January 14th — Latest News and Updates on Beloola: VRUI, 360° Contents, Speech Recognition, HTC Vive… and David Bowie

Hi folks! It’s been a while since our last update memo because we’ve been focused on other WebGL / WebVR side projects. We’re now back with exciting new features: a glimpse of our future user interface in virtual reality mode, 360° contents and speech recognition among others. Let’s check this out!

User Interface in Virtual Reality

One of the main issues we’ve had with our virtual reality mode is that users could not navigate from one space to another without switching back to 2D screen mode (3rd person point of view, desktop or mobile — in other words, leave virtual reality mode).

Based on our UI/UX Designer Vincent’s research work published on our blog a few months ago, we’ve started to implement a glimpse of a full user interface in virtual reality to solve that problem.

A glimpse of our new VRUI

Once you switch to Virtual Reality mode, 4 buttons appear down your feet. You can then look at the button to the right for one second to access the navigation menu.

First version of our navigation menu

You get a 360° interface suggesting a dozen of 3D spaces. Stare at one space for one second to be redirected — EDIT: the redirection doesn’t work yet, but it will pretty soon. It’s currently a default selection made by ourselves, but we could imagine suggestions based on your likes and interests, your activity on the platform, several tabs (users, spaces, content, events… yes, we’re working on that new feature too) and even a search bar to enter keywords — we still need to work on speech recognition to provide that kind of feature. Hey, I just made transition here!

Speech Recognition

Chat features are among the core requirements of a social platform. The problem is that typing with a keyboard in VR makes no sense as you’re not able to see it since you’re wearing a HMD. Common sense.

At first the use of a microphone seems to be a legitimate alternative. But we all know how random it can become if you don’t deal with sound spatialization in a very precise way. Or if you’re in a crowded virtual place where everyone is yelling at each other to get understood or simply trolling around like teenagers for no reason.

Speech recognition is a good compromise. It’s basically about keeping text-based features but using new inputs and getting rid of the keyboard.

SO we’ve recently started experimenting speech recognition. First results are pretty random because… not very accurate sometimes — the French accent, probably. But we are working on that. The good thing is that, it works!

When in VR, you can activate speech recognition features by looking at the icon on the left of the UI — make sure your microphone is enabled, icon to the right of the speech recognition icon.

Cartoon Bubbles

Then comes the question of displaying chat texts in VR. A detached interface as the vertical chat bar available on desktop and mobile versions is irrelevant in virtual reality, and as explained by Vincent in his article, chat features must be displayed in the virtual environment.

You now get cartoon bubbles popping over the avatar’s head when the latter is speaking. It looks like this:

Our 3D artist Guillaume wishes he was a woman

Post your own 360° contents

You can now share your own 360° contents in your 3D space very easily. Here’s how it works for a video:

  1. Find a 360° video on the Web you want to share in your 3D space and copy the link of its .webm file (as Chromium and Nightly don’t support .mp4 files and as WebVR is not available on standard browsers yet… just a matter of weeks hopefully!).
  2. Post a video to your content library and paste the link. Enter your description and tag(s).
  3. Go to the builder mode and add a sphere item (available in the media item section). Then assign the 360° video you’ve just posted to your contents.
  4. Your video has now been added to your 3D space. When in VR navigation mode, go inside the sphere (or bubble) and activate the player (the Play button by your feet).
  5. It works!

We’ve got a HTC Vive!

Enough said. We couldn’t get any better christmas gift than this. We’re so stoked on the Vive!

Selection of nice 3D spaces

Here’s a quick selection of awesome spaces spotted on Beloola to end this article. Hope you’ll enjoy!

A space we created for VR demos: http://www.beloola.com/vrdemo

A space with 360° contents of Paris: http://www.beloola.com/paris360

A space created by Joozz, dedicated to his musical performances. That guy’s got incredible building skills: http://www.beloola.com/JooZz

David Bowie passed away on Sunday. I’ve been a dedicated fan for many years. This is my humble tribute: http://www.beloola.com/thinwhiteduke

See you soon for further updates!

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.