Who Made The First Virtual Reality Headset

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Source: Fi.edu

Virtual reality (VR) has quickly emerged as a groundbreaking technology, transforming various industries and bringing immersive experiences into the hands of millions. But have you ever wondered who made the first virtual reality headset? The answer may surprise you. In the early 1960s, a visionary named Ivan Sutherland developed what is widely considered to be the first VR headset, known as “The Sword of Damocles.” This pioneering device consisted of a bulky head-mounted display connected to a suspended arm, which held the display in front of the user’s eyes. While primitive compared to today’s sleek VR headsets, Sutherland’s creation laid the foundation for the immersive experiences we enjoy today. Let’s delve into the fascinating journey of VR headsets and explore the advancements that have revolutionized the way we perceive and interact with virtual worlds.

Inside This Article

  1. Development of the Sensorama Machine
  2. Ivan Sutherland’s “The Sword of Damocles”
  3. Morton Heilig’s “Sensorama”
  4. The “Telesphere Mask” by Thomas Furness and Myron Krueger
  5. Conclusion
  6. FAQs

Development of the Sensorama Machine

The development of the Sensorama Machine marked a significant milestone in the history of virtual reality headsets. It was not the first VR headset to be invented, but it was one of the earliest attempts to create an immersive sensory experience.

The Sensorama Machine was developed by Morton Heilig, an American inventor and filmmaker, in the 1960s. Heilig envisioned a device that would fully engage the user’s senses and transport them into a virtual world. His goal was to create a multi-sensory experience that would go beyond visual and auditory stimulation.

To achieve this, Heilig incorporated several components into the Sensorama Machine. It consisted of a stereoscopic display for 3D visuals, stereo speakers for realistic audio, a vibrating seat for haptic feedback, and even a scent generator to add olfactory sensations. The user would also be able to control the movements of the virtual camera to further enhance the immersion.

The Sensorama Machine was designed to deliver a variety of experiences, including virtual rides, movies, and even interactive games. Heilig believed that this technology had the potential to revolutionize entertainment and provide new forms of art and communication.

Although the Sensorama Machine was never mass-produced or widely adopted, it laid the foundation for future advancements in virtual reality technology. It inspired and influenced subsequent inventors and researchers to explore the possibilities of creating more advanced and immersive VR headsets.

Ivan Sutherland’s “The Sword of Damocles”

Ivan Sutherland is widely considered as one of the pioneers of virtual reality (VR) technology. In the 1960s, he developed a groundbreaking VR headset known as “The Sword of Damocles”. This innovative device marked a significant milestone in the history of VR, laying the foundation for the immersive experiences we enjoy today.

Sutherland’s VR headset was named after an ancient Greek tale, where a sword hung above Damocles’ head by a single hair, symbolizing imminent danger. In a similar vein, Sutherland’s “Sword of Damocles” headset had a massive contraption suspended from the ceiling, with the VR display positioned in front of the user’s eyes.

The headset featured a head-mounted display (HMD) that was innovative for its time. It included a small screen that displayed primitive graphics and 3D images. The user could wear the headset and experience a computer-generated virtual environment.

However, unlike modern VR headsets, “The Sword of Damocles” was quite cumbersome and heavy, weighing around 50 pounds. The device utilized a mechanical armature, which allowed the user to move their head and interact with the virtual environment.

Sutherland’s pioneering work with “The Sword of Damocles” laid the groundwork for future advancements in VR technology. His device showcased the potential of immersive virtual experiences, sparking the imagination of researchers and paving the way for further developments in the field.

Today, virtual reality has come a long way since the days of “The Sword of Damocles”. With the advancements in technology, VR headsets have become more lightweight, comfortable, and offer high-resolution displays. It has opened up a whole new world of possibilities, enabling users to explore virtual worlds, play games, and even experience virtual tours and training simulations.

Ivan Sutherland’s contribution to the development of VR technology cannot be understated. His visionary creation, “The Sword of Damocles”, continues to inspire and shape the future of virtual reality, firmly establishing him as a pioneer in this exciting field.

Morton Heilig’s “Sensorama”

Morton Heilig, a visionary inventor, is often credited with creating the first virtual reality (VR) headset known as the “Sensorama” in the 1950s. Heilig was inspired by a desire to create a more immersive and multisensory experience for viewers.

Heilig’s “Sensorama” was a large and bulky device that resembled a personal arcade machine. It consisted of a viewing screen, stereo speakers, a motion sensor, and a series of mechanical components that delivered realistic sensory feedback.

One of the main features of the “Sensorama” was its ability to provide users with a 3D visual experience. As they watched a film or video, the headset would display stereoscopic images to create a sense of depth. This was achieved by utilizing two separate images that would be viewed by each eye individually, giving the illusion of a three-dimensional environment.

In addition to visual stimulation, the “Sensorama” also incorporated other sensory elements. The headset had built-in stereo speakers that delivered audio cues to enhance the immersive experience. It also included a motion sensor that allowed users to control the virtual environment by moving their head, adding another layer of interactivity.

Furthermore, the “Sensorama” provided haptic feedback, simulating physical sensations to increase the realism of the virtual experience. This was achieved through the use of vibrating motors and fans that created wind-like sensations, adding to the overall immersion.

Morton Heilig envisioned the “Sensorama” as a platform for various forms of entertainment, from experiencing virtual travel and exploring simulated worlds to interactive storytelling and gaming. However, despite its innovative design and capabilities, the “Sensorama” never gained mainstream popularity due to its high cost and limited availability.

Nevertheless, Morton Heilig’s groundbreaking work with the “Sensorama” laid the foundations for modern virtual reality technology. His vision and commitment to creating immersive and multisensory experiences paved the way for future advancements in the field of VR, leading to the development of more refined and accessible headsets that we see today.

The “Telesphere Mask” by Thomas Furness and Myron Krueger

In the world of virtual reality (VR), pioneers like Thomas Furness and Myron Krueger made significant contributions. One notable creation was the “Telesphere Mask.”

Developed in the 1980s, the “Telesphere Mask” was a breakthrough in VR technology. It was a wearable headset that allowed users to immerse themselves in virtual environments.

The mask featured two small CRT displays positioned in front of the eyes, providing a stereoscopic 3D image. This visual feedback, combined with head tracking, allowed users to explore and interact with virtual worlds.

The “Telesphere Mask” also incorporated other sensory inputs, such as positional audio and haptic feedback. This enhanced the immersive experience and made users feel more connected to the virtual environment.

Thomas Furness, often referred to as the “grandfather of VR,” played a significant role in the development of the “Telesphere Mask.” As a researcher at the U.S. Air Force’s Armstrong Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, he focused on creating technology that could enhance pilot training and simulation. The “Telesphere Mask” was one of his creations during this period.

Myron Krueger, on the other hand, was known for his work in responsive environments and interactive art. He explored the use of body movements and gestures to interact with virtual objects. Krueger’s expertise in human-computer interaction added depth to the development of the “Telesphere Mask.”

The “Telesphere Mask” paved the way for further advancements in VR technology. It laid the foundation for future headsets, including the ones we enjoy today. The immersive experience it provided was considered revolutionary at the time, capturing the imaginations of researchers, artists, and technology enthusiasts alike.

Even though the “Telesphere Mask” was a significant step forward, it was still far from the virtual reality experiences we have today. The technology was clunky and the graphics were basic compared to the high-resolution displays and realistic graphics we are accustomed to in modern VR headsets. However, it was a crucial milestone that established the potential of virtual reality as a medium of interaction and exploration.

Today, virtual reality has come a long way, with advancements in hardware and software enabling more realistic and immersive experiences. The impact of pioneers like Thomas Furness and Myron Krueger cannot be understated, as their innovations continue to shape the VR landscape we know today.


Virtual reality has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and we have witnessed remarkable advancements in the technology of virtual reality headsets. Today, we enjoy immersive VR experiences that transport us to different worlds and push the boundaries of our imagination.

While the question of who made the first virtual reality headset may have different answers depending on how we define virtual reality, it is clear that many innovators and visionaries have contributed to its development. Whether it was Morton Heilig and his Sensorama, the computer-generated virtual reality of Ivan Sutherland, or the groundbreaking Oculus Rift created by Palmer Luckey, each step forward has shaped the VR industry.

The future of virtual reality holds even more exciting possibilities. As technology continues to advance, we can expect to see more immersive and realistic VR experiences that blur the line between the virtual and physical worlds. Whether it’s for gaming, education, or even therapeutic applications, VR headsets will continue to evolve, bringing us closer to the ultimate goal of creating fully immersive and indistinguishable virtual experiences.


1. What is a virtual reality headset?
A virtual reality (VR) headset is a device that combines high-resolution displays and motion tracking sensors to create a simulated environment that can be explored and interacted with. By wearing a VR headset, users can immerse themselves in a virtual world and experience a sense of presence and realism.

2. Who made the first virtual reality headset?
The first virtual reality headset was developed by Ivan Sutherland, a computer scientist, in 1968. His creation, known as the “Sword of Damocles,” was a massive and heavy device that provided a primitive form of virtual reality. It consisted of a head-mounted display connected to a computer system, allowing users to view and interact with simple computer-generated graphics.

3. How do virtual reality headsets work?
Virtual reality headsets work by utilizing a combination of advanced technologies. They typically consist of one or two high-resolution displays, placed in front of each eye, to create a stereoscopic 3D effect. Motion tracking sensors, such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, are used to detect the movement of the user’s head, allowing for a realistic and responsive virtual experience. Additionally, most VR headsets require a powerful computer or gaming console to render the virtual world in real-time.

4. What can you do with a virtual reality headset?
With a virtual reality headset, the possibilities are virtually limitless (pun intended). You can explore immersive virtual worlds, play games that put you at the center of the action, watch movies in a virtual cinema, take virtual tours of real-world locations, learn through interactive educational experiences, and even use VR for therapeutic or medical purposes. Virtual reality headsets open up a whole new realm of entertainment, education, and exploration.

5. Are virtual reality headsets compatible with all devices?
Virtual reality headsets require compatible devices to provide the necessary processing power and content. While some VR headsets are designed to work with specific gaming consoles or computers, there are also standalone headsets available that have built-in processors and storage. Additionally, many smartphones can be turned into a VR device by using compatible VR apps and attaching a smartphone-compatible VR headset. It’s important to check the compatibility requirements before purchasing a VR headset to ensure it will work with your specific devices.