The Further Democratization Of Mobile VR With Epic Games And Unreal Engine

Google democratized VR in a big way when it released Google Cardboard two years ago. Yesterday, the company took the whole thing a big step further when it announced its Daydream mobile VR ecosystem reference designs that ostensibly allow any smartphone maker to create its own Gear VR-like HMD and companion phone.

That’s about VR consumption. But what about democratizing the creation of VR content? Epic Games is taking on that mantle.

From building pro-level games to experiences to using VR/AR cameras to make journalist-level content and average user-created content, actually producing VR content is a difficult process. Just editing a 360-degree panoramic video, for example, is no small task; it involves arduous stitching, color correction and more.

Epic Games’ VR creation tools are free, and the company has done some impressive work in developing VR editing tools. There’s Unreal Editor VR, and then we saw some eye-popping improvements to the tools at GDC. But now with Daydream, there’s an even simpler tool in the form of a new Unreal Engine plugin to help people make VR experience will little to no coding experience.

An Epic Games representative told me that the plugin offers visual scripting with Blueprints--there’s no need to type any C++ code. More average users will be able to use an “interaction bar” within Daydream apps, and features will include the ability to create teleportation within experiences (not unlike, for example, its Bullet Train VR demo).

The whole point of Epic Games’ new plugin is making content creation easier--and free. This is “everyone has a phone in their pocket-like VR,” Epic Games told me. What Daydream will do is make it so that a VR experience is almost second nature--you just grab your phone, pop it into your handy HMD, and off you go--and the creation of VR content should be just as accessible.

Think YouTube. You can watch YouTube videos from any device, anywhere, any time. Making and uploading videos to YouTube is a cinch--you can shoot and share anything with your smartphone camera, laptop webcam and so on in minutes. Google, with Daydream, and Epic Games, with Unreal Engine, hope to make VR that simple.

Epic Games told me that, for now, the plugin will be Android-specific, as it will probably be available only in the Play Store, although it should at least partially be supported on iOS, too. (It’s unclear when iOS Daydream support might emerge, but the point is, if it’s on iOS, Epic Games will support it.) Further, all of the current Unreal VR Editor tools will work for Daydream as well, within the constraints of the device.

You can snag the plugin now from Github, but at today’s Google I/O announcement, we learned that native integration is coming this summer.

Seth Colaner is the News Director for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter @SethColaner. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.