Make no mistake, the next couple of years are going to see huge developments for the technology industry and bring about a seismic shift in the way that we do business on the web. The catalyst for this change is going to be virtual reality and augmented reality which will completely blow current technologies out of the water.
Just as the internet has completely upended business, communication and more; so too will virtual and augmented reality alter the way we engage in all kinds of activities.
This is going to have a particularly huge impact on the way we browse the web.
While it may take a while for us to find the right way to interact with the web through VR, it is going to happen and it’s going to change the whole ‘game’ when it comes to making money online.
Where We Are Now in Virtual Reality Web Design :
Virtual reality has been the technology that never quite lived up to its promise for the last several decades now.
Ever since Tron first hit cinema screens we’ve been waking to jump ‘into’ our computers but attempts to make that happen (like the ill-fated Virtual Boy) were sadly met with failure.
Then the Oculus Rift hit the scene and changed all that.
This piece of virtual reality hardware has been in development for a few years now since finding life through a Kickstarter campaign and is poised to launch very soon.
The commercial version will feature high resolution graphics, precise head tracking and more.
Facebook would go on to purchase Oculus for a whopping $2 billion, demonstrating that they really must have a lot of faith in the idea of virtual reality.
The buzz around the Oculus Rift has also led to some other developments though.
You have the other headsets springing up left, right and center from Sony’s Morpheus project to Google ‘Cardboard’.
More exciting still though, is the recently announced ‘HoloLens‘ from Microsoft that promises to combine VR and AR (Augmented Reality) in a truly exciting way.
HoloLens is basically a VR headset that lets you see through it as though it were a pair of glasses.
Rather than immersing you entirely in a virtual world, it then projects virtual 3D elements onto the world around you while impressive processing works out what you’re looking at.
This means for instance that you can build a LEGO castle on your kitchen table using a billion virtual LEGO pieces and have them all obey the laws of gravity as though they were really there in your kitchen.
That’s where we are now.
Add a few years of development and you’ll have precise precision tracking in full VR and much more refinement in the way we interact with virtual objects.
By then we’ll also see these technologies spread and take over the home and every aspect of our daily lives.
VR, AR and Web Browsing :
So what does all this have to do with web browsing and web design?
Chances are, a lot.
Did you know for example that there is already a ‘virtual reality browser’?
It’s called ‘Janus VR‘ and it’s a completely new way to experience the web.
Here you walk around a virtual lobby and pass through doorways to visit specific URLs.
These URLs then appear as museums with text on the walls that you can walk around and read.
Videos appear as separate theatre rooms that play when you enter them and sites that have been optimized for the browser will even feature 3D models, animations and lights and sounds.
A huge community has sprung up around the tool and already there are some amazing things to see and experience through the browser:
1.one minute you can be exploring through the woods and listening to calming music
2.the next you can be reading about a historical figure via a plaque written on a huge statue.
Better yet, you can meet other users browsing the same website and chat with them about shared interests.
This is an entirely new form of web design but it’s likely that the community of Janus VR users is only going to grow.
How long before your business needs to start considering how your website looks to virtual reality users?
It certainly poses some unique challenges if you’re currently only experienced with WordPress web development!
And it’s not just small projects that are already starting to experiment with virtual reality web browsing.
Firefox for instance recently launched an experimental version of FireFox with VR support. Mozilla’s Josh Carpenter has gone on record as saying that VR will be a ‘really big deal’ for Virtual Reality and Google has also reportedly begun experimenting with VR browsing.
And what of HoloLens?
Well one of the amazing features of HoloLens is that you can use it to turn any surface in your home into a display.
That means you could load one website on your fridge and another on your ceiling in the bedroom.
You could then ‘pin’ it to that location so that you’d always see that website in that spot whenever you went back.
How could businesses and website developers take advantage of that?
Communication and VR :
The real challenge will likely turn out to be not the hardware or software limitations but rather the design problems.
Some features of the web will likely lend themselves well to 3D environments, whereas others will be less suited.
While VR browsing might be a big deal in the future, it probably won’t entirely replace the standard website design because there will always be a benefit to reading a blog on the tube on an iPad.
Then again, iPads are a relatively recent disruptive technology and we probably never thought we’d read blogs on anything other than desktop computers a while ago!
One area where VR will truly make sense though is in communication. Facebook bought Oculus Rift because they want to facilitate a future where we’re able to chat with friends across the world as though they were right in the room with us.
One of the most exciting applications of HoloLens that has been demoed so far is the ability to call an electrician and have them not only visible in your peripheral vision as you talk to them but also able to see what you’re doing and even annotate what you’re seeing with arrows and written instructions.
Preparing for the Future :
A smart business move right now would be to begin preparing for the inevitable ubiquity of virtual reality and augmented reality.
Investing a lot of money into this area right now wouldn’t be wise seeing as we don’t know precisely what direction this is all going to go at this point.
Nevertheless though, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on the direction that VR web browsers are going, to ask your responsive website development company to keep an eye on forthcoming technologies and perhaps to look into 3D modelling.
This is a valuable skill in itself and it’s likely to be even more highly valued in the next few years.
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