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Morton Heilig

AKA Morton L. Heilig

Born: 22-Dec-1926
Died: 14-May-1997
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Inventor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Early virtual reality pioneer

Military service: US Army (1945-47)

Following enquiries into cinematography, Heilig decided that the typical cinematic projection was insufficient for the sort of immersive experience he desired, and worked for many years conceptualizing various methods for 3D projection and sensory synthesis. One of the his few inventions to be prototyped was the Sensorama Simulator (invented 1957), a device comparable in appearance to an arcade cabinet, which simulated riding a motorcycle. The user, seated, grasped a pair of handlebars and peered into a stereoscopic projection which encompassed the whole of her field of vision. Rudimentary atmospheric effects were achieved through the use of fans (for wind), odors (flowers, etc.) and stereophonic sound; the device also simulated the feel of the road by vibrating the handlebars. In 1960, he invented the Telesphere Mask, a device worn on the head synthesizing binocular vision and sound -- compare virtual reality goggles. These ideas were synthesized in a cinema setting with Experience Theater (1969), which would have allowed a whole roomful to take part in an immersive show. Unfortunately, his ideas proved economically unfeasible and failed to catch on, though he found some interest from Disney in their attempts at 3D cinema.

    University: Pre-Engineering, Cornell University (1943)
    University: BA Philosophy, University of Chicago (1944)
    Scholar: Painting, Academie Julienne, Paris (1947)
    Scholar: Philosophy, University of Geneva (1947)
    University: Film Direction, Centro Sperimentale di Cinema, Rome (1948-50)
    University: MA Communication, University of Pennsylvania (1958)

    Fulbright (two)
    Disney Special effects consultant

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