In 1938, Antonin Artaud described the illusory nature of characters and objects in the theatre as "la réalité virtuelle" in a collection of essays, Le Théâtre et son double.The English translation of this book, published in 1958 as The Theater and its Double, is the earliest published use of the term "virtual reality".

Elements of virtual reality appeared as early as the 1860s.

French avant-garde playwright Antonin Artaud took the view that illusion was not distinct from reality, advocating that spectators at a play should suspend disbelief and regard the drama on stage as reality.

The immersive environment can be similar to the real world in order to create a lifelike experience grounded in reality or sci-fi.

Augmented reality systems may also be considered a form of VR that layers virtual information over a live camera feed into a headset, or through a smartphone or tablet device.

"Virtual" has had the meaning "being something in essence or effect, though not actually or in fact" since the mid-1400s, "...probably via sense of "capable of producing a certain effect" (early 1400s)".

AR is a type of virtual reality technology that blends what the user sees in their real surroundings with digital content generated by computer software.It was primitive both in terms of user interface and realism, and the HMD to be worn by the user was so heavy that it had to be suspended from the ceiling.The graphics comprising the virtual environment were simple wire-frame model rooms.The additional software-generated images with the virtual scene typically enhance how the real surroundings look in some way.Some AR systems use a camera to capture the user's surroundings or some type of display screen which the user looks at (e.g., Microsoft's Holo Lens, Magic Leap).describes a goggle-based virtual reality system with holographic recording of fictional experiences, including smell and touch.