The New Computer Museum collects, preserves and exhibits a wide variety of innovative computer interfaces ranging from the most historic to the latest and greatest (i.e. Oculus Rift, Gear VR, Leap Motion etc.) The collection evolved as an extension of Mary Hopper’s long term interest in both making and teaching about immersive experiences. Since the collection has grown over the course of thirty years, it now also illustrates how computer interfaces and immersive technologies evolved over time. The collection is specifically intended to demonstrate how some technologies used together can be even more immersive and actually approach the experience of “presence.”
Sensorama & Wishful Thinking
1957 saw the launch of Morton Heilig’s (1926-1997) Sensorama machine – a multi-sensory “Experience Theatre” that combined stereoscopic visuals with physical sensations. Known as one of the earliest examples of multimodal technology, ‘Father of Virtual Reality’ Heilig produced five immersive experiences for the simulator. A single user could spend two minutes and a token to enjoy wide-angled stereoscopic visuals, stereo sound, motion, wind and scent, triggered by tracks in the film, all from the comfort of the included chair. To capture the specialist footage, Morton developed a side-by-side dual film 35mm 3-D motion picture camera, with capacity for two 400 ft magazines. This camera was small enough to be hand-held.
Like many other immersive media enthusiasts, Mary Hopper was initially inspired by Morton Heilig’s theoretical and technical vision of total experience that he embodied in his Sensorama machine. Here is a YouTube video of him doing a demonstration of it.
Morton Heilig’s Sensorama (Interview).mov
Theoretically, at least from looking at some sites still lurking on the web, it is still for sale! Now, if only we had 1.5 million!
Virtual Reality History
The entrance to the exhibit will include a brief and basic introduction to the history of virtual reality and related environments. For example, here is a rare video of the first head-mounted display that was created by Ivan Sutherland at MIT in the 1960s. It will be shown on a screen next to a brief explanation of they significance of it.
First Head-mounted display (1965) The Sword of Damocles
Here is a link to the original article by Sutherland about his work with head-mounted displays.
A Head-Mounted Three Dimensional Display (Ivan E. Sutherland, University of Utah)
Here are two other useful resources that will be used to inform the exhibit’s content.
Virtual Reality: History (NCSA)
The Rise and Fall and Rise of Virtual Reality (The Verge)
Digital Den’s Collection
Much of the collection and exhibits in this area are still being developed and used by Mary Hopper’s company Digital Den (the primary sponsor and developer of the New Computer Museum).
Here is a YouTube video of one of Digital Den’s more popular exhibits entitled May the Force be with You which includes a number of innovative and affordable natural user interfaces (Leap Motion, Mindwave etc.).
Here is a gallery of just some of the rest of the collection which includes a mix of both vintage and current products.
Cosma 3D Experience Gallery
Digital Den has also produced another virtual gallery and accompanying web site entitled Cosma 3D, which is an interface to a directory of the best 3D and VR content available right now. One useful feature of the site, which is essentially a sister site to this New Computer Museum site, is that it has pages dedicated to each of the types of head-mounted displays (HMDs) that are in the collection that Digital Den shares with the New Computer Museum.
You can find out more about this particular area by referring to Digital Den’s web site.
MacKenzie, I. S. (1995). Input devices and interaction techniques for advanced computing. In W. Barfield, & T. A. Furness III (Eds.), Virtual environments and advanced interface design, pp. 437-470. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.