State of Virtual Reality

[This article was published in 2006, is super outdated 🙂 ]



Back in the 90’s, Virtual Reality was about to be a big revolution. Expectations were high and disappointment cruel. Nearly 20 years after, only a few people know what is possible nowadays with VR.

The technology silently evolved in research labs and big companies, and now prototypes have evolved into commercially viable products. The professional VR market is very healthy and growing fast.

Industrials are using VR systems to prototype their products and train their personnel; researchers are using it to understand and treat us; and the mass market is slowly rediscovering that playing with your body is the ultimate experience.

With so much false ideas lying around the web, it’s high time to make a lucid point on where VR is now with a small state of the art.

“As an image is worth a thousand words, a virtual environment is worth a thousand pictures!”

Part 0 – Definition : What is VR ?

Part 1 – Applications : Who is using VR to do what?

Part 2 – Devices : Input devices, trackers, haptics, gloves …

Part 3 – Displays : Caves, HMDs …

– Consumer Hardware ( coming soon)

NB: I will only be talking about “immersive” VR, which excludes SecondLife and Quicktime VR. See What is (not) VR.


  1. I respect your emphasis on hardware but being a software developer myself I see the software side at least as vital as interfacing. Virtual Reality has two important dimensions: immersion and depth. If either is missing the overall experience is not what virtual reality as a concept suggests. What would be needed at the moment is break through in HMDs and standards to get global immersive environments. It might be that HMDs are pretty much there but there is no market for mass production due to lack of software enabling wide spread use.

  2. Having recently re-entered the field of VR and visualization, I am amazed at just how much VR has not really progressed isnce those heady days in the early 90’s when it all started. Ok, so back then we had to build our own stereo graphics cards and custom multi-processor machines to handle all the I/O (tracking, audio, video, physics etc.) and yes, you can now just buy a PC with a graphics card which outperforms those custom systems by a factor of several thousand, but the SOFTWARE hasn’t really progressed much since the mid 90s. I guess that VR is still a great solution in search of a problem?

  3. Now that the technology is there to make massive consumer VR possible, it looks like it’s the perfect time for the gaming industry to make the revolution we were wishfully dreaming of back in the 90’s.

    The question is, why is this not happening?

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