Posted: 06.07.16

Born of many fathers, VR and AR grow in popularity

In doing research for my book on Augmented Reality, I re­alized many people were ex­plaining AR and VR, what it is, how it works, who invented what and when. I think that is the measure of newness.

No one explains today how a smartphone works, a PC or a TV works. They, and all other technologies that we live with and take for granted, are part of our environment, part of our metaverse. Maturity of a market (or technology) is not just when there is a consolidation of sup­pliers, but when people stop ex­plaining what it is.

Interest over time Google trends

Using Google’s Trends mon­itoring system, one can enter a subject and view the search activity of a topic, based on Google’s search engine data.

One could look at this as an extension or augmentation to the hype curve (developed by Gartner in 1995).

When the hype, the above average interest in a topic or company, falls off, the topic is no longer faddish. It may be on its way out, or at least quiescent and evolved into a normal part of our lives, as it would appear AI (artificial intelligence) is now. (I am predicting an upsurge in AI com­ing up, but that’s a story for another time.)

Who’s your daddy?

Who invented VR? I guess it depends on who you ask, and how you qualify the question. Names that will appear quickly in such a conversation are Ivan Sutherland (who actually invented AR), Jaron Lanier (who named it), Morton Heilig (invented the Sensorama ma­chine), Myron Krueger (creator of the AR lab Videoplace), Gene Dolgoff (in­vented a digital projector in his holog­raphy lab, which was the inspiration for Holodeck after Roddenberry saw it in New York), Tom Furness (AR expert and founder of Human Interface Tech­nology Lab, called the “Grandfather of VR”), Mark Bolas (Director of Mixed Reality Laboratory at USC’s Institute of Creative Technology, chairman of Fakespace, and mentor of Palmer Luck­ey), Eric Howlett (the LEEP system), Neal Stephenson (coined the term Meta­verse and now works for AR developer Magic Leap), and Ben Delaney (chroni­cler of VR since 1990). Almost every old guy who poked around in VR back in the late 1980s or early 1990s is coming out of the woodwork claiming parenthood of VR and/or AR.

Probably if Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t dumped $2 billion on Palmer Luckey and Jack McCauley, most of the wannabe fathers would have just kept on doing their thing, inventing stuff and getting little to no credit for it. But when a young­ster like Luckey comes crashing into the industry, an in­dustry he didn’t in­vent, and cashes out bigger than all the real founders’ imagi­nations of a payday combined, well then, it’s time to speak up. After all, who knows? There may be some other crazy bazillionaires out there who want in on the game.

Fact is, all those folks listed above, some of them friends of mine, contributed something to getting AR and VR where it is today. And where is it today is smack dab in the middle of almost everyone’s consciousness and certainly part of their vocabulary. So AR and VR had/has a lot of fathers, or grandfathers, or suspicious uncles, and where it might be consid­ered unseemly to claim to be the father, I think it’s perfectly all right to say you’ve helped invent and bring forward these technologies.

So as we approach Father’s Day, give yourselves a pat on the back—well done, Dad.