What is Virtual Reality? How did it all start? Learn everything about Virtual Reality, about its incredible beginning up to the stunning modern applications to art enjoyment and travelling.
Discover the countless applications this technique has nowadays — included our Virtual Reality Tour of Ancient Rome, Colosseum, and Nero’s Palace! If you want to learn more keep reading and discover who coined the term Virtual Reality and a detailed history of such a revolutionary science field.
The history of Virtual Reality is a long and fascinating one. While most people associate VR purely with entertainment — the goggles provided with to enjoy a 3D movie or the headsets used at a game center — Virtual Reality has proved useful in countless other fields, like surgery, military, rehabilitation, sport, and even history: Re-creating ancient civilisations to help us go back in time.
Whenever a new technology is discovered, a lot of people start worrying such a progress may end up killing people’s jobs. We beg to differ. Virtual Reality is just a means that professionals use to expand their knowledge and help clients get a better experience, whatever the field.
Virtual Rome: How We Develop Our 3D Experiences
Take our guided tours of Ancient Rome and the Colosseum for instance — visiting an archaeological area with a guide is a wonderful way to learn about an ancient civilization. Exploring the huge area of the Roman Forum without a guide would mean staring at a meaningless plethora of columns, ruins of temples and arches. A great guide makes the past of Rome — and its ancient city — simply come to life; a bad one makes you want to sleep.
However beautiful in itself (and it truly is!), walking on the Capitoline Hill or through the Imperial Forum would only be a good set for a picture to bring back home, but you would end up knowing — we say experiencing — absolutely nothing about what you see — or don’t see, if you don’t know where to look at. But now take Virtual Reality technology and a great guide and put them together. It is an explosive combo. It really is. This is where reality meets imagination, where virtual space overlaps with the real one. These two dimensions complete each other and together create a perfect situation, where you can learn, admire, enjoy, experience, stand in awe.
You know what is the most common reaction we see when a guest first put his/her 3D glasses on? Just a: Oh!
Imagine walking on the top of the Capitoline Hill and seeing the view exactly like it appeared to Roman emperors 2000+ years ago! Figure yourself crossing the Imperial Forum and be able to observe brand new temples and buildings and arches standing up in all their mighty. You would even be able to see buildings that don’t exist anymore, like the Basilica Ulpia inside the Trajan’s Forum, or the magnificent Temple of Pacis (which no other company in Rome offers), all reconstructed with the help of historians and archaeologists. Imagine, you walk around and explore the ancient Rome exactly as it was, and the suiting voice of your tour guide telling you where you are, what you are seeing, what to look for in your new world.
Book An Immersive 3D Tour of Rome
Conquer Rome and walk through the cobbled streets of the ancient capital of the Roman Empire like an emperor. Admire its buildings magnificent and luxurious temples and buildings. Descend into the buried palace of Emperor Nero and explore the famous Domus Aurea (Nero’s Palace). At the moment we run 2 Virtual Reality tours in Rome. One is our virtual tour of Ancient Rome as described above, the other one is a tour of Nero’s Palace with an amazing 3D experience inside the stunning Golden Vault Room.
Virtual Tour of Nero’s Palace (Domus Aurea)
Descend underground into the buried palace of Emperor Nero and explore the countless rooms of the so called Domus Aurea – the Golden House. Since most of the colourful walls and ceilings have faded away overtime, archaeologists and virtual reality pundits joined their expertise to create a 3D reconstruction of the Golden Vault Room and a section of the outside of the Palace, shown to visitors through 3D headsets. Tourists take a sit in the Golden Room, put their headsets and 3D Glasses on and get the chance to see exactly how the room they are sitting in looked 2000 years ago. The 3D reconstruction video also goes forwards and backwards, to let you compare how the Golden Room looked during Nero’s age and how it appeared to explorers that dug there in the 16th century. Amazing mosaic floors, bright red columns, gold everywhere, detailed, colourful frescoes all over the walls. You will feel like you really travelled back in time! This experience is so beautiful that we literally have seen guests moved to tears.
Virtual Tour of Rome Ancient City and Colosseum
The other Virtual Reality Tour Experience is the ultimate way to visit the Colosseum and Ancient Rome. Here you have it all: knowledgeable guide, a small group of participants (max 12), and 3D glasses with 360° reconstructions of Ancient Rome, Roman Forum, Imperial Forum, Colosseum and much more. During our virtual tour of Rome ancient city, not only are you led by a guide you can interact with, but you’re also able to stop on selected spots during the itinerary, to admire those places like they looked 2000+ years ago. People are left breathless. Every time you reach one of the selected spots you can put your 3D Oculus technology glasses to enjoy a 360° view of the place at the times of Ancient Rome — all while still being able to listen to your guide, ask questions and experience Rome fully. It’s an emotion you can never forget, something that thrills kids and adults alike.
Would you like to know more about the history of Virtual Reality? Just keep reading…
A Short History of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is born: the Sensorama and the Sword of Damocles
But when did the first Virtual Reality Experience took place? We have to really go back in time, back to the half 50s, when Morton Heilig, an American cinematographer created the first example of virtual reality with theories and applications which proved influential in later designs of virtual reality technologies.
Heilig was inspired by the Cinerama, a technique that used three cameras to project movies onto an arced widescreen. It thus managed to expand the area of viewing space for the person using the installation, creating a logical step in the evolution of the visual arts:
“The really exciting thing is that these new devices have clearly and dramatically revealed to everyone what painting, photography and cinema have been semiconsciously trying to do all along — portray in its full glory the visual world of man as perceived by the human eye” (Heilig).
Heilig tried to involve cinema owners and producers to create a cinema space where people would not only watch a movie and hear music and words, but also have their other senses stimulated — smell, touch and taste. After encountering scepticism from the cinema world, he decided to take things into his own hands, developing the Sensorama, a device that would put his theories into practice. Resembling a 1980s arcade game, the first Sensorama Simulator allowed people to sit on a bike and pop their head into a screen to take a virtual tour of Brooklyn in the 60s. Not only would the viewer experience the moving panorama and sound of their bike and the passersby, but it was also possible to experience the tilting and vibrating of the bike, feel the air coming from a fan and smell freshly baked pizza!
Rise and fall of Virtual Reality in the 80s and 90s
During the 70s studies on Virtual reality were only known to scholars and scientists. VR only managed to come to the public’s attention in the late 1980s and 1990s. This is actually when pioneering computer scientist Jaron Lanier introduced the world to the term ‘virtual reality’ in 1987.
Before then, he had set up VPL Research – VPL standing for “Virtual Programming Languages” – with the goal of bringing virtual reality to a mass audience. His company pioneered research into virtual reality and 3D graphics which also sold the first virtual reality gear, made of virtual reality glasses, data gloves (with more than 6000 microcontrollers!) and later, the full data suit, an outfit with sensors for measuring the movement of arms, legs, and trunk.
By the start of the 1990s Virtual reality became very popular — many gaming companies like Nintendo tried to market game consoles that came with head mounted systems, but this soon dropped off due to a huge gap between public expectations and serious technological limitations that made the whole gaming experience not as exciting or good quality as promised. Also stand-up arena VR machines didn’t last long — with price tags in tens of thousands they were far too expensive for the general public. This débâcle led not only to public’s dissatisfaction but also to a scaling back of many research activities in this field from the science world.
Virtual Reality’s reborn: from Wii motion control to Oculus Rift
With many products being discontinued at the end of the 90s, the only real advancement in the field during the early 2000s was the distribution of Motion controls — those marketed by Nintendo for their Wii consoles resulted in a huge success, helping the Wii to become one of the biggest selling consoles in history. This product even inspired other companies, like Sony and Microsoft to create their own motion controls for the Playstation and Kinect.
Let’s be honest, motion controls certainly didn’t offer a complete VR experience, but they help you to be less conscious thinking while controlling a game, and make it easier to become immersed completely in the virtual world.
During the past 7 years Oculus Rift technology and Sony’s continued advancements with their Project Morpheus, helped Virtual Reality resurrect from its own ashes. The first Oculus Rift development kit was appreciated mostly among game developers and VR enthusiasts, but the second iteration has proved even better. With its recent acquisition by Facebook, the future of the Rift looks like a bright one and will surely spur even more competition in the market.