Platforms like Unity offer a powerful opportunity for a VR developer to build and configure for platforms like Oculus and Cardboard through clean plug ins and developer friendly interfaces.
However, the question still begs, are closed eco systems like Unity for development and the Oculus store for distribution representative of the future? What role with the open web play in the VR renaissance we are witnessing?
As famed VR developer and innovator Tony Parisi said in a recent meet up, “VR and WebGL are on a convergence course.”
Could it be that Unity and Oculus have provided a launch pad, but the real future belongs to the web through frameworks like WebGL and browser support for VR?
At this stage, WebVR is in its infancy, and building for it requires significant development skills and a tolerance for wrapping multiple tools, libraries and languages together. It requires real courage and a sense of adventure. On other hand, that is what makes it fun, and in that sense, it is no different than every other advance we have witnessed on the web at an early stage.
The good news is all tools are readily available and affordable, and the end result is the ability to release VR applications through the open web.
Firefox and Chrome both offer VR support through their nightly developer builds. You can access those here:
A creator will also need a fluency in WebGL. There is a learning curve if you have not worked in it before, but I can tell you, it will return on your investment if you spend the time to get familiar.
More good news: Unity and Unreal both offer a WebGL export, so if you are familiar with those tools, you can build on them and export. The only requirement would be to learn more about WebVR and dream about the future possibilities.
Once you have a sense of how you want to build, I strongly recommend being realistic about the target. Development for Oculus is possible, but the tools require a lot of work, code, and trial and error. And the current browser limitations around fps (frames per second), which max out at 50-60, make the end user experience fairly limited. Oculus aims for 75-100 fps to ensure a premium experience.
However, developing for Cardboard, and delivering your app through the open web is possible today, and the end user experience will be comparable to a native Android app. Simply put, WebVR for Cardboard is ready today and there is nothing holding an aspiring developer back. If you want to experiment with WebVR, I would make Cardboard the target, and get to work.
Check out this awesome gallery of content built for Cardboard and released through the open web.
A future of immersive VR experiences with cheap Cardboard headset delivered with no downloads or installs is upon us. It is up to you, the developer, to imagine the possibilities.