The Aspen Movie Map was a hypermedia system developed at MIT in 1978. It worked much like an early version of Google Street View, using basic 3D graphics and photographs taken from a car driving through Aspen, Colorado, to give the user an interactive first-person journey around the city. Although it did not use a headset, the project's innovative first-person interactivity represented a smart examination of how VR could be used to transport people to other places. Running it required several Laserdisc players, a computer, and a touch screen display.
Aspen was filmed in early fall and winter, so users were able to experience the city in different seasons. To capture the data, a gyroscopic stabilizer with four 16mm stop-frame film cameras was mounted on top of a car with an encoder that triggered the cameras every ten feet. The distance was measured from an optical sensor attached to the hub of a bicycle wheel dragged behind the vehicle. The cameras were mounted in order to capture front, back, and side views as the car made its way through the city. Filming took place daily between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to minimize lighting discrepancies, with the car was carefully driven down the center of every street in Aspen to enable match cuts.
The film was assembled into a collection of discontinuous scenes (one segment per view per city block) and then transferred to laserdisc. A database was made that correlated the layout of the video on the disc with the two-dimensional street plan. Thus linked, the user was able to choose a path through the city. Selected building contained additional data such as interior shots, historical images, menus of restaurants, or video interviews with city officials, so that users could take more in-depth virtual tours of those sites. Additional features of the map interface included the ability to jump back and forth between correlated aerial photographic and cartoon renderings with routes and landmarks highlighted; and to zoom in and out.