These days, virtual-reality experts look back on the platform as the first interactive augmented-reality system that enabled users to engage simultaneously with real and virtual objects in a single immersive reality.
The project began in 1991, when I pitched the effort as part of my doctoral research at Stanford University. By the time I finished—three years and multiple prototypes later—the system I had assembled filled half a room and used nearly a million dollars’ worth of hardware. And I had collected enough data from human testing to definitively show that augmenting a real workspace with virtual objects could significantly enhance user performance in precision tasks.
Given the short time frame, it might sound like all went smoothly, but the project came close to getting derailed many times, thanks to a tight budget and substantial equipment needs. In fact, the effort might have crashed early on, had a parachute—a real
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