Virtual Reality in 2020

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the most interesting emerging technologies for the web in 2020. Recently at HalfStack Phoenix I shared insights on VR, WebVR, the web, and what makes VR a lasting technology that will change the way we interact with information over the coming decade.

To better understand the adoption trajectory of virtual reality, consider a variation on Domestication Theory that describes three stages of progression for successful technologies:

1. elation – the promise of the technology is limitless
2. love/hate – the technology is the best solution for a number of niche markets
3. transparency – the technology gets adopted and is routine

When modern VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were demoed to the public the reaction was amazement. People were elated by the new experiences that virtual reality promised and the problems that it could solve. This first stage in VR’s adoption was marked by significant interest and many small groups experimenting with the technology mainly for games and entertainment. However, after consumer headsets had been available for a couple years, the industry realized that VR adoption was not as swift as predicted.

This is the current state of VR adoption. Gamers have been the main target of headset sales, but the market has not fully embraced VR gaming over 2D gaming. Meanwhile, a number of other industries have started adopting VR to improve their business. VR is now used in architecture firms, employee training, medical, movie making, social interactions and business meetings. These industries believe that VR provides value beyond other available options.

We can explore whether any technology will be successfully domesticated by asking two questions: what value does the technology provide and what friction exists in daily use? Virtual reality’s value lies in its ability to provide presence and agency. No other technology allows a person to inhabit a space and interact with it as naturally.

Virtual Reality Demo: Present Slides to a Virtual Audience

We can leverage the presence provided by virtual reality and simultaneously provide a reactive experience for mobile and desktop users. A new collection of apps called omnipresent were created by me in dojo for HalfStack, allowing slides to get presented to attendees of HalfStack, live via virtual reality, and recorded so it could later get viewed as a video or in virtual reality.

VR Demo
View the demo.

Omnipresent’s client is the main mechanism for users to interact with the application. Omnipresent uses the flexibility of the web to provide a reactive interface targeted to different hardware. Mobile and desktop users are able to view the virtual presentation (using WebXR and A-Frame) and see the slides full-screen on their device. Users with VR headsets are able to enter a virtual presentation that gets synced to the real presentation. Slides in both the real presentation and virtual presentation get advanced at simultaneously. When the presenter’s hands are getting tracked, those movements also get displayed in VR.

The experience gets driven by a producer app that coordinates with a modified version of RevealJS to display the slides. This gets done in real-time with the producer, client, and slide presentation applications all communicating via WebSockets. When the slides get changed by the presenter, the producer captures the slides for the virtual presentation using WebRTC screen sharing. All of this data then gets captured by the server so it can get replayed.

The Future of Virtual Conferences and Presentations

It was exhilarating creating a presentation where I was both physically and virtually present in two spaces simultaneously and getting recorded for later viewing. Being able to literally transcend space and time is mindblowing.

It would be easy to imagine a future where concert attendees could choose to attend physically or virtually while at the same time the performer can perform live at one venue and virtually as a hologram in others. The promise of VR is in its ability to provide this type of presence and agency to everyone by bringing us closer together.

Do you want to use AR, VR, or XR to better engage your customer and enhance their experience on the web? We can help you navigate this emerging technology and help you make the most impact. Please contact us to learn how we can help!

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