The 1960s to the VR revolution: The history of VR headsets

Released in November, Meta’s Quest Pro is the company’s most powerful and advanced headset yet. AI Magazine looks into the history of VR headsets

With the concept of the metaverse increasingly in the spotlight, VR headsets have undergone a transformation from gadgets to ways to enable experiences that transport them into new, virtual realms.

Launched in November, Meta says its Quest Pro headsets offers high-resolution mixed reality, empowering users to engage effortlessly with the virtual world while maintaining presence in their physical space.

And Apple, long rumoured to be launching a VR headset of its own, is set to combine augmented reality (AR) with VR with its as-yet unannounced device.

Below, we take a look at the history of VR headsets.

1968: First head-mounted VR display

The first VR head-mounted display (HMD) system, The Sword of Damocles, is invented by computer scientist Ivan Sutherland and student Bob Sproull. Connected to a computer, it is capable of showing simple, virtual wire-frame shapes that change perspective when the user moves their head.

1991: Playing in a 3D world

Virtuality is launched: VR arcade machines where gamers can play in a 3D-gaming world. Virtuality pods feature VR headsets and real-time immersive stereoscopic 3D images, and can be networked together for multi-player games. 

The same year, SEGA reveals it is working on a VR headset of its own.

2010: First prototype of Oculus Rift

Entrepreneur Palmer Luckey creates the first prototype of the Oculus Rift headset. It features a 90-degree field of vision and relies on a computer's processing power to deliver images to the user.

Two years later, Luckey launches a Kickstarter programme that raises US$2.4mn.

2014: Developments in commercial VR

Oculus is bought by Facebook for US$2bn. The same year, Sony announced it is working on Project Morpheus, a VR headset for the PlayStation 4 (PS4).

Meanwhile, Google releases the Cardboard – a do-it-yourself stereoscopic viewer for smartphones – and Samsung announces the Samsung Gear VR, a headset that uses a smartphone as a viewer.

2019: Shift to standalone headsets

The shift from tethered to standalone VR headsets represents a major shift. Also this year, Road to VR reports that the monthly-connected VR headsets on Steam surpassed one million for the first time.

Nintendo enters the VR market with the Labo: VR kit for Nintendo Switch.

2022: Quest Pro moves into VR/AR

Meta’s Quest Pro, according to the company, represents a whole new way to work, create and collaborate. Revealed at Meta Connect 2022, the headset marks a shift away from more traditional virtual reality into one that blends virtual and augmented reality pioneered by devices such as Google Glass.

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