Think you might already know quite a lot about virtual reality? Think again! While most people have heard about things like the Oculus Rift or VR gaming, we’ve done the dirty work and dug up ten facts that aren’t so well known to all those who aren’t the most die-hard of VR fans.
1. VR isn’t as new as you think it is
While modern VR seemed to have sprouted up overnight, in actuality virtual reality has been around since as far back as the early 60’s. Super early prototypes of machines such as the ‘Sensorama’ – a movie viewing experience that affected all of the senses, including smell – popped up, but ultimately disappeared from public view. VR looked like it was on the rise during the 90’s, but again disappeared due to the high price tag and low quality of the available headsets.
2. Nintendo and Sega developed their own VR systems in the 90’s
While not a big secret, both reputable gaming companies tried their hand at VR in the mid-90’s and both failed spectacularly. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy was released in 1995, and ultimately was a flop due to its price, low quality, lack of games, and health issues. The failure of the Virtual Boy was enough to scare Sega, who had been working on a prototype VR headset for their Sega Genesis and then Saturn systems – while it released systems for arcades, it cancelled its planned release for consoles.
3. Women are less interested in VR than men
With the gaming world dominated by men, it doesn’t come as much of a big surprise that females are less interested in VR than their male counterparts. According to this Business Insider article, 47% of men questioned said they were interested in owning a VR device while only 25% of women – less than half of the men’s responses. In addition to that, 16% of men questioned said they had tried a VR headset before compared to a paltry 6% of women.
4. VR is stretching past games and entertainment
While the general public may view VR as a gimmicky form of entertainment, 2016 was labeled the “year of virtual reality” – industries outside of gaming rushed to embrace the new form of technology, from retail and advertising to health care and sports training. The immersive aspect of VR has allowed these industries to expand their creativity to create experiences that go beyond what a basic screen can do, such as improve sports player skills and treat patients with psychosis.
5. ‘VR Man’ was a legitimate Singaporean superhero with VR powers
This Singaporean TV program aired in 1998, and despite having a low budget, it brought in a large number of viewers. The titular hero VR Man had the ability to project virtual reality objects into real life and make them solid for a short period of time, with his sole weakness being strobe lights that flashed at a certain speed, rendering his powers useless. Akin to a majority of superheroes VR Man was the alter ego of Alex Foo, a geeky engineer that encountered a freak accident which granted him his super powers.
6. Google’s Cardboard project might never have existed
It can be argued that Google’s Cardboard project prompted the rise of mobile VR, with its portable and affordable approach to the medium. However, the game changing Cardboard was actually developed within the 20% “Innovation Time Off” Google gives its employees, wherein they can spend 20% of their time working on personal projects. Riding on the coat-tails of Cardboard’s immense success, Google announced a full-blown VR platform – Daydream – to be the project’s successor in 2016.
7. The US government is a fan of VR
NASA and the U.S. military in particular jumped on board the VR train and have been using the technology to connect with devices in space, control robotics, train soldiers before deployment, and better equip soldiers with vital skills in simulated war zones. VR is also being used in some treatments of PTSD in soldiers who have retired from the field but are having difficulties adapting to a normal life.
8. The Oculus Rift was the turning point for modern VR
The Oculus Rift, invented by self-taught engineer Palmer Luckey, came into the public eye in 2012 via a Kickstarter campaign. The rest, as they say, is history. The Rift’s sudden popularity brought with it a resurgence of interest in VR, which caught the eye of rival companies such as HTC and Google, and a new era of virtual reality began.
9. VR is only set to get bigger and bigger
While VR has been taking some time to break out of its niche, the industry is set to expand at a faster rate come 2020. According to research firm Statista, the worldwide market size for VR software and hardware across mobile, console, and PC is predicted to be worth a cool 40.4 billion USD by the year 2020. This will be up by a staggering 34 billion from 2017 – an eye-opening statistic for any VR skeptic.
10. The term “virtual reality” is pretty new
While the concept of VR has been around for quite a while, the term “virtual reality” as direct terminology for the concept of virtual worlds was only coined quite recently – 1982 in fact. Australian author Damien Broderick used the term in his science-fiction novel “The Judas Mandala”; however, the earliest use of the term “virtual reality” most probably came from author Antonin Artaud’s “The Theatre and Its Double” which was first published in 1938.
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