Virtual Reality (VR) is software designed to be immersive and its fast making its way to the web. VR is the name given to any technology that immerses users in virtual environments and gives them the impression of actually being physically present in these environments.
In the light of below stats as well as the impact of VR technologies on various industries, developers are always looking for new ways to leverage VR:
- 171 million people could be using VR hardware and software by 2018
- The virtual market could be worth $30 billion by 2020
- The total number of active virtual reality users is expected to reach 171 million by 2018
- 30% of consumer based companies are expected to experiment with VR this year
In this post, we are going to discuss how VR is influencing web design today with innovations like WebVR and new development tools.
WebVR is an open standard that allows you to immerse yourself in a VR experience in your browser. The possibilities for virtual reality to exist beyond headsets and software applications are immense. In an increasingly connected world, there are a number of benefits that a browser based virtual experience can provide. For example, with WebVR products:
- Users benefit from ease of access
- For developers a single code overhead reduces costs associated with deploying to multiple platforms
- Developers can easily integrate their VR sites with existing tools, frameworks and tools
- Unlike mobile applications, a browser based VR experience doesn’t need to go through an app approval process or acquire certification before release
To get a better idea about the possibilities, let’s see how Virtual Reality is impacting the web in different industries:
1) VR in E-Commerce
Online stores have made shopping easier than ever before. Need groceries? Log into your account in an online grocery store, drag the items you need into your shopping cart, pay via credit card and you are good to go. But there is a problem. Sure, the experience does give you the convenience of shopping from home but it robs you of the real thing. It won’t, for example, let you check the back of a cereal box if you like checking ingredients.
Now imagine if the same website allows you to scan virtual racks, actually extend your hand to pick a box of cereal to read the contents behind it, and add it to a virtual shopping cart in front of you.
You just saw WebVR in action. Virtual shopping experiences bridge the gap between real and online shopping experiences while providing the added benefit of a web based store which is accessible on any device.
2) WebVR In Online Gaming
In a typical online gaming environment, a monitor is 30 to 40cm in front of you. So are all UI elements like (in the case of a web based online shooter) a health bar, rations, weaponry and compass. All you need to focus on an element is to flick your eyes in the intended direction.
But what if you were immersed in a browser based game in which the interface is the environment around you, there is no visual limit and moving your head either way helps you see the rest of the canvas? Considering recent innovations in browser based VR gaming, this might be a possibility very soon.
For example, consider Google’s WebVR Experiments, launched earlier this year, which give users experiences of virtual environments viewable with or without headgears. There are already examples of this. Consider Konterball, a VR gaming experience which gives users the chance to experience an immersive gaming environment with or without a headgear.
3) WebVR in Tourism Marketing
Businesses like travel agencies often rely on online promotions, HD images and videos of beautiful travel destinations to highlight their services. All of these are meant to give potential customers a taste of what it would be like to tour these places.
Lately, thanks to innovations like Facebook’s 360 degree video, tourism marketing has become even more immersive. Now, instead of just making customers statistically watch videos on a screen, travel agencies can give them the chance to wander virtual versions of these locations. A more immersive experience means more customers might sign up for the services.
For example, a virtual tour of the inside of an Egyptian pyramid might tempt a customer to purchase a tourism package that includes this tour.
To illustrate, consider Roundme, a platform that allows businesses to create multiple 360 degree VR panoramas of virtual tours and add them to their websites.
Virtual Reality is growing fast. With its proliferation in the web, and the fact that websites can offer WebVR experiences on any device, it might become the norm sooner than we think!