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April 29, 2020

Virtual Reality Comes to VirBELA

Early VR support comes to VirBELA, with more coming.
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We’re happy to announce that VirBELA now has early VR support, and those with an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive can access VirBELA using those VR headsets. While this early support is still limited and experimental, this has been a long time in the works and we’re excited that people can now experience VirBELA in fully immersive virtual reality.

Virtual Reality is a natural medium for 3D world environments like VirBELA. Instead of doing things like pushing a key on a keyboard or clicking and dragging your mouse to “look around”, you can actually just look around. Instead of clicking a button to “wave”, you can simply wave.

Checkin' the time in VR

VR provides other advantages too. When on desktop, it can be easy to let your attention drift to other applications, browser tabs, or even other things around you in your physical environment. In VR, your attention is entirely focused on your surroundings and the people with you in the virtual space. The rich immersion of virtual reality heightens the sense of presence and togetherness that makes interacting in 3D worlds so powerful. Hand tracking adds another significant communication layer.

This is nothing new to those that have been working with VR for years now. In some ways, it might seem like we are “late to the party”. It’s worth noting that VR is certainly not the primary focus for VirBELA - no particular technology or platform is. Our focus is on helping as many people as possible come together in 3D environments to collaborate and communicate. As such, we started with PC and Mac, and we prioritized our desktop build rather than making it an afterthought in addition to a dedicated VR build.

This gave us time to see how the VR market matured while building a sustainable business, one that didn’t rely on the adoption of VR hardware or left us waiting on “the next VR headset” being touted as the next game-changer.

That said, we believe VR is here to stay, and we believe VR will eventually be the most compelling way to interact with others in VirBELA. This early, experimental support for VR doesn’t give VR users all of the features that those on desktop have, and while it’s sure to have some issues, it is nevertheless a solid step forward for VirBELA and VR. We’re also already working on support for other VR headsets, including Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

We’ve already gotten some great feedback from some of the VR users at the Laval Virtual event last week, and we look forward to hearing more from our early VR users. You can try the VR build in the VirBELA Open Campus or any private campus that has received a patch this year.

Have a VR Headset other than an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive? You may be interested in checking out FRAME, a beta project from VirBELA that works on Oculus Quest, WinMR, Vive, Rift, and other standalone headsets. 

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