By 2020, one third of global consumers are expected to be using VR. Thanks to the media hype and the 250+ VR device options available on Amazon right now, this shouldn’t come as a s surprise. But the development of this tech has a history and its modern use is a long time coming.

The mid-20th century fascination with all things futuristic expressed itself in entertainment and media, and inspired new generations of inventors to really bring it to life. Morton Heilig, cinematographer and widely considered one of the first pioneers of VR technology, unveiled his Telesphere Mask. As the first ever head mounted display, or HMD, this device was not unlike the headsets we see on the market today. This piece of technology took more than just visual manipulation in mind to create an immersive virtual experience, and instead called on true 3D imagery, wide screen viewing, and audio capabilities as well. Following up just a couple years later, Heilig took it a few steps further with the Sensorama and Motorcycle Simulator that featured and entire seat-equipped booth, vibrating effects, and even smells to help capture a virtual experience of riding a motorcycle through the street of New York.

In 2018, as the novelty of virtual reality experiences has somewhat waned from earlier generations and settled into normalcy, VR has become less of a tool for pure entertainment and more like a necessity. When applied to areas like business, the opportunities for communication and collaboration are blown open. Educational applications give students options to take virtual field trips and immersive learning techniques that were once only possible through textbooks or worksheets. Public safety and healthcare also take advantage of VR capabilities by offering enhanced training for first responders, law enforcement, and firefighters.

From flight simulators of the 20th century to Google cardboard, there’s a lot to consider in the history of augmented and virtual reality technology. The Oculus Rift wasn’t born overnight and advancements don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The future of AR/VR lies within the limits of our own imaginations – what do you hope to see in the coming years?

Infographic Courtesy of History Degree