We take a look at a new application from the founder of the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality meetup (SVVR), Karl Krantz, that lets you launch your favourite VR games and apps from one VR-enabled user interface.
Never Leave VR
We love virtual reality here at RoadToVR, but we recognise we’re at the very beginning of a revolution here. This means that as users of VR we’re ahead of the curve and that means rough edges, and frankly a stack of inconvenience too. The physical nature of the Rift means you have something over your face, occluding the world from your eyes. Those who have owned and used an Oculus Rift, knows the ritual of switching between applications all too well and frankly it’s not only a fiddle, it’s a mental wrench too. Yanking your brain from those wonderfully immersive experiences and plonking it back into the mundane world of the Windows desktop, whilst also removing the Rift from your face to do is hardly ideal.
Karl Krantz, the founder of the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality meetup, knows this as well as we do. So he decided to produce an application that attempts to address the above irksome issues and keep the user in the virtual realm. His answer to these issues is a new application called VR Launchpad. It’s remit is to add a virtual reality interface to enable the browsing and launching of applications and games from within virtual reality whilst wearing the Oculus Rift.
VR Launchpad when launched sits as a tray icon. Right-clicking the icon brings up a quick access menu displaying a list of your current configured applications and the launch button.
After hitting the ‘Configure’ button, setting up VR Launchpad is as easy as either browsing for and adding applications or dragging and dropping executables. When you’re done, hit the ‘launch’ button, pop on your Rift and you’re dropped into the VR Launchpad itself. A 3D sphere filled with icon representations of all added apps in 3D space. You can glance around the sphere to check out your app collection, but selecting said apps is, by default, done by using the cursor keys or Gamepad should you have one connected. But VR Launchpad’s most intuitive selection method is the ‘Head Selection’ mode, which allows the users to stare at an application to select and, after a few seconds, launching it.
VR Launchpad’s second key feature is that, once you’ve launched an application, after you’re finished and exited you’re dropped straight back into the Launch Pad VR environment again, meaning you can cycle through VR apps without ever having to remove your Rift and leave VR.
Additionally, you can set both global preferences for Unity based apps (to select both resolution and visual fidelity settings) and override those settings on a per app basis via the configuration screens. Configuration is done entirely outside of the VR Launchpad environment at the desktop, which is entirely understandable at this early stage. Personally, I’d love to see the UI extended to allow full addition and removal of apps and the tweaking of their settings all from within VR—but that’s a tall order right now.
For the most part, Unity based applications obeyed the ‘drop back to VR’ rules, but some either launched incorrectly (met with audio but a black screen) or stubbornly refused to relinquish the screen and allow the Launchpad interface back. But when it works it’s a joy to be able to do all of this without having to select options and take off the Rift at any time.
So, it’s early days but I think Karl is onto a winner here—there’s lots to do in terms of UI and functionality improvements and additions but there’s real scope here to build an all-in-one environment for doing everything Rifty should things progress that far. So, go and grab the download the app from the link provided below and let us know your thoughts on VR Launchpad below.