Developer choices for VWGs

To summarize, a developer could start with a basic Software Development Kit (SDK) from a VR headset vendor and then build her own VWG from scratch. The SDK should provide the basic drivers and an interface to access tracking data and make calls to the graphical rendering libraries. In this case, the developer must build the physics of the virtual world from scratch, handling problems such as avatar movement, collision detection, lighting models, and audio. This gives the developer the greatest amount of control and ability to optimize performance; however, it may come in exchange for a difficult implementation burden. In some special cases, it might not be too difficult. For example, in the case of the Google Street viewer (recall Figure 1.10), the ``physics'' is simple: The viewing location needs to jump between panoramic images in a comfortable way while maintaining a sense of location on the Earth. In the case of telepresence using a robot, the VWG would have to take into account movements in the physical world. Failure to handle collision detection could result in a broken robot (or human!).

At the other extreme, a developer may use a ready-made VWG that is customized to make a particular VR experience by choosing menu options and writing high-level scripts. Examples available today are OpenSimulator, Vizard by WorldViz, Unity 3D, and Unreal Engine by Epic Games. The latter two are game engines that were adapted to work for VR, and are by far the most popular among current VR developers. The first one, OpenSimulator, was designed as an open-source alternative to Second Life for building a virtual society of avatars. As already stated, using such higher-level engines make it easy for developers to make a VR experience in little time; however, the drawback is that it is harder to make highly original experiences that were not imagined by the engine builders.

Steven M LaValle 2020-01-06