In the process of writing the Virtual Reality, I came into contact with the VR pioneers Ivan Sutherland, Bob Sproull, and Quintin Foster. It was a thrill to talk with them, and they were kind enough to let me use the photographs of their famous head mounted display built at Harvard University in the 1960s. They even improved the quality of them. I offered to host their high resolution pictures (scans from the original slides) here for future use and they happily agreed.

Steve LaValle, University of Oulu, November 2020.

Their message is included below.

Pictures of the head-mounted display at Harvard University, summer 1968

These pictures were all taken sometime in summer 1968. They appeared in Sutherland's paper Sutherland, I. E. (1968). "A head-mounted three dimensional display". Proceedings of AFIPS 68, pp. 757-764. The man in the picture is Quintin Foster. He was acknowledged in the paper.

Please note that the “Sword of Damocles” is the mechanical head position sensor, only. Many internet references erroneously apply that catchy name to the whole system. The sword is a big feature (long tube with shaft encoders attached) at the top of the close-up looking up. The sword is idle in the side view that also shows the ultrasonic position sensor, known as the “shower stall.” Neither sensor appears in the close-up view of the user's face and eyepieces.

All of us (Ivan, Bob, Quintin) agree to let you reproduce these pictures in technical expositions pertaining to the head-mounted display or VR.

Our plan is to donate the lantern slides to the Computer History Museum, to ask them to do a proper job of scanning the images, and to make the images available without restriction. This may not work out; and even if it does, it's likely to take quite a while.

Bob Sproull
Quintin Foster
Ivan Sutherland

20 April 2020