If Rodney Dangerfield were an engineer, he would insult tool makers because inventors get respect, but tool makers none. Everyone remembers Thomas Edison for the invention of the light bulb and phonograph, but no one remembers Edison’s tool maker, Thomas Watson, except that Edison once recorded beckoning him on a phonograph cylinder.
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In its first release, React VR is not nearly as robust as Unity or Unreal. But it has an advantage. For the right-sized application, web designers and developers can use React VR to easily build a VR experience. It seems like this first release is designed for building 360-degree video experiences. Scripted animations are described in the documentation, but this was not stressed during the F8 talks.
The British Museum built a virtual tour of a gallery, integrating the audio from its in-person tour. It includes points of interest that, when selected, display textual information or transport the user to a new part of the VR exhibit experience. Also, art objects rendered in Sketchup and imported into the app can be picked up, rotated and examined. The 46-second video below previews the Museum’s app:
The New York Times also built a VR experience of the underwater Antarctic ice shelves previewed in the below 31-second video:
Immersive HMD experiences
The rendering of the pixels into video needs to be fast—60 frames per second—or the user could feel the discomfort of motion sickness. The VR logic and the rendering of 360-degree video run in separate contexts, with an asynchronous bridge for communication between them. The scene is rendered in 3JS in the main window, keeping a tight loop between receiving headset orientation updates and re-rendering the scene to match the expected scene with the head movement. By design, a text annotation will be delayed instead of slowing the constant VR HMD display rate.
React VR diversifies VR development, breaking with the VR authoring tools repurposed from the Game industry. The VR development toolchains could use new approaches that improve VR experiences and expand the scope of the type of problems that can be solved. This is the first release of React VR available on Github. Its capabilities likely cannot compete with the mature authoring tools, but it might—especially if open-source-minded developers adopt and contribute to enhancing it and hardware continues to become powerful.