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30 DECEMBER 2003

Virtual Reality: Pre-digital Immersion Experiments

Oliver Grau (2003 Virtual Art)
Millstones – an incomplete history:

  • cir. 365BC Allegory of Plato's Cave: image projections of people, projected on a cave wall 'fools' spectators into believing that the images are actual people (
  • 1894 – stereopticon: 16 slide projectors working in rapid succession, projecting circular pictures.
  • 1895 – Lumiere brothers – Arrivée d'un train en gare le Ciotat: the film causes viewers to rush for the door, believing that they were about to be run–down by the travelling train.
  • 1900 – Cinéorama (World Exhibition, Paris): 10 70mm film projects simultaneously, forming a connected 360 degree image.
  • 1900 – Cinéorama/mareorama (Le Tour du Monde, dioramas of colonies, panaramas of Madagascar and the Congo).
  • 1921 – Teleview: first 3–D film. The technique used red and green coloured projections that were separated–out by two–colour glasses worn by patrons.
  • 1939 – New York World Exhibition: Building the world of tomorrow (plans for new urban development). Futurama: Norman Bel Geddes – a scale–model of an American city in the 1960's.
  • Late 1930's – early 1960's – US. Vitarama/Cinerama: Fred Waller – used by the US air force to improve flight simulators but also screened commercially. The films were shot using three cameras and presented with stereoscopic sound.
  • 1947 – O Stereokino: Sergei M. Eisenstein – an essay stressing the synthesis of all art genres. Despite failing to offer any suggestions as to how to produce such an instrument, he believed that such a device would allow images to 'pour' from the screen into the film auditorium – stereo sound would be essential. The experience would immerse, capture, involve, and engulf the viewer.
  • 1960 – Stereoscopic television apparatus for individual use: Morton L. Heilig – patented 3–D TV using miniature TV screens a users glasses. Commercial application built
  • 1962 – called: Sensorama Simulator.
  • 1964 – Marshall McLuhan: appropriated the term symbiosis to describe the relations between humans and machines.
  • 1970 – Osaka World Exhibition: Pepsi–Cola pavilion presented a near synaesthetic experience using dry ice, interactive laser effects, stroboscopes, and music.
  • 1970's – 1980's – Omnimax: small immersive circular cinemas with spherical projection, extending the viewer's ambient viewing array to 160 degrees.
  • 1974 – film: Earthquake: Robson – included haptic sensations that shock cinema seats.
  • 1981 – Polyester: John Waters – including smells. The entrance ticket came with a card which cinemagoers rubbed during appropriate film sequences, releasing corresponding smells.
  • 1990's – 3–D IMAX (modern–day panorama): The movies take spectators to inaccessible, far–off foreign places.
  • 2000 – Hanover World Exhibition EXPO Planet m: Bertelsmann.



3-D TV • allegory of the caveambient • Auguste Lumiere • cave • cineorama • Eisenstein • futurama • Heilig • historyIMAXimmersionimmersive experiencelaser • Louis Lumiere • Lumiere Brothers • mareorama • new media art timeline • O stereokino • omnimax • pavilionPlato • Polyester • projection • stereopticon • stereoscopic • stroboscope • synaesthesia • teleview • timelinevirtual reality • vitarama • Waller • Waters • World Exhibition

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