October 08, 2014

RiftSketch Opens Up HTML5 Live Coding for Oculus Rift

While much of the gaming world — not to mention plenty of generalized futurists — is waiting eagerly for the Oculus Rift to make an appearance, there are still issues separating users from this first real slice of home-based virtual reality. While issues of design play a part, there are also issues of software to consider. If there's nothing that will run on Oculus Rift, then there's not much point in having it. That's a development that's rapidly changing as a new live coding app for the Oculus Rift has emerged in the form of RiftSketch, an HTML5-based live coding app that will allow for rapid changes in the user's Oculus Rift world.

Created by developer Brian Peiris, RiftSketch turns to the Three.js JavaScript library to accomplish a variety of tasks, all in real-time. Essentially, with RiftSketch, users can code a “sketch” in JavaScript, the effects of which can be seen in the Oculus Rift. More specifically, though, the RiftSketch sketches work with the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 (DK2), which is the more recent release and potentially the last such release before a commercial version finally goes live.

Of course, using such a system requires some certain key skills; not only must a user be a JavaScript programmer to really get the most out of this as well as have an Oculus Rift DK2, but since the program works while the Oculus Rift is in place, the user needs to be an accurate touch-typist as well, as the keyboard will be largely invisible to the user while the Oculus Rift is in place. Reports suggest that, if all these factors are lined up, users will get access to “…a surprisingly fun and engaging experience” that allows for smoother coding and a better shot to get Oculus Rift-related programs in play.

This actually goes a long way toward helping one of the biggest problems that the Oculus Rift is facing these days, and that's a lack of software. While we've already seen a few good applications come out around Oculus Rift— over two million so far have enjoyed the sight of Paul Rivot's 90 year old grandmother trying out the Oculus Rift — there's still a limited supply overall. But with RiftSketch, it's likely to prove easier to code for this new platform and, in turn, make more experiences specifically designed for the Oculus Rift. That's going to improve its overall value to users, and having a set of tools readily available when this finally arrives in stores will make it an even better proposition. As we've seen with recent game console releases, it's tough to buy a console and then have nothing to play on it for several weeks, even several months, while the games and tools available for that console get developed and try to catch up. Things like RiftSketch should help abate that and have things to do with this new platform ready to go.

It's going to be interesting to see what impact RiftSketch has on development for the Rift, and how much more will be developed for use on the new virtual reality tool when it hits markets. But it's still going to be a while before either becomes available, and in this case, our patience is likely to be richly rewarded as HTML5 again shows its value in terms of development.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson


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