VR, from Brave New World to Virtuality

For those of you wondering how all of this nutty virtual reality stuff got started, Sci Fi Wire is running a pretty good piece on its history, from Virtuality all the way back to Aldous Huxley in the 1930s.

Aldous Huxley, in his novel Brave New World, parodies that screwy ballyhoo-y Hollywood, and especially the advent of the talkies, with “the feelies,” multisensory movies you watch by gripping two prongs that zap you with the neural sensations of the characters.

Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is published, in which people use “empathy boxes” to relate to and feel the plight of Mercer, a messianic figure who is pelted with stones as he climbs a mountain.

The great ABC TV show Max Headroom airs, building upon the also-great BBC made-for-TV movie Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future, about an artificial intelligence auto-generated from the noggin of an injured TV newscaster … a show that was better SF than a lot of the Gibson knockoffs published around the same time.

In 1987, I said that mankind’s need for virtual environments would never evolve beyond Max Headroom, and Dennis Miller’s jokes about virtual Claudia Schiffers be damned, I’m sticking to it. Read the full article here.


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