I Really Want This 19th Century VR Cycling Simulator to be Real

Illustration for article titled I Really Want This 19th Century VR Cycling Simulator to be Real

Recently the retro-future-ish corners of the internet have been passing around this 19th century illustration of a virtual reality headset. And while I can’t verify where the image originally came from, I desperately want it to be real.

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The image supposedly comes from a cycling magazine circa 1896 and was published with text that said: “With a home trainer, electric fan, and cinematograph, all the pleasures of a tour can be had in a hall bedroom.” A cinematograph was an early motion picture camera/projector that helped usher movies into the mainstream.

Not only do I want this image to actually be from the 1890s, I really want to try a virtual reality simulator that uses 19th century tech. The pre-history of VR headsets is certainly littered with bizarre experiments, but something like the illustration above could actually be executed pretty well nowadays.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to find where this image was originally published. But if you have better sleuthing skills, please let us know where it comes from in the comments below.

Update June 11, 2015: It’s real! And indeed from 1897! Thanks to Samuel Henderson for finding the source. Turns out it’s from the January 15, 1897 issue of The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review.

Illustration for article titled I Really Want This 19th Century VR Cycling Simulator to be Real

Top image via Reddit

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DISCUSSION

Sorry, but no. The “Cinematograph” is clearly meant to be wireless, but in 1896 Hertz had only just completed and published his experiments with electromagnetic waves. The earliest discussion of using electromagnetic waves to send wireless telegraph signals occurred in 1892. The wireless VR goggles are way ahead of their time; this was radio in 1896: