The public has been gobbling up headlines about virtual reality throughout 2016. Just last month we wrote about the 32 launch titles for PlayStation VR which, despite being a little bit late to the party, might have been the most exciting VR release yet. We seem to be constantly looking for something new, or something particularly thrilling as the gradual VR rollout continues, and that’s only natural. We’ve yet to see a particular headset or device get out in front as the leader in this new category of gaming, and for that matter there aren’t really signature games yet either.

3 Technologies That Forecasted Virtual Reality
3D TV Image: LG
With that said, we’ve all been duped a bit as far as accepting the idea that VR is particularly new. Yes, it’s new to have all these headsets coming out from major tech and gaming companies, and they’ll make for brilliant gifts and acquisitions for enthusiastic gamers. But there have been plenty of home entertainment developments over the years that more or less forecasted the era of VR we now live in. Let’s take a look back at three of them.

Virtual Reality Arcades
Virtual reality arcades themselves were probably the clearest forecast that we’d eventually enter a new era of VR gaming. Many may not remember, but this sort of gaming was relatively popular in the late-'80s and '90s. This site took a look back at what it calls the “doomed virtual reality boom of the '90s,” noting a company called Virtuality that produced a number of games for arcades. Concepts like immersive 3D environments and open world gaming were at the core of Virtuality’s goals—and the company wasn’t alone. There were also some fairly cheap, unsophisticated headset options that people dabbled in around the same time in an attempt to bring about VR gaming. This “boom” failed, but it ought to have clued us in that developers would give VR another shot one day.

Live Table Gaming Online
It may sound like a niche thing, but the online casino industry may just have given us the clearest indication that VR was on the way back to the forefront of gaming. For many years now, sites attached to this corner of the video game world have thrived by accurately simulating casino environments. But more recently, they’ve done so by turning simulated games into “live” ones. You can read about the specifics of what this means for different games here, but the basic idea is that a live video feed stays on the relevant table and dealer for whatever game a player is involved with. You can see an real human being on the other side of your screen, as well as actual, physical cards being dealt. It’s not VR so much as a limited window to reality, but it was certainly a significant step toward making gaming more immersive and realistic to a very large population.

3D Television
Finally, there was 3D television—which was a massive failure, but nevertheless one that emphasized our desire to grow closer to our entertainment systems. The problems with 3D were that the televisions were expensive and the glasses were a little bit cumbersome. As one article recently put it, the whole concept of 3D TV was probably dealt a bullet to the head recently when Samsung lost interest in producing the systems altogether. But VR is a natural next step, and one that appears to be better suited for success than the 3D TVs. The equipment is still cumbersome, but because the viewing actually happens within that equipment people are more willing to accept the hassle.

There wasn’t a direct transition from any of these previous technologies or modes of entertainment. But each one, in a way, shows our desire for a form of entertainment that we can more fully dive into and experience—which is exactly what virtual reality developers are hoping to deliver.

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