The Sensorama

The Sensorama was an early VR device developed in 1960 by Morton Heilig. It combined a stereoscopic 3D display with sensory elements like vibrating seats, fans for wind effects, and scent emitters. This innovative device aimed to provide a multisensory and interactive experience, foreshadowing modern virtual reality technology. However, it was never widely adopted or commercialized.

The Immersive Archive has created a VR simulation of "The Sensorama" device which was captured with high-resolution photogrammetric scanning technologies. In collaboration with USC's HMH Foundation Moving Image Archive, the original 3D films have been restored to give viewers the chance to see what the original content was like.  

Sensorama VR Experience
(coming soon)

The Sensorama is an early example of immersive multimedia technology that was developed in the late 1950s by filmmaker and inventor Morton Heilig. It was one of the first attempts to create a multisensory experience that combined elements of film, sound, and physical sensations to provide a more immersive and interactive viewing experience.

The Sensorama was essentially a large, cabinet-like device that a person would sit inside. It featured a stereoscopic 3D display, stereo speakers, and various sensory elements such as a vibrating seat, fans for wind effects, and even scent emitters to create a more realistic and engaging experience. Users could watch short films that were specifically designed for the Sensorama, and as they watched, they would also experience corresponding sensory effects that matched the on-screen action.

While the Sensorama was an innovative concept and ahead of its time, it was never widely adopted or commercialized. Nevertheless, it is considered a precursor to modern virtual reality (VR) and immersive entertainment technologies, as it laid the foundation for the idea of using technology to create more immersive and interactive experiences for audiences.

Click for more info at The HMH
Foundation Moving Image Archive

Restoration Process

Scanning The Sensorama

The 3D assets used in the simulation were captured with high-resolution photogrammetric scanning technologies and imported into a Unity environment.

Researching Archival Materials

The simulation has been complemented by extensive research into Mort Heilig's archival materials, including his notebooks, in which he outlines his inventions and thinking processes.

Click here to read Mort's Notebooks at The HMH Foundation Moving Image Archives

Creating the VR Simulation

The simulation is developed in a Unity-based 3D computer graphics environment and displayed in contemporary VR devices such as the HTC Vive and Meta Quest. The current prototype of this experience allow users to see the original content that was developed, and interact with device components.