familiarise themselves with the experience before diving straight in as it can seem somewhat overwhelming to the uninitiated.