If Supermedium has its way, VR in a web browser will be as common as going to Pandora or Spotify for your music. Coming from creators of the original WebVR initiative at Mozilla, the project plans to become the home of millions of lightweight VR experiences on the web. If successful, it would radically democratize access to virtual reality. No longer would you need to create an app and go through the approval process. Anyone could post a short VR piece online.
VR in a web browser
Here’s the opening announcement from Supermedium’s blog:
Supermedium is the beginning of realizing ambitions that we’ve held for
years. We were previously on the original Mozilla VR team that started the
WebVR initiative. There, we created A-Frame, an open source web framework for
building VR experiences, which we still maintain after over two years. We moved
on from Mozilla to take WebVR to the next level. We are establishing the Web as
a legitimate foundation for VR, and for immersive platforms going forward. Just
as there are a billion websites today, we are aiming for millions of VR sites
in the future. And it starts with a browser.
The beauty of web-based VR is that content loads fast. A typical native VR
application is several or dozens of gigabytes large, takes a minute or two to
boot, and costs $20. On Supermedium, you can click a link in Supermedium and
within a few seconds, you can be painting in A-Painter, shooting asteroids in
Space Rocks, or be on the sea train from Spirited Away. Have a go at a VR
experience for a minute or two, and move onto something else if you want.
It’s an intriguing development, though we’ve never been terribly impressed with VR experiences on a 2D rectangular screen. There are use cases for 3D object modeling in education, but that’s not an immersive experience.
It only makes sense if we can push the web version into a VR headset. Once we have VR glasses – or maybe the long-awaited Magic Leap goggles – it’s a different story. Browse the web. Find an immersive experience. Jump into it. Come back out to browse some more. Perfect.
But there’s very little sense of presence when you’re staring at an external screen.
A video demo shows you what to expect:
Still, the WebVR project and Supermedium’s goal of having VR in a web browser is a compelling idea. Our current distribution channels for VR projects leave much to be desired. From Steam, the Oculus Store, to Google’s Daydream, there are issues for both creatives and consumers. There’s a dual challenge here – making VR projects available and making the good ones easy to discover.
We doubt the virtual reality space will be impacted by Supermedium’s project in the short-term. But it can be the solution to a future problem. Right now on the web, we browse and read, browse and watch. But that’s our limited world today. (Have to add here: a future generation will wonder how we ever lived in such a restrictive online space.)
Tomorrow, we will browse and experience. Supermedium hopes to be the road to take you there.
Emory Craig is a VR leader, consultant, and speaker with years of experience in art, new media, and higher education. He is actively engaged in innovative developments for AR and VR at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling. He is fascinated by virtual worlds, AI-driven avatars and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.