” Watch out for a remarkable new process called SENSORAMA! It attempts to engulf the viewer in the stimuli of reality. Viewing of the color stereo film is replete with binaural sound, colors, winds, and vibration. The original scene is recreated with remarkable fidelity. At this time, the system comes closer to duplicating reality than any other system we have seen!”
Com o intuito de proporcionar uma experiência multissensorial e completamente abstraída da realidade, em 1962 é construído um protótipo apelidado “Sensorama”. Este consistia numa cabine, criadora de um ambiente multimédia, onde só cabia um utilizador de cada vez. Combinava imagens em três dimensões, sistema de som estéreo, vibrações mecânicas, aromas e ar movimentado por ventiladores.
Proporcionava ao utilizador uma experiência mais intensa e envolvente, um desafio que, de resto, se mantém nos dias de hoje. Embora o trabalho de Heilig tenha sido interrompido devido à falta de financiamento, a sua criação abriu novos horizontes no mundo do cinema e da realidade virtual. Chamaram-lhe assim, o pai do cinema 3D.
“After his theories about immersive theatre fell on mostly deaf ears, Heilig decided to take things into his own hands, developing (while completing his Communication Master’s at the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania) a device that would put his theories into practice. Heilig called the device, which resembled a 1980s-era arcade game, the Sensorama Simulator.
In his patent for the Sensorama (filed in 1961), Heilig stresses the pedagogical potential for the device, discussing, for instance, the armed services, who, “must instruct men in the operation and maintenance of extremely complicated and potentially dangerous equipment, and it is desirable to educate the men with the least possible danger to their lives and to possible damage to costly equipment” (p. 9). The default experience that shipped with the short run of Sensorama, however, was not a replication of the battlefield, but a series of journeys, including a motorcycle ride through Brooklyn (complete with seat vibrations mimicking the motor of the bike, the smell of baking pizza, wind from strategically placed fans, voices of people walking down sidewalks) and a view of a belly-dancer (with cheap perfume).
Howard Rheingold, in his 1991 book Virtual Reality: Exploring the Brave New Technologies, describes his own usage of the Sensorama, 30 years after its invention:
By virtue of its longevity, it was a time machine of sorts. I sat down, put my hands and eyes and ears in the right places, and peered through the eyes of a motorcycle passenger at the streets of a city as they appeared decades ago. For thirty seconds, in southern California, the first week of March, 1990, I was transported to the driver’s seat of a motorcycle in Brooklyn in the 1950s. I heard the engine start. I felt a growing vibration through the handlebar, and the 3D photo that filled much of my view came alive, animating into a yellowed, scratchy, but still effective 3D motion picture. I was on my way through the streets of a city that hasn’t looked like this for a generation. It didn’t make me bite my tongue or scream aloud, but that wasn’t the point of Sensorama. It was meant to be a proof of concept, a place to start, a demo. In terms of VR history, putting my hands and head into Sensorama was a bit like looking up the Wright Brothers and taking their original prototype out for a spin. (p. 50)
Sensorama failed to catch on, and faded away due to financial issues, but, writes Joseph Kaye in 2001, the machine still remains the pinnacle in some aspects of immersive experience, notably in utilization of olfactory stimulus.”
Mesmo antes da Sensorama Heilig havia trabalhado numa outra patente que se mostrou também influente no futuro do design da realidade virtual. A “telesphere mask” era uma mini versão do Sensorama, um objecto que se colocava em volta da cabeça, que oferecia vários pontos de vistas, som estéreo, e correntes de ar que poderiam explodir em diferentes velocidades e temperaturas, podendo transportar cheiro (Heilig, 1957). O Telesphere foi o primeiro aparelho patenteado concebido para transmitir opiniões virtuais ao usuário. A máscara foi construída como um protótipo, mas Rheingold supôs em 1991 que: “Se não fosse para as vicissitudes do financiamento da investigação, Morton Heilig, em vez de Ivan Sutherland, pode ser considerado o fundador da realidade virtual.
“Even before the Sensorama, however, Heilig had worked on another patent that would have also proved influential on future virtual reality designers, had they heard of it: the Telesphere mask, awarded a patent in 1960 under the name, “Stereoscopic-Television Apparatus For Individual Use.”The Telesphere mask was a sort of head-mounted version of the Sensorama that would allow for wrap-around views, stereo sound, and air currents that could blow at different velocities or temperatures, and could carry smell (Heilig, 1957). The Telesphere was the first patented head-mounted apparatus designed to convey virtual views to the user, predating Ivan Sutherland’s influential “Head-Mounted Three-Dimensional Display,” nicknamed the “Sword of Damocles” by half a decade. The mask was built as a prototype, but Rheingold surmised in 1991 that, “If it had not been for the vicissitudes of research funding, Morton Heilig, rather than Ivan Sutherland, might be considered the founder of VR” (p. 46). …And shortly after, backed by exposure from Rheingold’s first-hand reports of experiencing Heilig’s work, Heilig’s reputation as a pioneer in virtual realities studies and technology grew. He spoke in late 1991 at the CyberArts International Conference, where his speech was received as, “a fascinating picture of a man whose vision far outpaced those with the resources to bring his ideas into reality…there was no doubt that Heilig deserves respect for his pioneering work” (Czeiszperger & Tanaka, 1992, p. 93).
TelesphereMaskPATENTE TELESPHERE MASK
“THE EXPERIENCE THEATER” é uma outra versão do simulador Sensorama mas para um público maior. Foi patenteado em 1969 e funciona como uma grande tela semi-esférica, que apresenta filmes 3-D, com imagens periféricas, som direcional, aromas, vento, variações de temperatura corporal e de inclinação do assento. A audiência está sentada no ponto de foco estratégicos.