The stereoscope was the virtual reality of 1838

Erin Haworth of The Smithsonian says:

Thought you might be interested in Clive Thompson's latest tech column in the October issue of Smithsonian magazine, which takes a look at virtual reality and how its shocking power was all the buzz once before — about 150 years ago!

Thompson admits he once thought modern day virtual reality might be a fad. He changed his mind about it as he researched the similarities between VR and the stereoscope, a curious illusion discovered in 1838 that used vision and perspective to make the brain assemble two slightly varied images into a three-dimensional view. Thompson now predicts VR is here to stay.

The stereoscope became wildly popular in its day, crossing all cultural and class boundaries, transforming science, inspiring artists and being used as an educational tool. As VR edges into the mainstream, Thompson also takes a look at the various applications of today's technology as it gets better and cheaper.