Virtual reality allows us to interact with technology more fully than ever before. It’s everywhere from the gaming industry to medicine and business. VR environments are incredibly immersive, engaging, and their purpose can vary greatly, making them applicable in entertainment, scientific research, and professional development alike. The only feature that virtual reality had been lacking until recently was accessibility.
Due to the complexity of the development process, VR software is typically created for a specific headset. Users can obtain these games and programs in specialized app stores, depending on what headset they use. This approach limits the reach of VR applications significantly, as well as reduces the flexibility of their usage. The new angle of development in the VR community — creating portable VR experiences that can be shared on the web — aims to solve these problems.
Virtual Reality with WebVR
WebVR is an API that allows developers to create virtual reality applications that work through a web browser. It’s a joined project of the Mozilla and Google Chrome teams. The current version of the API supports both virtual and augmented reality. This technology originally emerged in 2014 from a desire to make VR applications more available to users regardless of what headset they own. Over the next six years, WebVR has naturally expanded its mission to include bringing VR experiences to users who don’t have any specialized hardware.
Numerous frameworks rely on WebVR to ensure cross-platform functionality. Developers now can choose between A-frame, React 360, Three.js, Argon.js, and many other technologies that give them access to the WebVR API and extensive rendering capabilities at the same time. Although all these frameworks share some basic functionality, their purposes differ. For instance, React 360 specifically focuses on building interactive user interfaces, which makes it of greater interest to businesses that don’t specialize in VR (read more on the differences between various WebVR frameworks).
How Will WebVR Transform the World?
The world is rapidly migrating to the cloud, and VR will follow suit. Although native VR applications will not disappear altogether, web-based technologies are likely to become more widespread and scalable. WebVR will transform not only the toolkits used to create VR solutions but the attitude towards how games, videos, online stores, and educational content are expected to function.
Since WebVR significantly improves the accessibility of virtual reality applications, it will become the new normal to include VR in software that is currently mainly static. As WebVR grows to include better functionality to support augmented reality, it will become virtually irreplaceable in web development.
VR Experiences in the Browser
WebVR allows for great creativity in how virtual reality can be used. Below are only a few of the examples of how portable VR applications can transform customer experience across different industries.
360-Degree Video Tours
The most prominent and familiar instance of VR that doesn’t require the use of a headset is 360 photos and videos. These can be built to showcase a location or property. In real estate, VR tours are steadily becoming irreplaceable, as it’s incredibly convenient for a buyer to have the ability to see a flat before deciding to visit it. It also saves the time and expenses of agencies and property owners.
The gaming industry benefits from WebVR because the API allows them to reach more potential clients. Games built to work through a browser can run on many compatible headsets instead of supporting just one brand of hardware. The only thing typically required from the player to experience such cross-platform games is a smartphone with a compatible browser.
Interactive Online Stores
Static images in online stores are no longer sufficient to grab and retain customers’ interest. VR already enables buyers all over the world to “attend” stores without being physically present in them. Such interactive shopping experiences allow customers to see 3D models of various items, try on clothing, and interact with objects around in different ways, depending on the provider.
Virtual reality has a historical propensity towards being incorporated in various training programs. VR is used by the military, NASA, and numerous other agencies and companies to reduce the cost of employee training and boost its effectiveness. WebVR can help make employee training software more flexible and reusable.
Portable VR experiences will continue growing as more and more industries and companies adopt WebVR. This technology allows developers to create VR applications that are cross-platform, significantly increasing their reach and accessibility. Also, WebVR helps incorporate virtual and augmented reality into software that is not specialized in VR to enhance interactivity, engagement, and usefulness.