Virtual reality (VR) continues to rise in popularity as the previously prohibitive expensive hardware needed to run it becomes more affordable. Companies are investing heavily in its expansion and increased appeal by creating dedicated media, games and building rich marketing experiences that utilize the technology. With each passing year as computer processing and internet speeds become faster, VR comes closer to fulfilling its awesome potential, with the next leap in the technology promising to be the most significant.
Augmented reality (AR) is even farther down that path. AR has been a viable platform and has been in use for quite some time to often huge success with smartphone apps such as the massively popular Pokemon game. AR can also be used to preview physical products in real-world environments, provide informative overlays for directions, or even participate in the use of shared digital environments.
At the other end of the spectrum is something that’s been mainstream for years: WordPress. A website platform with incredible versatility through its robust feature set and wide-ranging flexibility. WordPress can be used to construct the most basic beginners blog, all the way up to a super professional high-end business website. WordPress users of all types love choosing from the countless available plugins and themes to customize their sites and experiment with new tools and methods.
But what happens if you want to bring these two things together? Enhancing the fantastic WordPress experience with some AR or VR content sounds like a good idea in theory, but it raises a vital question: Such as, does AR/VR currently fit and work on a WordPress site? Let’s take a look:
What VR and AR content actually involves
Before considering how well AR/VR works in WordPress, it’s worth thinking about what they actually encompass. Given that VR is still essentially in the development phase with relatively low levels of ownership and a surfeit of confusing options (even those who do own a VR headset, only uses it occasionally), you might wonder why it’s worth the time to invest in this new sector – as such we need to find a satisfactory answer.
First let’s look at the VR/AR divide. A clear distinction is commonly made between VR and AR, with VR aims to replace the world around you while AR adds to it. But it isn’t quite this simple. What if you have a VR environment that draws from real world elements? Is this VR and AR? In truth, the future of VR lies in AR headsets, so AR content is essentially VR content.
This is a lengthy way of establishing that it’s easier to place a variety of content types under the broad “VR” umbrella, including 360-degree video, AR stickers, and instructional overlays.
What AR and VR can bring to WordPress
Some CMS developers have been vocal about investing in 3D content for VR and AR. In the eCommerce world, Shopify is a prime example of this, even announcing native 3D model storage for its store hosting system in early 2018 ( coupled with a rich lineup of existing video editor integrations). In addition to this, there has been plenty of progress elsewhere.
You might assume that progress is limited to hosted platforms, but what if existing plugin development could make WordPress (extended through WooCommerce) a more captivating prospect? As it happens, we can say exactly that – because it’s true.
The VR Shop is a new site, that while still in the early stages of development, allows the creation of a completely virtual store to be explored using a VR headset. While it’s compatible with various platforms, it already works with the WooCommerce plugin due to the massive popularity of WordPress.
Given that so much of the web runs on WordPress and how unlikely this is to change in the near future, it makes total sense that any company that aims to get ahead with VR website functionality would ensure it worked smoothly with WordPress.
If you want to use other VR related features such as 360-degree videos in your WordPress site, this can already be achieved by using suitable VR plugins (the same can also be said for AR previews). Since it would be foolish for VR content creators not to specifically cater to such a popular platform with such a large market share, it’s clear that the future for VR content on WordPress is exceedingly bright.
There’s even a full WordPress theme entirely dedicated to AR for eCommerce: it’s called Ozisti, and it uses an attached plugin developed for WordPress to enable the use of AR previews. If you want to give it a try, the AR service starts with a 14-day free trial for you to explore. Alternatively you can stick to the 360-degree video route and use a suitable plugin to position it on your homepage and set it to auto-play for maximum effect.
Conclusion on the future of VR and AR on websites
As previously stated, one of the biggest uses of VR online outside of traditional media and gaming will be creating virtual stores to bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar retail and eCommerce. The current WordPress VR Shop is merely a hint at what’s to come. One day people will be able to use powerful AR and VR interfaces to visually browse virtual stores and place items into their home to both preview and order them.
There’s also the matter of accessibility however as many VR systems are prohibitively expensive and require high end PCs to use all the features as intended.
Should you add VR and AR content/features to your WordPress site? Absolutely – With the system’s continued growth in popularity, you can rely on VR and AR companies to bring the medium into the new decade. Keep an eye on available plugins and to follow updates regarding AR and VR. The next decade should be interesting!