With Cardboard, Google has put VR into the hands of thousands of developers in a cheap, accessible form factor. Up next, we have Google Daydream, a whole new platform for creating compelling WebVR experiences
It’s easy to forget with devices like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and a whole plethora of devices being announced, seemingly by the day, that virtual reality is not a new technology. As noted earlier, the ideas and technologies behind VR are decades old, but only now do we have enough computing power for a small enough price that we can create and deliver quality VR experiences to users almost everywhere. One of the greatest enablers of modern VR technology is the Google Cardboard headset. With its Cardboard programme, Google has put VR into the hands of practically any smartphone owner for only a few pounds.
Powered by the web and by native apps alike, Cardboard has enabled parties curious about making VR experiences to try out and share their ideas without having to spend hundreds of pounds on a development kit, greatly advancing interest and innovation in the field.
So what next? Now that consumers are familiar with virtual reality as a concept and an experience, Google is upping its game with its new Daydream platform. Where cardboard was designed with short demonstration pieces in mind, Daydream is designed for users to dwell for hours, not minutes. It’s still powered by your phone, but with more comfortable headsets, lower-level APIs and a brand-new controller, Google-powered VR looks set to become a prominent player in the near future.
Mozilla has turned its collective hand to creating tools and resources with the aim of making the web the most compelling platform to build VR experiences
As Mozilla has been a driving force for the latest and greatest web technologies for almost 15 years, it’s no surprise that this community-based collective has also turned its gaze to VR. What Mozilla lacks in hardware capability, it more than makes up for in its ability to produce compelling web technologies and tools.
Powered by three.js, A-Frame is designed to be a simple introduction to WebVR creation, but it is also entirely capable of tapping into the raw power WebVR’s underlying technologies. As such, A-Frame has an ever-growing collection of libraries and components that can plug straight into A-Frame’s operation to provide expanded functionality with little effort. This is all while still powered by the DOM.
Mozilla is also a key player in the W3C, and has been working with the standards body to create a unified interface for WebVR across the multitude of browsers that support the technology.
With the emergence of WebGL, WebVR and other tech, the W3C is all over standardising the interfaces and APIs, enabling users of browsers everywhere to enjoy the same compelling experiences
Since the inception of the web, the W3C has been the driving force behind standardising the interfaces and APIs of the web and its technologies. WebVR is no different. WebVR began as an experimental build running VR experiences but ever since then, browser vendors have been working on providing the latest tools to enable developers to build and deploy VR experiences on the web, whilst simultaneously optimising the performance of the 3D rendering engines of their browsers. Naturally, the W3C has worked to standardise the interfaces and technologies that each browser vendor has created to enable cross-browser compatibility of WebVR experiences.
The culmination of this effort is the WebVR API 1.0. Though it’s not quite ready to be adopted, as a standard, by publishing an editor’s draft and forming a community group within the W3C, WebVR is well on its way to becoming a fully fledged W3C spec. With that in mind, the W3C is open to ideas and contributions from everybody, so, if you think you’d like to make a contribution to the future of VR on the web, the W3C discussion boards and mailing lists are always open! Some of the sticking points right now include the user-flow problems and security concerns, such as ‘Should WebVR be HTTPS only?’. If you have an opinion, you need only make the case.
Samsung has invested significant time, resources and money in trying to become the face and provider of popular VR experiences
With the new Samsung 4 browser and great kit like the Gear VR, Samsung is intent on becoming the leading force behind WebVR production and consumption. Powered by Samsung devices, and with a little help from the talented people of Oculus Rift, the Gear VR has an affinity with Cardboard-enabled devices, but with much closer integration of hardware and software that only a producer of both can offer. As such, the experiences provided are of a significantly finer quality than those viewed with the Gears recyclable counterparts.
The Samsung 4 browser takes further advantage of this hardware integration. Not only can you engage with WebVR-powered experiences, but you can load conventional web-based experiences to enjoy too! Consuming HTML5 video on a screen the size of an IMAX theatre is great fun!