josh-carpenterJosh Carpenter is a researcher and interaction and user interaction designer for figuring out how to use virtual reality on the web with WebVR. Mozilla has been increasing the size of the team working on WebVR because they’re betting that immersive experiences like virtual and augmented reality will be a huge part of the future of computing. Mozilla wants to enable web developers with the tools and infrastructure so they can help build out the metaverse of interconnected virtual worlds.

Mozilla was showing a number of different WebVR demos on a DK2 at GDC that were running natively in a Firefox Nightly web browser along with a WebVR Oculus Rift Enabler.

Some of the lessons learned for user experience design in VR is that they found that designing UI elements onto a curved surfaces works really well, and the text size has to be fairly large and so that reduces the amount of information density that’s available to work with. They also found that lean in to zoom with DK2s positional tracking is analogous to pinch to zoom on a multi-touch device in that it’s effective but yet also somewhat annoying, and so they try to avoid relying upon that too much.

Leap Motion integration into WebVR and virtual reality and warns about designing skeuomorphic interactions with your hands, but thinking about extending your reach and optimizing the interaction design for what works the best within VR. Josh also talks about the concept of progressive enhancement and how that applies to designing VR experiences that work in a range from mobile to sitting at your desktop with positional tracking to all the way to room-scale tracking with two-hand interactions. For the web, an experience should work at the most basic input device, and then progressively enhance the experience if more of those input devices are detected to be available.

Josh talks about the range of WebVR demos that were being shown at GDC ranging from games created in Flash, a 360-degree video, as well as Epic Games’ Couch Knights which was exported from Unreal Engine 4 using a WebGL export plugin.

The WebVR Web API specification is being designed so that you can experience the web through any of the virtual reality HMDs, and they’re also figuring out the user interaction paradigms that will allow people to be able to go to any destination in the world wide web-enabled Metaverse.

He talks about how Unity 5 now supports One Click WebGL export. Unity exports WebGL 1, and WebGL 2 is on the horizon with even more next-generation graphics capabilities. For example, Mozilla was showing off the following demo at GDC for the level of graphics fidelity that’ll be possible with WebGL 2

Josh also talks about what they’re doing in order to increase performance for real-time, immersive 3D experiences. There are a lot of optimizations that can be made to the browser if it’s known that the output will be a virtual reality display. It will take more development resources, and Mozilla has recentely committed to growing the WebVR to enable more VR on the web but also to help create the Metaverse.

He also talks about the power of the web for ephemeral experiences, and some of the collaborative learning VR experiences that he really wants to have within VR powered by a browser. He also talks about how WebVR is pushing innovation on the audio front, and he cites A Way to Go as an experience that pushes the audio API to it’s performance limits.

Finally, Josh talks about the future plans for getting WebVR easier to use for developers, making sure that it’s possible to have mobile VR experiences, and then creating responsive web design standards so that websites can flag that they should be experienced as fully immersive VR experiences. He also sees that it’s a safe bet to be investing in virtual reality because immersive experiences are a key part in driving innovations of the future of computing.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

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