Virtual Reality Programming: Getting Started with Headsets

When Meta launched its QuestPro headset in October 2022, it was a highlight moment in the virtual reality technology industry. The Meta Connect conference where it was unveiled presented the hint tech news followers needed to confirm speculations of how big tech companies are internally committing to plans to move us to a world where VR headsets like personal computers and smartphones would become part and parcel of our everyday life.

We are only a few months past QuestPro’s unveiling event and yet another tech giant, Apple, has just released its virtual reality headset to huge applause and praise from tech insiders.

You may wonder what this means for everyday gadget users that companies are heavily investing in a future of widespread VR headset use. Maybe you’re even part of the growing number of technical people asking how they can help quickly bring this future to life.

Whichever of these thoughts you have, in this article, I’ll help you clarify those two questions and more. We’ll begin by exploring how virtual reality tech became a rage in the industry in the first place and help you see why getting in on programming for it early may be your best decision ever as a hacker.

 

Understanding the Rise of Virtual Reality

The very first thing to note about virtual reality is that it’s not a coincidence that the biggest names in tech today are all investing in technologies that make it more accessible. The growing gaming subculture is pushing the rapid increase in consumer interest in VR, and companies are betting on it for that sole reason.

These companies see the virtual reality world as a place where groups of people will want to gather in the near future to do everything they already do on the internet today but in a more immersive way.

Immersive here means that rather than just staring at a screen for work meetings for instance, users will want to be inside of a virtual conference hall that only exists within the confines of a VR headset.

This is how popular YouTube tech podcaster MKBHD describes this goal:

“Watching the presentation at the Meta Connect keynote [redacted], the more you watch, the more it kind of crystalizes their whole plan for me. Basically, step one, think of everything people normally do on the internet. Step 2: make those things in VR…”

Now, you may be asking what makes Meta’s VR headset launch such a big deal.

Here it is: the launch event just as we’re seeing seven months later with Apple was the first time early tech consumers became sure of a steady improvement and consistent adoption of these VR devices because of the weight of the backing from Meta and other big tech companies.

Now that this is out of the way, you need to know the difference between VR and AR headsets before you start coding for it. More importantly, you need to know what the motivation for Facebook was for rebranding to focus on VR.

 

VR vs AR and the Metaverse

In the simplest terms, VR or virtual reality is ‘existing’ inside of an artificial world as I’ve described thus far in this article. AR however is overlaying artificial things like avatar images and emojis into the real world.

Think of an AR or augmented reality device as a technology that only extends the physical world and not a device to experience an entirely different world like VR headsets.

Understanding the distinction between VR and AR is sufficient, but it may surprise you to know that a single device can be used for both VR and AR purposes.

Meta’s QuestPro is an example of such a device. It was built to make something called the metaverse accessible but it also has augmented reality capability.

In case you’re wondering, accessibility here means cheap.

If you have reached this point in the article, it means you are following along. Now, remember that definition by a YouTuber mentioned earlier?

The open goal of these big tech companies such as Meta, Apple, Microsoft, and more is to build and populate that same virtual world of their own.

 

The Metaverse and Facebook

To make things clearer, ‘Metaverse’ is the term used to describe this virtual world and big tech companies are betting that more and more people will seek access to it via their respective VR devices.

Concerning what Facebook’s motive was when it turned focus to building this virtual world, here is an image that explains why:

 

Source: Statista 

I’ll break it down for better understanding.

The image shows that the company’s growth has peaked and is on the verge of decline due to reduced user registration to its core social media business and data privacy problems.

In other words, championing the metaverse is Facebook’s new growth strategy.

 

Coding for Virtual Reality Headsets

Now let’s talk about the good stuff that brought you here — how you can be part of the pioneering engineers building this new virtual world of the future.

Building apps for virtual reality headsets remains limited, unlike building virtual reality applications for desktop or mobile platforms.

That is to say, to be part of the programmers that would shape the user experience of the metaverse through VR devices like Apple’s new Vision Pro headset, you will have to join the developer platform of tech companies with VR headset models.

In other words, to build an app for Apple’s new Vision Pro headset you would need to join Apple’s developer platform.

In fact, the reason Apple launched the VisionPro headset 6 months before you can buy it is to give developers on its platform time to build applications for it.

So, that is it. That’s all for now. This was a lot of information to unpack and I will likely review it to add more detail in the future.

Regardless, I hope it can serve as a solid pointer for where to begin in your journey to start building applications for virtual reality headsets.

 

 

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