A Critical History of Virtual Reality and the Implications for Future Immersive Environments

After reading the Myron Krueger article, “Responsive Environments” I did a little more research on how Krueger’s work built on previous immersive technologies and also influenced future virtual realities.

Unsurprisingly, the genesis of experimentation with virtual realities was funded for and used by the government and military to enhance a pilot’s visual perception. Also unsurprisingly, Ivan Sutherland was a pioneer in this field with his 1965 “Ultimate Display” device which was a “head mounted display” (HMD) worn over the eyes outfitted with two CRT stereoscopic monitors and a tracking system.  It seems that early work on the field, though attempting to create an immersive reality by trying to reproduce elements from each of the human senses–such as an “odor generator”–, was ultimately limited by the graphical and optical capabilities of CRT technology. Even though our current visual technology has made leaps and bounds since the cathode ray tube monitor, we are still limited by the medium itself.

Though the visual capabilities of the technology of the seventies was limiting in regards to true sensual immersion advancement in the field, Krueger’s “computer art projects” aided in experimenting and contextualizing how humans and computers could interact through and with one another in a digitized environment, and the possible applications for such a technology, including telecommunication, education, and even psychotherapy. He wanted to explore “more interesting ways for man and machine to relate,” and I feel that this is the directive the “iron triangle” should take at this juncture in exploring new applications for virtual reality.

Interest in virtual reality and technological capabilities intersected in the early 1990s with the development of the CAVE’s Automatic Virtual Environment in which the viewer was surrounded by a stereo-projected environment. At the time this had implications for scientific visualizations in which the user could interact directly with the data (kind of similar Krueger’s vision with direct human-computer interaction) and today is still used by universities and research institutions “for visualizing data, for demonstrating 3D environments, and for virtually testing component parts of newly developed engineering projects.”

DISCUSSION: With the state of the art technologies we have available to us today, what are some other “more interesting” ways we can apply virtual reality/immersive environments? What are some possible new applications for virtual reality in the creation and conception of art?

The article “Seven Virtual Reality That Actually Work” http://io9.com/5288859/7-virtual-reality-technologies-that-actually-work, outlines the most common applications for virtual reality, but with the exception of the CAVE, none of them succeed in being truly immersive. Why do you think this is?

**If you are interested in modern applications of virtual reality, the “Social (dis)Order” show currently on display in Glassell Gallery features the “Virtual Peace: Humanitarian Assistance Training Simulator” in which you can test out a current virtual reality simulator. http://virtualpeace.org/

Source: http://design.osu.edu/carlson/history/lesson17.html

5 responses to “A Critical History of Virtual Reality and the Implications for Future Immersive Environments

  1. Keeping with our recent topic of virtual reality in the digital art space, I found that recently multi-million dollar companies such as Microsoft are already looking into incorporating the user’s physical surroundings with the traditional big-screen TV presentation of today’s popular video games. The new tech, referred to as Microsoft’s “immersive display experience” has already had a patent filed and, if it ever actually gets off the ground, looks to potentially revolutionize the gaming world with a near science fiction level of technology. This particular tech seems to be a long way off, but future generations of Microsoft’s Xbox could incorporate the feature.

    While this article doesn’t give much support to whether or not video game design is an art form, the interactivity made possible by this technology certainly could lead to a more immersive experience when the common household console can turn your living room becomes its own virtual world.

    Source: http://www.technewsworld.com/story/76137.html

  2. While reading Kruger’s article, I was envisioning walking through the various environments he set up and how mentally stimulating they would be to the viewer. The responsive interaction projects Kruger created remind me of my trip to Disney World last summer. Disney is using interactive set-ups as a way to entertain and educate kids (and adults). One of the attractions at Epcot, called ImageWorks, is a whole room dedicated to various interactive sensory activities that have the purpose of provoking creative thought. One of the activities you can do is called “Melody Maker” which uses a sensor “box” that creates music when movement, such as the waving of an arm, takes place inside of it (similar idea to Kruger’s Physic Space). Also in Epcot, there is an attraction called Turtle Talk with Crush in which an Artificial Intelligent Crush (the turtle from the Pixar Film, Finding Nemo), interacts with the audience by thinking and responding to questions or comments without the help of human control.

    I find it really interesting how similar these interaction attractions are to what we have been talking about in class (Kruger’s installations, Vannevar Bush’s vision of human/computer interaction, and Englebart’s idea of how computers can help further humanity) and how that, even with today’s technology, this interactive learning experience is not widely available to the public and can only be implemented by a multimillion dollar corporation like Disney. Disney is known for it’s innovation and staying ahead of the curve on technological updates. However, after learning about Kruger, Englebart, etc., I find it funny how similar theories and models were created 40-50 years prior and how Disney interpreted and expanded on those ideas. I feel that small scale digital environments used for interaction and creativity could definitely be implemented more in everyday society to assist and further human intellect. I think that the idea of interactive technology is being extremely underutilized and I would like to see it being used more in both the education and medical fields like Kruger suggests.

    For more information about ImageWorks:

    For more information about Turtle Talk with Crush:

  3. I’m not 100% sure if this is virtual-reality art, but I think it applies to this context as well. The i09 article refers to a game called Second Life as a successful virtual reality, and additionally, Second Life has been used to establish virtual galleries of art, as well as used for live performances put out over the net. I think it can engage the viewer directly, even though there is that degree of separation between viewer and “transmitter” (to borrow a little bit of Antin’s vocab in the television article).


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