Immersive technologies: AR, VR and their future on the web

By: |
August 23, 2021 7:54 PM

Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan talked to Scapic Co-founder Sai Krishna VK to understand how the no-code platform for VR and AR experiences works.

Augmented Reality (AR) is set to disrupt the industry as a technology platform that will change the way people communicate and transact. (Image: Scapic)

Immersive technology: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality – the immersive technologies – are becoming bigger by the day because of the promise that they hold of transporting people anywhere they want without having to leave the comfort of their own homes. However, it is also necessary to bring the immersive technologies, or the XR as it is collectively referred to, to the common users in a much more accessible way if companies want more people to use them. This is the gap that Scapic wants to fill. Scapic is a no-code platform for Virtual and Augmented Reality experiences.

Talking to Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan, Scapic co-founder Sai Krishna VK said, “Our goal was to be the authoring layer for the next iteration of the internet broadly called the Immersive web. We are focused on bringing the promise of Virtual and Augmented reality to storytellers, creatives, businesses and everyday users.” We talked to him in-depth about Scapic and what it does.

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Edited Excerpts:

Why is XR a big opportunity?

Augmented Reality (AR) is set to disrupt the industry as a technology platform that will change the way people communicate and transact. AR is poised to make a big impact in marketing, e-commerce and advertising industries. Until recently, broad adoption of AR has been stymied by several technological factors. Starting 2017-18, with ARKit and ARCore, Apple and Google respectively addressed several of these fundamental issues and made smartphones a great platform for users to experience AR. Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), highly engaging and quality AR experiences can be delivered via most smartphones without the need for specialised hardware such as head mounted displays (HMDs). However, ARKit/ARCore does not solve the distribution of AR/VR experiences, which were exclusively driven by smartphone apps – meaning one had to download a specific app to experience XR and worse still, update the app each time the content was updated.

The solution to this distribution problem lied in embracing the Web standards to deliver such experiences. These include making Web browsers compliant with enhanced security and privacy since they would be accessing resources – such as the Camera, Sensor data, GPU settings etc, which till recently were strictly off-limits for browsers. It also includes leveraging and using the ubiquitous URL (Universal Resource Identifier) as a mechanism to access XR objects/experiences via the web protocols. The biggest tech companies are leaning in on XR, and the spectrum is shifting increasingly to the web or web driven standards. The battle on the immersive web however won’t be on tools or formats but rather around what services deliver the most value.

What is the primary service that Scapic aims to provide?

When we started building Scapic, it was a design tool that allows anyone to create professional quality AR and VR experiences — without 3D expertise and without code. Scapic lets people create, share and explore immersive experiences. We’re a platform for building Virtual/Augmented/ Mixed Reality content easily.

Scapic is building a cloud platform for key infra required for non-gaming industries to deploy XR content. In a multi-cloud setup in an enterprise Scapic keeps XR content optimisation, runtime and delivery through web browsers possible with a suite of products that work across all device types.

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How does webXR work and how does it enhance the web browser/browsing experience?

WebXR is an API that allows developers to create XR experiences: a term which encompasses Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and newly-developed immersive technologies. The goal is to facilitate the development of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and other immersive technology applications by web developers fluent in Javascript, and for a wide set of devices. Developers may thus make web apps that leverage both Android’s ARCore and iOS’s ARKit. WebXR allows XR experiences to run in browsers/viewers and can be launched seamlessly on both Android and iOS, ridding the publishers and consumers of the dependence on apps and closed platforms such as Facebook and Snap. WebXR allows developers to create immersive content that runs on all VR and AR devices and unifies the entire spectrum of immersive computing. In fact, it makes the immersive web inherently interoperable; a feat no other solution can even come close to imitating.

Why is the Cloud important for AR?

The Cloud is pivotal to and deeply coupled with the evolution and maturity of AR experiences and building of a large market. Even more so than it did in the growth of videos as a digital medium. While the business reasons for Cloud may be obvious, the technical reasons may not be so. Technically, AR distribution for large audiences presents a key challenge: AR file sizes (primarily 3D models) on the lower end are several 100MB and scale to several GB depending on the richness and creativity of the content. As such storing them locally on the end device (viewer’s smartphones) is impractical to reach varying audiences at scale. It is part of the reason why AR, until WebXR failed to gain market traction. The natural solution is to “stream” AR Content which implies the content being hosted on the Cloud.

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