V is a universal dashboard for virtual reality experiences which lets you load websites and webapps like Slack, Spotify, and Soundcloud inside of your favorite VR games. Today the software launches as a free open beta for the Rift.
A universal web dashboard that spans every VR experience is an awesome idea on paper, but convincing every developer to integrate some newfangled app is an unlikely proposition. The beauty of V is that it doesn’t need platform or developer buy-in; the app smartly injects itself into most VR games, with no special integration needed from the developer.
V works like a web dashboard that can be called up at any time inside of VR. You can use it to watch videos, listen to music, and do pretty much anything else you might do on the web from within your favorite VR app. We first got a good look at V back in May, and today it launched as a free open beta for the Oculus Rift.
You can imagine you’re playing Elite Dangerous and want to look up a tutorial for a quest you’ve never done before. Well, why not do it from the comfort of your spaceship’s cockpit? V makes that possible.
Looking forward to listening to music while you spend hours sculpting virtual models in Medium? With V, you can have your Spotify playlist at your side without ever taking off the headset.
V is an unobtrusive little app that sits quietly in your computer’s taskbar out the outset, and injects itself automatically into recognized VR experiences. Even then, V won’t bother you until you need it. When the time comes, give your headset a firm double-tap with your finger (or press Shift on the keyboard), then find the white dot at the top left of your view. Staring at the dot will invoke V, and bring it seamlessly into the VR world around you. Now you can choose from a number of predefined bookmarks or type your own URL, and you can easily move and resize the floating browser window, as well as scroll and click it as you’d expect. Normally the dashboard will vanish when you’re done with it, but if you want to keep your web page open you can pin it in place so that it remains there when you return to your present VR application:
While today’s open beta supports just one browser window at a time, the ultimate vision for V is to be a helpful dashboard of webpages, web apps, and native widgets that let you do useful stuff without leaving virtual reality. The one browser window restriction is for now a performance limitation; the browser is built on Chromium, and it turns out that web browsing can actually take a decent chunk of system resources to do its job, especially if trying to play high-quality flash video while running on top of a VR app that needs to maintain 90 FPS. As computers get more powerful, and as V finds ways to continue to optimize its lurking presence, the dashboard will be able to open up more fully, says V co-founder Tyler Andersen. He explained that V tries to keep itself within a small performance envelope to minimize impact on the foreground VR application which will always have priorty over V, which will go so far as to freeze itself if it finds the VR app’s framerate dropping under 90 FPS.
The V open beta supports the Xbox gamepad as well as keyboard and mouse, though Andersen tells me that Touch support is in the works, and teases that it makes interactions with the dashboard much easier. Today’s open beta only supports the Rift, but Andersen says that the obvious next step is Vive support, and that it will be released in a future update which will also bring support for Touch and Vive controllers.