Virtual reality has been around for years, but it hasn’t journeyed far from the sci-fi realm – until now.
Once reserved for trekkies and gaming enthusiasts, virtual reality and its partner, augmented reality, are hitting the mainstream. Big sponsorship from tech giants like Facebook (proud owners of Oculus Rift) and Google are making VR headsets more affordable and accessible to the public. We’re beginning to use virtual reality in everything from training to entertainment, and web design is next.
Designers are beginning to leverage VR and AR to provide unparalleled user experiences. Here’s how.
VIRTUAL REALTY BROWSERS ALREADY EXIST
It may be hard to believe, but there is already a compatible browser for your VR device. Janus VR promises a completely new way to browse the web. It features a virtual “lobby” in which you can pass through doorways to view URLs. These URLs then appear like museum exhibits with text on the walls. Videos appear in “theaters” and can have 3D pictures, lights, and sounds.
There’s a community aspect to the browser, too: You can be walking through the woods listening to music one minute, and then reading an article on a plaque the next. Meet other users in rooms and chat with them about interests you share. Call it the gamification of web browsing. You don’t need to visit an entirely new browser to experience VR online; Firefox is also releasing an experimental version of its browser that provides VR support.
This type of experience is only going to grow in popularity, and it’s time to consider VR for your business. Virtual and augmented realities in business websites help create value and assist customers more than you ever thought possible.
VIRTUAL REALITY IN COMMUNICATION
Perhaps one of the biggest values in a VR-enabled website is the ability to extend your business’ reach. For example, if you’re a plumber, you could set up VR calls with a customer and offer initial consultations without leaving your office. Equip your website with 3D modeling, and offer tutorials on the basics of plumbing problems and repair.
At its best, virtual reality will make browsing the web both immersive and tangible. Instead of pinning wedding dresses on a board on Pinterest, customers can walk through virtual shops filled with different dresses. Using avatars, customers can try them on and opt to have them delivered the next day. The options are endless and pertain to virtually every industry.
NO LONGER SCIENCE FICTION
Critics say that VR will never hit the mainstream, so investing in enabled web design is a mistake. But consider the following:
- Search marketers use Google’s VR View, Streetview, and Cardboard Camera to upload and optimize 3D videos to create better visibility on search engines.
- Virtual reality searches have increased 300 percent in the past year and reached an all-time high in November 2016, according to data from Google. Another study found that 360-degree views and VR technology can increase visitor engagement, time spent on a web page, video views, shares, and subscriptions.
- Website designers are already beginning to use compatible plug-ins. For example, WordPress VR View allows users to upload 360-degree videos onto a WordPress site Embeddable widgets will only become more popular as Google Maps, Streetview, and Google Earth all offer plug-ins with Google VR view.
- Using Google Streetview, anyone can embed and promote VR media on their website. According to Google, this media shows up in organic search results, meaning anyone can find it through search engines and interact with it through mobile or desktop. When optimized for mobile, 360 content loads quickly and creates immersive experiences – no VR headset necessary.
As you can see, VR and AR seem likely to catch on in web design. You don’t need a clunky headset to apply such technology to your website – just an open mind.
THE RISE OF CONTEXTUAL COMPUTING
Contextual computing is a name given to the concept that computers and other technologies are able to “understand” their creators and other technologies around them. The concept seems Orwellian, but not when you consider the strides we’ve already made in machine learning and IoT. Your search engine results pages and Netflix queue are two examples of technology trying to understand you. Contextual computing holds that four converging forces will revolutionize our new reality – social media, mobile, data sensors, and location sensors. Google Glass, an AR device, is an example of a wearable contextual computer. As these devices increase in popularity, businesses must optimize for AR and VR.