VRTK is a VR framework that allows developers to add interactivity to their applications and games without coding the physics of the interactions of these objects from scratch. This month beta has been released for version 4. Version 4 is a complete correspondence of the framework. It brings numerous improvements, including making it more modular and more hardware independent.
VRTK modest origins
In April 2016, Harvey Ball got its HTC Vive. But when he wanted to start developing content for her, he realized that there was no common platform for that. From his bedroom in the UK, he decided to create one — he called it the SteamVR Unity Toolkit. She subsequently allowed developers to easily add teleportation and grab objects to their games.
The toolkit quickly became the most popular framework for Unity VR and was used by thousands of developers. It became so popular that, during the launch of the Oculus Touch controllers, Facebook sent Harvey Rift and Touch for free to add support for them. Now that the toolkit has become cross-platform, it has been renamed VRTK.
Due to the fact that the project was an open source community has added many features, such as: rock climbing, new mechanics of capture and physics of archery.
VRTK began to demonstrate fundamental architectural problems. Harvey originally built it on top of the Oculus SteamVR integration, for example, was just a layer of abstraction. If the SteamVR plugin received a major update (and eventually it did), the VRTK broke down, and the support of future equipment would require even more complex manipulations. It became clear that VRTK needed to be rewritten from scratch to make it easier to use, more modular, and truly hardware independent.
Such a huge task requires hiring developers – and this is a lot of money. Harvey attempted to launch the Kickstarter campaign, but she was unable to achieve her goals. Some even accused him of trying to “cash in”. He then tried Patreon — but that also failed to provide the necessary level of funding, says Harvey. He is also confident that Valve Corporation has refused to support VRTK due to the fact that the company considers it a competitor.
During 2017, Harvey had to invest his own money in the development of VRTK. Documentation, guides and missing developer support slowed development to a maximum.
In December, Harvey decided that he had had enough, deciding to stop the development of VRTK. The shortage of funds and the magnitude of the negative impact reached their limits.
Oculus to the rescue
In January 2018, Harvey received an email from Oculus VR, LLC. They have heard of the end of support for the VRTK and would like to provide the funding necessary for continued development. Harvey was skeptical, believing that Oculus would want to destroy the principles of the VRTK or make it exclusive.
However, his skepticism proved unfounded. Oculus offered a 6-month full grant without any conditions. With this funding, Harvey was able to continue the development of VRTK, and v4 was born that way.
Funding was used to take on a dedicated member of the Christopher-Marcel Boddecker community as a full-time developer.
VRTK v4-fully hardware independent processing. In fact, theoretically, the engine is now independent, so it may even support the Unreal Engine in the future. Instead of a single script, as in v3, v4 now uses add-ins that contain simple scripts. While v3 often requires custom code to achieve seemingly simple tasks, the modularity of v4 means that the implementation of such a thing as a pump-shotgun can only be achieved by customizing existing components.
This new modularity also means that v4 can support augmented reality devices in the future.
The old videos, which were quickly outdated, were now replaced by Vrtk Academy, a complete wiki-format documentation supported by both the VRTK developers and the community.
While v4 is in beta, the VRTK team claims it is not buggy and recommends that developers use it, rather than v3, for current and future projects. It can be found on github. Please note that there are no releases on v4 yet, so you will need to push the project.
Since the Oculus grant is only 6 months old, the VRTK still needs funding.
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