I moderated a discussion with VR pioneers Fred Brooks & Henry Fuchs at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ Future of Reality Summit (original video is here). We talk about the evolution of immersive technologies since the mid 1960s. Fred Brooks heard Ivan Sutherland’s Ultimate Display speech in March of 1965, and Henry Fuchs heard about Sutherland’s Sword of Damocles VR prototype from Stanford’s Alan Kay.

They each share the milestones of the evolution of tracking technologies, display technologies, real-time graphics and scanning & volumetric capture technologies from the late sixties until today, as well as some of the early applications from NASA and with flight simulators. They also talk about the overpromises of the hype cycle of the early 1990s, but also how the term of “virtual reality” really helped to catalyze a community of practice as well as tell the story to military funders who continued to support the type of research and work that was being doing by Fuchs and Brooks at UNC Chapel Hill’s department of computer science.

We also talk about whether or not VR and AR are well on their way to mass ubiquity or if the immersive industry should be bracing for an winter period. Fuchs was skeptical that we’ve crossed a tipping point for XR moving into mass consumer products was going to be enough to justify the investments that companies having been making into spatial computing. He specifically cited Microsoft’s HoloLens, and he made these statements before it was announced that Microsoft won a $480 million military contract to develop an Integrated Visual Augmentation System for the Army. But overall, Fuchs and Brooks fill in a lot of gaps of the history of VR and provide lot of context and perspective for how we got to this point with all of these immersive technologies.


The video version of this discussion can also be found here on the University of North Carolina School of the Art’s Media + Emerging Technology Lab page.

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Music: Fatality

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