Flashback: A Small VR Museum SVVR 2015 Glimpsed into Virtual Reality’s Epic Past

by Matthew Terndrup • May 30th, 2015

For a brief moment in time, VR appeared out of nowhere, making headlines and capturing media attention. Publications like “VR World” sprung up touting mass market appeal. Articles based on the next evolution of gaming steadily emerged. Then, as quickly virtual reality came, the topic of it backed away hiding within the shadows of universities and research labs. Now, VR is back with a vengeance ready to take its rightful throne as the most immersive, influential platform yet.

With expos and meetups like Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (SVVR) and VRLA accumulating a decent following, the VR market is priming itself for an explosive growth. SVVR’s latest conference in Northern California showcased a vast array of content. Panels and discussions flooded the environment as dozens of exhibitors demoed their work nearby, hinting that VR will finally reach the hands of millions. The dream of consumer adoption is here again, and it remains relatively unchanged since the early days of the medium. This was seen in glorious detail at the center of the SVVR expo floor as a “VR Museum” stood in the midst of it all.

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A version of the VPL Data Glove

Right next to a banner quietly stood an unassuming mannequin wearing a black pair of Virtual Reality goggles with the letters “VPL” on them. On its hands fit two gloves with dusty wires strung inside them, stretching outwards. That setup was developed by a group of VR pioneers in the late 1980s, which subtly resembled current hardware solutions about to hit market soon.

A mini-fridge-sized computer perched on a table off to the side. It displayed the name “Silicon Graphics” on it. This company manufactured what many early VR developers and research labs used in the 1980s and 1990s.

Another hefty machine painted in black with a hand icon, an on/off switch, and several connectors was found a few feet away. This box powered the data gloves decades ago. Hopefully they still work now.

Circling back around, a table with magazines remained waiting to be discovered. Literary notes and historic photos covered the pages. Flipping through them revealed that in 1994 a couple held a wedding ceremony while in VR. Tons of information like this was ready to be read again.

Stacks of valuable information shown at SVVR are now stored somewhere ready to be read another day

Stacks of valuable information shown at SVVR

A few other exhibits in the “VR Museum” made an appearance – the infamous VFX headgear, Cyberface, and i-glasses included. The collection was a fantastic addition to the SVVR conference and expo. Without it, the event would have primarily been focused on the present and future. This would have been fine, but as the saying goes, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Fortunately, it seems like the mistakes of before have been learned, and the VR community will finally reach the dreams that visionaries and luminaries of decades originally planned.

To see more photos of this unique exhibit, check out the following images in the  gallery below:

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