VRdirect is a creator platform for turning annotated 360 images into immersive experiences. Users can even arrange multiple images to create complex navigable environments. The company is in the process of updating the platform with a new functionality – WebStudio.
The update impacts creators who use the platform to create environments, but also makes it possible for new kinds of organizations to use environments created through the platform. To learn more, we checked back in with the CEO Dr. Rolf Illenberger.
A Big Year
VRdirect has a unique solution with a lot of promise and is available across devices. However, when ARPost spoke to Illenberger about a year ago, the company had two main limitations. First, it was only available in Germany – though it was already in the process of an international expansion. Second, it required an app – whether on desktop, mobile, or VR headset.
Now, both of those hurdles have been overcome. VRdirect is now available in most markets, and is now available through a web interface. While the app is easy to use and relatively lightweight, it posed a problem for some potential enterprise users – which is the company’s target audience.
“VR is going to become a standard in enterprise,” Illenberger said last year. “All of these enterprise clients are now at the point where they understand that they will need a standardized solution.”
In the past year, that prediction has come true, and VRdirect’s new approach reflects that with a solution that is more agile. The web interface also creates an experience that is easier for clients to make their own.
“With the whole metaverse hype, there are a lot of people that aren’t looking for the whole rollout; they want something that they can do quickly,” said Illenberger. “The WebStudio is also a solution that can be easily whitelabled by our customers.”
The web app also comes with a free price tier. It’s useful for simpler projects and exploring the platform, but Illenberger advises that it isn’t quite as robust as the paid tiers. There is one tier for individual projects for about $150, and an enterprise tier for about $600/month.
“[The free tier] is more-or-less meant for someone to get the first idea,” said Illenberger.
A Look at the WebStudio
Naturally, logging into the web tool is a bit different than getting into the app. The look of the web dashboard is also a little different. However, once you get started, it’s pretty user-friendly for people who are familiar with the VRdirect app. Or for anyone else – it’s all pretty user-friendly.
“An inexperienced content creator doesn’t have to do anything more than upload his or her 360-images,” said Illenberger. “It’s meant to be a very intuitive thing for the first-time user who wants to get into creating VR environments for themselves.”
Projects created with the web tool are also more deployable – through a link, an embedded code, or even a QR code. Technically, these links are deployable through the web browsers of VR headsets as well. However, for the full VR experience, the app is still the best route.
You can get started on the web version by visiting the VRdirect WebStudio page and clicking on the “Start for free” button in the upper right corner. There hasn’t been a whole lot of buzz from the company so far because there is still some back-end work being done, with a final full rollout expected in the late summer or early autumn of this year, but it isn’t a closed beta project.
Still, some clients have been using the web tool longer than others. This has helped VRdirect to better understand what their users want from the tool.
“It has been really well-received,” said Illenberger. “Even in a big enterprise, it’s been a much easier way of promoting a software and getting someone to become a first-time user.”
Who Has Been Using VRdirect?
VRdirect’s main clients still are enterprise companies, with some pretty big clients and partners including Deutsche Telekom. However, the use case is broadening somewhat, which also helps to inspire updates and changes to the platform.
“We are surprised by our users almost on a daily basis,” said Illenberger. “We see a lot from the science and education world where educators are trying to use immersive environments.”
The platform still doesn’t have widespread consumer use and, even with the web interface, that’s not likely to change overnight. The creator platform is now easier than ever to use, but access to 3D images is still a little more complicated. Using the web tool still requires either 3D photos or virtual worlds created in game engines like Unity.
“We haven’t yet seen what the everyday user might do,” said Illenberger. “If we imagine a future where 360 images can be taken with a standard smartphone – which I don’t think is too far away – we can really imagine a lot of people using a platform like this.”
A Bigger and Better Future
We’re definitely looking forward to more people using tools like VRdirect too. And, with other creation tools going the web-based low-and-no-code route, it probably won’t be long before immersive worlds compatible with this product will be more commonplace. As for when more available 360-cameras roll out, that’s a matter of speculation.