Contributed by Amitt Mahajan, Managing Partner, Presence Capital.
I recently wrote about the difficulty of creating content for VR. To build on that post I’d like to talk a bit about how the distribution of VR content also needs to evolve to enable greater engagement. The VR content in question for this article is polygonal 3D rendered content, rather than 360 video, which is already streamable and downloadable both in-app and on the web (and, as such, is already more accessible than 3D content).
There are 2 primary methods that modern apps are distributed on desktops and mobile devices: either they are native apps, downloaded via an app store and installed or they are web apps, streamed and accessible through a web browser.
As of today, VR devices only support the download and install method. Currently, to distribute VR content, a developer needs to submit a complete version of their VR app to Oculus or Steam for approval to be listed in the app store. A user then needs to fully download the app before being able to use it in their VR headset. These apps can be very large, sometimes multiple gigabytes of data.
Companies such as Mozilla, creators of the Firefox web browser, are betting that VR content is best consumed on the web using a web browser that has a VR-mode built-in. They are working on MozVR and A-Frame, extensions for existing web browsers that adds support for 3D VR scenes. In a VR-enabled web browser, users would visit a website address, similar to the 2D web, and the web browser will automatically detect if a site contains VR content or not. If it does, they are prompted to put on their VR headset to view it.
This approach makes the most sense for websites that are already having trouble convincing users to download a dedicated app. This is common among e-commerce sites that users may not frequent very often. Imagine going to Nike or IKEA’s website to view a shoe or a piece of furniture and simply putting on a headset to get a better sense of what it looks it like and how big it will end up being. All seamlessly streamed without any required download or install.
VR manufacturers are also working on in-VR versions of the web browser, allowing users to fully browse the both the 2D and 3D web in VR without ever having to take off their headset.
Another way to enable streaming is by creating a proprietary app that streams content within it. This is similar to how Quicktime and Flash were the original distributors of streamable video and rich content on the web. High Fidelity, by Second Life creator Philip Rosedale, and VRTV are both working on streaming technology which allows streaming of content within an app once it has been downloaded. These companies are both betting that their standard catches on with other developers, which would make their authoring tools much more valuable.
There likely will not be a single distribution strategy that is suitable for all forms of content. For high definition content, like games, a download and install via an app store will continue to make sense. For lightweight VR content, however, the streaming approach will allow VR content creators to easily publish and be assured that consumers will be able to quickly access and immerse themselves with minimal friction. That’s great for creators, consumers, and increasing engagement within the VR ecosystem.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Medium.