By Kevin Green
INF103: Computer Literacy (ACD1302J)
Instructor: Brian Kraus
With the technology available to us today, we truly do live in the world of the future. For as long as humanity has dreamed of fantastic worlds that defy the laws of physics, we have been grounded in a world regulated by the laws of nature. One cannot choose to simply fly off into the sunset unassisted, go to the moon, explore the deepest underwater areas on earth, or lift 1000 pounds. But with the progress being made in virtual reality, our greatest dreams can become more real than we ever imagined. We aren’t quite at that point yet, but we move closer with each passing, year, month, and day. However, virtual reality has proven to have many practical uses in the world today that extend far beyond fulfilling our fantasies. From preforming virtual medical procedures, to training soldiers in a non-lethal setting for battle, the uses for virtual reality are truly limitless. As time goes on, virtual reality continues to be an integral part of our lives and will continue to impact the course of humanity. The earliest known use of virtual reality was in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland. Sutherland worked at Harvard and had worked on the concept of augmented reality as far back as 1963. His rig allowed the user to move in a 3D environment composed of wire frames. Using this rig, the user would occupy the same space as virtual objects. Despite the groundbreaking nature of his invention, the computers at the time were not capable of creating a fully realized virtual reality, but it was a step towards greater things in the field(Sutherland, 1968). The first exposure to virtual reality for most of the world was Tron, a 1982 Disney film by Steven Lisberger where a computer world inside the ENCOM mainframe is host to visual representations of programs and people. The main character Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, is transported to this world where he interacts with a wide variety of programs in an attempt to take down his rival in business, Sark(Steven Lisberger, 1982). Although Tron clearly had elements of virtual reality, the term and implications of such a thing weren’t mainstream until 1989 when Jaron Lanier popularized it. Lanier was an employee at Atari Inc. until the company split in 1984. Since Lanier was without a job, he created his own company, VPL Research, which specialized in creating virtual reality technologies for commercial use. VPL Research went bankrupt in 1990, but now that the door was open, virtual reality technology continued to grow ("The virtual curmudgeon," 2010). Now that we’ve reached the year 2013, several advances in virtual reality have turned the ideas of Ivan Sutherland and Jaron Lanier into a reality so to speak. One of the biggest advancements has been in flight simulation. The first flight simulator was made in 1977 by Bruce Artwick. Artwick produced this flight simulator program with his company SubLogic in response to user feedback from his thesis “A versatile computer generated dynamic light display.” The first version was for the Apple-II, followed by a release on the Radio Shack TRS-80. Both IBM and Microsoft expressed interest in this software and went into a bidding war to purchase the rights from Artwick. In the end, Microsoft won and went on to make Microsoft Flight Simulator, the most prolific flight simulator to this day(Grupping, 2003). Back when the flight simulator was brand new, it was lacking a certain degree of realism and didn’t support headsets for a true virtual reality experience, but with the advent of recently technology it is now possible to use the simulator with a VR headset with realistic graphics that use controls from real planes. Microsoft Flight Simulator has allowed pilots to learn to fly in the safest setting possible, and as a result a pilot’s first flight will have them being well prepared and capable of keeping the plane safe for everyone...