From Web Pages to Web Worlds : How VR is Transforming the Internet


In roughly 20 years, we have seen the internet connect and transform us. We now talk, shop, go to class, find love and entertain ourselves in completely different ways.  The web changed the arc of human existence forever.

But, I am thinking more and more that the internet as we know it will no longer exist, and I think that day is coming soon.  Even Google Chairman Eric Schmidt agrees that “the Internet will disappear”.  Creative pioneers in mobile, wearables, and virtual reality are killing it, and we will have an internet in the coming months and years most people cannot even dream of today.  We will move from a web where we transact, view and consume to one where we step inside, feel and experience.  Anyone with a presence on the web of today should begin to prepare.

Most exciting, the pieces are all in place and waiting for an ambitious developer community to complete the work and take us there.

The Mozilla Virtual Reality Team is working hard to transform the web by enabling virtual reality through the Firefox browser.  It is available today. Soon, virtual content will need no “store”, no downloads, or special equipment beyond a head mounted display.  We are on the brink of browsers available globally and for free that support full virtual reality.  The possibilities are endless.

You can take advantage of their brilliant work today and have virtual reality delivered through your browser in 3 very simple steps:

  1. Download the latest version of the Firefox Nightly Build here
  2. Add the WebVR add on at the same location
  3. Follow the instructions the configure your displays at the same site.

To date, with the rise in consumer oriented virtual reality, what we have mostly felt is a drive towards entertainment and gaming applications.  Content feels like a “thing”, something to download and something special and separate to view.  While that is our recent past, I do not think it is our future.

Today, even with consumer virtual reality still in its infancy, I can type in a url and put on a head mounted display and view high quality virtual reality content and demos over the open web.  After I download the browser once, there are no additional downloads, no stores to visit, no friction between me and what I want.  What will the next year bring?  What will that look like in three years?

The web developer of today aligns shapes into a square page consisting of 2-D content on a web page that rolls up to a hierarchically arranged web site.  The developer of tomorrow will build multi dimensional fully immersive worlds allowing visitors to experience, see and touch, where they only read, watch and click today.  It is not as far off as you think.  Everyone relying on the web of today should be thinking through how they need to evolve to stay relevant in a world where consumers will be expecting to step inside your site and product and experience everything you have to offer in full virtual reality.

Additionally, as we all know, the internet is for far more than consumption today.  What about the world of work?  What if programming, email, communication and other work was done in an immersive virtual world?

A brilliant UX designer, Mike Alger, has a remarkable video on the virtual reality interface of the future designed for the world of work.  As he mentions, all of the technology is available today.

A Mike points out, workers more immersed in their work, and with more screen visibility and exposure in a more focused environment are simply more productive.  And like it or not, isn’t that the goal of all that connectivity at work?

We are not talking about improving upon our current limitations. This is a completely new world.  Something as simple as screen size is a real limitation to productivity with some occupations.  Imagine if everyone had a fully immersive 3-D screen that is dramatically bigger and responsive to touch in virtual space.  What could you create?  Talented designers and developers are building as fast as they can.  For WebVR, the team at Mozilla has code at GitHub open sourced and available for use.

The overriding trend today is to simply put 2D into 3D.  Virtual tours, 3D games, and events viewed in virtual reality are exciting, but viewed by history 3 years from now, they will seem dramatically limited.

We are on the brink of a new era, complete with virtual worlds, intimate virtual connections, and exponentially more productivity.  The only path there is through the open web.  Today, we can read and watch content from it.

Tomorrow, we might just dive in and be swimming in it.




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