In the coming months, millions of people will be getting their hands on virtual reality hardware for the first time, and as they do, there will be a need for huge amounts of new content. But who’s going to create it?
Today, an Argentina- and U.S.-based startup called Voxelus unveiled what could be the most compelling answer to that question. While many game companies and a wide variety of others have said they will be developing for VR systems like the Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, and the HTC Vive, that may not collectively be enough to satisfy the many people who will be using new virtual reality hardware in the coming months.
Voxelus says the answer is simple: Everyone can create VR content, and in many cases, they can do it in just minutes.
At Oculus Connect today, the second annual developers’ conference for the Facebook-owned VR company –which is planning on releasing the consumer version of the Oculus Rift early next year–Voxelus announced its end-to-end VR content creation and distribution system. I got a firsthand look at the Voxelus platform, and it’s for real: It’s possible for anyone, from novice to expert, to quickly build a simple VR game, upload it, and have it running on hardware like a Gear VR shortly thereafter.
To be sure, to make rich, truly compelling games will take substantially more time, but Voxelus’s platform provides all the tools to make it possible.
The system starts with the company’s content creator, an easy-to-use tool that provides hundreds of building blocks with which to make a game, ranging from small rectangular platforms to large gothic structures to orcs and other monsters. Building a game is as simple as dragging and dropping these pieces into the content creator. Call it VR with Legos.
At launch, Voxelus is providing 250 free objects, and plans on adding more every week. Over time, however, it hopes to vastly expand the offerings by allowing anyone to make their own objects and sell them in a content marketplace: a VR app store, if you will, that can accept existing 3-D objects created using industry-standard software.
Though it might take a little practice to build something efficiently, the system was designed to be easy to use. Structured around three-dimensional space, it allows game creators to build up, down, or in any direction they want. They can drop in trees or a soccer field, or large lights, and instantly resize them or move them as desired.
Like something you built and want to add more of it? Voxelus’s system allows simple copying and pasting of objects.
The company isn’t by any means promising that every game created using its platform is going to be ready for prime time. But Voxelus COO Maximo Radice says that he believes the platform will soon enable some of those who use it to become stars on the order of YouTube sensation Pewdiepie, and take on big-name content companies in the process.
Whether or not that’s true, it’s evident that Voxelus is on to something. The company says no one else has developed a similar VR user-generated content system and it hopes that it can corner the market in short order.
Starting today, Voxelus is making its content creator available for Macs and PCs. It has already submitted its Gear VR viewer for approval, and it expects its Oculus Rift viewer to be ready next week. The app store is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2016. It will feature a revenue-share system much like Apple’s, which could let content creators make decent money.
Voxelus is betting on the idea that new VR users will be able to blow through all the existing content in mere days, and that they’ll want much more in order to justify the hundreds of dollars they spend on hardware. The answer, the company says, is democratizing content creation.