Would you believe me if I told you we had motion tracking head mounted displays that enabled what we call Virtual Reality today, even before the invention of the hand-held calculator?
In 1961, two Philco Corporation engineers (Comeau & Bryan) developed the first precursor to the HMD as we know it today — the Headsight. It incorporated a video screen for each eye and a magnetic motion tracking system, which was linked to a closed circuit camera.
Aren’t you wondering what took us this long to get to where we are today in the world of VR?
Why is it that we’ve only recently added the ability to access VR experiences online via our browsers? And why did it take so many years to bundle the WebVR API into a major browser?
The delay in bringing experiential technology to the masses was due to the lack of two extremely crucial inadequacies — the lack of software maturity, and hardware support.
The Lack of Software Maturity
Most tech giants in the 1990s were focused on standardizing web stacks for online content. With the browser wars at their fiercest, and without any standardized language for the web (like ECMAScript today), there were far too many distractions for the industry.
Three major technologies governed and consumed most of the time spent by web developers during this era:
- Java applets: When Java Applets were first released in 1995, many heralded these as the ultimate solution to make complex applications available on the web on any OS. Boy, were they wrong. Java applets were riddled with security and compatibility issues and are now practically obsolete.
- Flash: Adobe announced on 25th July 2017 that it will end-of-life Flash by the end of 2020. Flash was Adobe’s multimedia and application layer developed by Macromedia. Flash was widely criticized for its lack of compatibility across devices, vendor dependencies and security concerns.
Lack of Hardware Support
Few people in the 90s had imagined that everyone would carry as much computing power in our pockets as we do today. The recent spike in the power of the GPU on even a simple mobile phone today is redefining the limits of what is possible and what is not.
Luckily for us, the hardware revolution came by around the same time as the web stack was maturing and being standardized across browsers, thus reducing the technical debt incurred by web developers on a daily basis.
The Present Scenario: Web-based VR
WebVR (the browser API): WebVR is an open standard that makes it possible to experience immersive VR right on your browser. It is the underlying browser API used by a host of frameworks. The goal is to make VR easier for everyone to access, irrespective of what device they are on, making creating, sharing and viewing immersive content on browsers a breeze.
For support stats visit https://webvr.rocks/
Here are a few frameworks that use the WebVR API
A-Frame is an open source framework for creating WebVR experiences with markup, and wraps the power of WebGL into HTML custom elements.
VRView is a Google framework allows you to embed 360° VR media into websites on desktop and mobile, and native apps on Android and iOS.
These web-based technologies have been preceded by offline engines that allow the creation of VR content, many of which are slowly equipping themselves to export these experiences to the web.
Unity 3D is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies, which is primarily used to develop video games and simulations for computers, consoles and mobile devices. Unity is notable for its ability to target games for multiple platforms and is now used heavily for generation of 3D content.
Unreal Engine is another gaming engine, developed by Epic Games that allows one to export for VR devices.
With the recent explosion in development on VR/AR/MR technologies, their availability and applications are bound to explode.
Yes, it took us a while to get here, but there’s no stopping the bandwagon that is VR/AR/MR, and we here at GMetri are on board, ready for the ride of a lifetime.