History of Virtual Reality Part 1
The drive to create illusions of reality has dated back to nearly the dawn of mankind. Visual representation of animals, gods and the ideal man and woman date back tens of thousands of years, with early traces found in French caves, rock walls in Australia and in other corners of the planet. The push to create an immersive reality took time to develop, but it became the basis of what we now today refer to as virtual reality. To understand VR and how pornographic content is intertwined with the technology, it is necessary to look back to the earliest stages of artistic emersion.
Art continued to evolve throughout the world, based on culture and location. Nudity and even pornography often went hand in hand with the drive of artists. Depicting sexual intercourse and other acts became a major staple within East Asian art. However, the true beginning of a virtual and emersion art took place in 1793 when Robert Baker from Scotland created a full, cylindrical painting he dubbed “The Panorama (in case you’re wondering, the word panorama comes from two Greek words: Pan, meaning “all” and horama, meaning “view”). The painting used special lighting placed behind the canvas and viewer s would pay to stand in a centralized location. The painting fully engulfed the viewer, so no matter where they turned, the illusion of art and life continued (the entire painting covered 250 square meters, so it was no small endeavor).
Charles Wheatstone took the idea of depth of view and pushed it forward. Charles, a scientists and not an artist, invented the stereoscope, or a device capable of producing three-dimensional images. In the late 1830s, he discovered the human brain processes imagery from each eye slightly different, which is why someone loses depth of field when they close one eye. So, he captured two photographs, side by side, and used the two pictures in his stereoscope viewing device (it is important to note the very first photograph came just a decade prior). The viewing device used a variety of mirrors to ensure correct placement of the photographs, but this became the first 3D viewer, 10 years after the invention of photography.
The stereoscope by Charles Weatstone could not be easily transported due to the amount of glass used in its design. Due to this, traveling with the device for public displays proved difficult. In 1849, however, David Brewster created the lenticular stereoscope, which looks incredibly similar to modern VR glasses. This helped open the world up to the viewing of 3D images. It also helped open up the world to the very first 3D porn.
Pornography and adult based content remained very hush-hush. You couldn’t walk to the local market and purchase a nude photograph. Photography, still in its infancy, proved extremely expensive for the average worker. However, nude stereo photographs began popping up in the early 1850s and viewers could pay extra for a viewing. Most nude stereoscopic photographs came with no names or signatures attached, as creators of this material did not want police and government officials coming after them for the creation of this material. One man, F. Jacques Moulin, who took erotic photographs for stereoscopic use in France between 1850 and 1869, ended up arrested and serving a prison sentence due to the vulgar nature of the photographs.
These two early stereoscopic viewers (in addition to the Holmes Stereoscope in the 1860s) became the very first photographic 3D illusions and the first generations of a device you may be far more familiar with: The View-Master. First created by William Gruber in 1939 (nearly 100 years after the first stereoscope), this device helped put 3D viewing into the hands of every child around the United States. Famous for the red, plastic design where a circular disk is inserted to the top and a level on the side of the handheld viewer advances the images one at a time, this truly brought early VR stages to the world. It also made it far easier for people to purchase 3D pornography. Although dubbed a child’s toy, stereoscope discs did open up this world, which really took off following the conclusion of the Second World War.
The final piece to truly set up the VR stage took place in 1929. While prior to the release of the View-Master, the Link Trainer became the very first flight simulator. The simulator used a cockpit design with several motors installed underneath. Combined with some visual representation for the pilot to view, the United States military purchased several to help train pilots. By the time World War II broke out, the military had over 10,000 Link Trainers, with 500,000 pilots receiving initial flight training on the devices. The military didn’t have the luxury of time to spend on every pilot prior to deployment; so spending time in the flight simulator became essential.
With the development of stereoscopic viewers and environmental simulators, everything is in place for the push to develop true Virtual Reality (and much better pornography). You can read all about it in the next chapter on the history of adult content and its relationship to VR