Hugo Gernsback's 1963 television eyeglasses anticipated virtual reality

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This oft-seen wonderfully weird photo depicts Hugo Gernsback wearing his "teleyeglasses" in 1963. Gersnback, an inventor of such innovations as a combination electric hair brush/comb and a battery-powered handheld illuminated mirror, is best known to science fiction fans as the founder of Amazing Stories magazine! Gernsback coined the term "science fiction" and the Hugo Awards are named in his honor. But back to the history of his teleyeglasses, as discussed in IEEE Spectrum:

A Life magazine profile of Gernsback in July 1963, when he was 78, described his “teleyeglasses”:

He now invents only in broad outline, leaving the actual mechanics of the thing to others. His television eyeglasses—a device for which he feels millions yearn—constitute a case in point. When the idea for this handy, pocket-size portable TV set occurred to him in 1936, he was forced to dismiss it as impractical. But a few weeks ago, feeling that the electronics industry was catching up with his New Deal-era concepts, he orders some of his employees to build a mock-up.

The teleyeglasses weighed about 140 grams and were built around small cathode-ray tubes that ran on low-voltage current from tiny batteries. (The user faced no danger of being electrocuted, Gernsback promised.) Because there was a separate screen for each eye, it could display stereoscopic images—much like today’s 3D virtual-reality glasses. Noting the massive V-type antenna protruding from the teleyeglasses, Life described the effect as “neo-Martian.”

"The Man Who Invented VR Goggles 50 Years Too Soon" (IEEE Spectrum) Read the rest

Google Earth now available in VR

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A virtual reality version of Google Earth is now available on Steam for the HTC Vive. Viewers can walk around, or fly, or browse any number of recorded locations. Read the rest

Chimpanzee enjoys virtual reality

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Surviga seems to like the world inside a HTC's Vive virtual reality headset. Read the rest

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell's new virtual reality startup

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Modal VR, the new stealth startup co-founded by Atari and Chuck E. Cheese creator, has opened the doors a crack. According to Bushnell, their portable VR system is built for business applications (even though the demo video shows, you guessed it, a game). “We want to help enterprises solve problems by looking at them from another point of view," Bushnell said.

“For those of us who grew up on “Star Trek,” the holodeck has always been the gold standard," he said. “Modal VR is the first time that I believe we actually have the holodeck.”

"Nolan Bushnell’s Modal VR launches next-generation virtual reality platform for enterprises" (VentureBeat)

"Nolan Bushnell Says His New Virtual Reality Startup Has the Keys to the Holodeck—and it’s Portable" (IEEE Spectrum)

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Evolution of Verse is a poetic VR experience

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Even if you don't have a VR headset, Chris Milk's Evolution of Verse hints beautifully at the future of immersive entertainment. Go fullscreen, don headphones, and get close! Read the rest

The first VR film to be directed by an Indigenous person in North America

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This cure for virtual reality sickness may mitigate balance disorders

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Some people experience virtual reality sickness while wearing headsets, and it's similar to motion sickness. Mayo Clinic researchers have developed Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) to help with VR sickness, and it may one day help with other balance issues. Read the rest

Virtual Reality Box Headset offers a big 3D experience at a small price - now just $18.99

Virtual reality gaming and exploration doesn’t have to cost a fortune...you can enjoy a ridiculously cool VR experience for under $20 with the VR Box Virtual Reality headset on sale for $18.99 - 36% off - in the Boing Boing Store.

VR Box creates a comfortable headset unit that’s compatible with most smartphone models - just slip in your phone, adjust the easy-to-use Optical Axis Sliding Control to maneuver your 42mm-diameter resin lens and start enjoying VR gaming, apps and videos that immerse you in a 3D world.

The unit includes plenty of padding for a comfortable fit on your face with high-quality lens that won’t fatigue your eyes like many other VR headset models.

You’ll even get a game controller that connects to your phone and headset via Bluetooth, offering loads of gameplay options that will definitely take your Google Play or Apple Store games to the next level.

Usually priced at $30, pick up the VR Box Virtual Reality headset now for the discounted price of just $18.99 before this offer expires. Read the rest

Mixed-reality demo displays C-3PO and R2-D2 in any room

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Magic Leap continues to roll out tantalizing demos of their mixed reality technology, this time imposing the "lost droids" scene into a typical room. Read the rest

How to make an edible virtual reality headset

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Caleb Kraft used the Google Cardboard design to make a working VR headset from graham crackers and icing. It's entirely edible, except for the lenses.

"Making an Edible Virtual Reality Viewer for Your Phone" (MAKE:)

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Fantastic radio show about virtual reality, c. 1992

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Media artist Michael Naimark writes:

In 1990, right as the first VR wave was swelling, Stewart Brand and Grateful Dead manager Jon Mcintyre concocted a scheme to produce an invitation-only 24-hour VR event modeled after the Electric Cool-Aid Acid test. They convinced Colossal Pictures, the largest soundstage in San Francisco, to host it. Dozens of demos and scores of talks were presented, by far the largest and most prominent VR event of its kind. I directed the video production. In total, 66 hours of video, both from a pro crew and a “basket full of prosumer cameras”, was shot.

Shortly after the event, David (Lawrence), Jim (McKee), and Earwax received an NEA grant to make a radio show. The funding enabled all of the video to be logged and transcribed. From it they made several versions, organized in short 1-4 minute themed sections. Their style was very “pre RadioLab”. From the New American Radio website:

Virtual Paradise—The Reality Tape (1992-93)

Earwax Productions with David Lawrence. An exciting production created in the spirit of the technology it focuses on. Virtual Paradise examines the ideas, issues, and attitudes that currently surround virtual reality. As this technology evolves, it brings with it the potential for redefining our most basic assumptions about media, experience, and reality. Virtual Paradise features many voices recorded at Cyberthon, a 24-hour virtual reality event presented by Whole Earth Institute in 1990. It also includes interviews with such visionaries as science-fiction author William Gibson, VR architect Jaron Lanier, artificial reality pioneer Myron Krueger, and Timothy Leary—all intercut with music and sound effects and shaped into a highly entertaining and insightful "virtual" tape composition.

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The magical future of virtual reality

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In Wired, BB pal Kevin Kelly wrote a definitive feature about the current (and future?) state of virtual reality, technology that many of us first tried in the late 1980s but took nearly thirty years to be ready for prime time.

I first put my head into virtual reality in 1989. Before even the web existed, I visited an office in Northern California whose walls were covered with neoprene surfing suits embroidered with wires, large gloves festooned with electronic components, and rows of modified swimming goggles. My host, Jaron Lanier, sporting shoulder-length blond dreadlocks, handed me a black glove and placed a set of homemade goggles secured by a web of straps onto my head. The next moment I was in an entirely different place. It was an airy, cartoony block world, not unlike the Minecraft universe. There was another avatar sharing this small world (the size of a large room) with me—Lanier.

We explored this magical artificial landscape together, which Lanier had created just hours before. Our gloved hands could pick up and move virtual objects. It was Lanier who named this new experience “virtual reality.” It felt unbelievably real. In that short visit I knew I had seen the future. The following year I organized the first public hands-on exhibit (called Cyberthon), which premiered two dozen experimental VR systems from the US military, universities, and Silicon Valley. For 24 hours in 1990, anyone who bought a ticket could try virtual reality. The quality of the VR experience at that time was primitive but still pretty good.

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Inside Industrial Light & Magic's virtual reality lab

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Industrial Light & Magic’s Experience Lab (ILMxLAB) is a newly-formed supergroup of artists, engineers, sound designers, and storytellers prototyping the future of interactive, immersive cinema for Lucasfilm. Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, I wrote about my visit to the xLAB where The Force is quite strong:

"The way we do technology development here is really hand-in-hand with the creative goals,” says (Lucasfilm CTO Rob) Bredow. “The R&D is always in service to the story.”

For example, to port the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars film universe into the interactive realm, the Advanced Development Group engineers first had to figure out how the VR hardware could render the massive 3D model in just milliseconds, compared with hours or days for a film shot. Then Skywalker Sound built a surround system that realistically rumbles and whooshes as a Corellian starship should. Meanwhile, game designers and the storytellers hashed out the most compelling way for a Jedi-in-training (you) to battle an army of Stormtroopers with a lightsaber.

"THE SUPERGROUP REMAKING STAR WARS AND JURASSIC WORLD IN VR" (Bloomberg Businessweek) Read the rest

Kitten petting simulator

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"VR is the next big thing, says Andy Pandy, "and I'm going to make millions with my virtual reality cat petting simulator."

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Watch a 4-year-old girl experience virtual reality on Oculus Rift for the first time

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“Is he going to eat me? I thought he was. Ahhh! I thought he was real! Is he real? Go away. You go away I say, dinosaur.”

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View-Master Virtual Reality viewer

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The general impression of the View-Master Virtual Reality viewer is that it's an excellent Google Cardboard viewer for any Android phone or iPhone, but that the View-Master app "reels" aren't very good. My family and I love Google Cardboard - the experience of walking around Paris and Tokyo is amazing. For $18, it seems like a good deal. Has anyone tried it? Read the rest

Oculus Rift VR headset turns out pricier than expected

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Ballparked at $350 by its creators, the consumer version of the Oculus Rift VR headset will in fact be $599. The sticker shock led the company's CEO to do an apologetic AMA on Reddit, where he explained the circumstances and why the earlier price suggestion was made.

Palmer Luckey:

“In a September interview, during the Oculus Connect developer conference, I made the infamous ‘roughly in that $350 ballpark, but it will cost more than that’ quote. As an explanation, not an excuse: During that time, many outlets were repeating the ‘Rift is $1,500!’ line, and I was frustrated by how many people thought that was the price of the headset itself. My answer was ill-prepared, and mentally, I was contrasting $349 with $1,500, not our internal estimate that hovered close to $599 — that is why I said it was in roughly the same ballpark.

Later on, I tried to get across that the Rift would cost more than many expected, in the past two weeks particularly. There are a lot of reasons we did not do a better job of prepping people who already have high-end GPUs, legal, financial, competitive, and otherwise, but to be perfectly honest, our biggest failing was assuming we had been clear enough about setting expectations. Another problem is that people looked at the much less advanced technology in DK2 [Development Kit 2] for $350 and assumed the consumer Rift would cost a similar amount, an assumption that myself (and Oculus) did not do a good job of fixing.

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