Reporting the news is serious business! Reporters need to cover stories that may provoke a range of emotions from the tragic to the light hearted.
One light hearted story I was assigned to was to cover a preview of a new innovative and interactive game called Virtual Reality that would be appearing at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto Canada in 1992.
It looked nothing like the wearable technology people can use at home today.
The CNE had been previewing new technologies at its fair since it open as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition in 1879.
The fair’s website says “it was “the place” where people came to experience the latest innovations in technology and commercial products “
The annual fair has also introduced the public to other new technology:
- Electric railway transportation in 1883
- Edison’s phonograph in 1888
- The wireless telephone in 1890
- Radio in 1922
- Television in 1939
- Plastics and synthetics in the 1940s & 1950s
- Virtual Reality in 1992.
Jonathan Waldern was at the event. His startup company had been researching virtual reality in the U.K since the mid 1980s and it developed much of what I was seeing that day.
Virtuality Group, as it was known, had first introduced its system at a computer graphics show in the U.K in1990.
They were in Toronto that day talking up their arcade games and the 1992 version of high tech they hoped would make a splash at the CNE that summer.
“The illusion of reality occurs through a computer scanner that positions your body,” said Jonathan Waldern in 1992.
“And then converts that into information that drives a little computer generated representation of yourself.
So you actually see yourself and your fellow companions who are in the system as computer characters in there.”
My assignment was to conduct an interview and try out the product and present it in a radio story for the newscast, and a feature for the station’s newsmagazine program.
By today’s standards the technology was clunky, but I was game to check out this view master on steroids!
I tried out the product to experience it and relay the story to listeners who might want to give the product a try at that summer’s fair.
Click below to hear the report I filed for CJEZ:
The first game I tried was called VTOL which placed me inside the cockpit of a jet fighter.
VTOL was a jump jet flight simulator and depending on the level you played in there was some combat.
I put on headgear that had two screens and speakers, given a joystick, and then stepped onto a stand up POD. When I moved my head the displays on the screen would change.
There were hand controls to fly the plane and shoot enemy fighters.
The next game I played was called Dactyl Nightmare.
The aim was to shoot the ‘virtual’ person you were playing against who was standing on another platform in the game.
While that battle was going on you had to watch for a Pterodactyl that could attack you at any time.
According to the website arcade-history.com,“The Dactyl Nightmare experience has two derivatives. The pistol based ‘shoot-em-up’ version, and a more advanced hand to hand combat version known as ‘Capture the Flag’.”
I don’t know how well these things were received by visitors to the CNE that summer. But by 1994 according to an article on kill screen.com, the popularity of VR pods in general—was crashing.
The company and the rights to the entertainment machines were sold numerous times during the ’90s.
Bloggers note: The website http://www.arcade-history.com reminded me of the images I had seen what I covered the story. It’s worth checking out.
As well the site History of VR – Timeline of Events and Tech Development had great photos of various versions of virtual reality in the last century.