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Digital Universe: The Global Telecommunication Revolution by Peter B. Seel

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13

Virtual and Augmented Worlds

A display connected to a digital computer gives us a chance to gain familiarity with concepts not realizable in the physical world … If the task of the display is to serve as a looking-glass into the mathematical wonderland constructed in computer memory, it should serve as many senses as possible. So far as I know, no one seriously proposes computer displays of smell, or taste. Excellent audio displays exist, but unfortunately we have little ability to have the computer produce meaningful sounds.

(Ivan Sutherland, 1965)1

The Sensorama and Morton Heilig

The first multimedia virtual reality system in the US was developed in the late 1950s (and patented in 1962) by Morton Heilig (1925–97) with his Sensorama system (Figure 13.1).2 It was not computer-based, but rather a completely analog system that included the provision of sight, sound, and smell to its riders. The seated rider held onto handlebars in the enclosed kiosk and watched a projected 3-D film through a binocular-type viewer while the chair vibrated to replicate movement in a motorcycle or car. The 3-D films were shot using a special hand-held 35 mm movie camera of Heilig's own design (Figure 13.2). Other 4-D multisensory elements in the kiosk included sound fed through speakers on the sides of the viewer's head, a fan that pushed air into their face, and even a nose piece that wafted representations ...

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