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WebVR Technologies: React 360 vs A-frame and Three.js

Virtual reality topics have been dominating the headlines of all IT blogs. Its ability to immerse a user in an exciting, brand-new environment is hard to overestimate. Until fairly recently, the idea of emerging in a virtual world seemed to be impossible, currently such technologies as React 360, Three.js, and A-frame provide access to best VR experiences right from your browser. How to work with these tools? How do they differ? Which one would suit your project? Read on to get useful insights into VR software development and find out more about the most popular WebVR technologies. 

Native vs WebVR: What is the difference?

When it comes to the development of virtual reality software, there is a clear distinction between native and web VR. 

Native VR is a type of software development that is designed for a particular device.

In this case, your users have to download an app from the store and buy special hardware to run an app. The choice of a tech stack is highly dependent on the device you are going to use. For instance, if you want to create an app for Oculus, you have four main options: 

  • Unity
  • Unreal Engine 
  • Lumberyard
  • CryEngine

WebVR is an industry-standard application programming interface built on top of JavaScript that allows connecting VR devices with web browsers.

The primary goal behind the invention of this technology was to make virtual reality accessible to a broader audience. 

Previously, to enter the world of VR, you had to cover your eyes with a special headset and completely obscure the view of the real world. But what should you do if your audience does not have the necessary hardware? WebVR comes in handy. Combined with other technologies, this API allows any user to enjoy 360-degree images and videos through a web browser. The main technologies that are used to build Web VR apps are:

  • React 360
  • A-frame
  • Three.js
  • Unity

WebVR vs NativeVR. WebVR still remains in the infancy stage. It is not as scalable and feature-rich as Native VR since it is more focused on still images. According to the latest estimates, the FPS rate (Frames per Second) of the most powerful web VR apps is 20 or less. Given that humans tend to become nervous at anything less than 60, web VR video is unlikely to provide joyful experience. At the same time, this technology also has a set of advantages that allow developers to create accessible and engaging scenes. 

Native (Unity, Unreal Engine, Lumberyard, CryEngine) vs Web VR (React 360, A-frame, Three.js, Unity) - The Best Applications | LITSLINK Blog

Overview of WebVR Technologies

React 360. React 360 is an innovative framework that is designed to create 3D and VR experiences with familiar tools. Built on the top of React, a popular JS library, it enables developers to create appealing and immersive user interfaces that add interactivity to your website or application. The framework is created by Facebook and already has an active community of engineers, who strive to improve the technology with the help of extra tools, modules and modifications. 

React 360 - The Best Applications | LITSLINK Blog

Unity. This game engine comprises a pack of features to make almost any of your ideas real. With tons of instruments and tools, you can apply it to any projects starting from casual apps and ending with AAA games. This technology has been used to create such best-selling games such as Pokemon Go or Hearthstone. Equipped with C# scripting API and built-in Visual Studio, the engine provides developers with lots of possibilities to construct interactive VR scenes in web browsers. 

A-frame. It is a web framework that allows creating games, apps and various scenes in virtual reality. It uses WebVR API to connect your web browser with a particular headset, which serves as a transition component between a user and software. This instrument comes in handy for a specialist dealing with web VR projects. It also may serve as a platform for the development of web apps, sites, landing pages, games, etc. 

The framework is written from scratch using WebGL. Since it is primarily based on the Three.js library, it is better to get acquainted with its components before getting down to work. At the same time, it is not obligatory to run into all the nitty-gritty details since the framework is designed to shift the developer’s focus from rendering to the application logic and architecture. 

To start working with A-frame, you should keep in mind three main points:

  • HTML is used to add the main elements in A-frame

To add such elements as “scene”, “sphere” or “camera” to the main scene, you should apply the homonymous attributes in the HTML code with a prefix “a-”. For instance, if you want to draw a simple scene with a sphere and a cube, it can be easily done by integrating A-frame attributes into the markup code.

  • Entity Component System is well applied in A-frame

Entity Component System (or simply ECS) can be best explained as an architectural pattern that is mostly used in game development. In its traditional application, every component contains a particular part of the app’s logic. For instance, the object “Player” has a component “Health”, which is responsible for reflecting the user’s status in a game and processing all the changes related to this object. Systems are created to manage the structure of entities and components. 

A-frame implements ECS in a simple and optimized way. The framework uses the basic attributes, such as <a-scene> or <a-box>, as entities. Nevertheless, <e-entity> remains to be the main attribute, which does not carry any logic. All other elements serve as the addition to <a-entity> since they cover the components and add specific features to it. 

  • Data exchange in A-frame takes place by the means of web browser events

There is no need to reinvent the wheel when you are already equipped with a convenient built-in implementation of DOM elements. DOM allows developers to keep track of browser events, such as clicks and users’ activities. A-frame provides an easy way of interaction between entities, components and functions. For the purpose of data exchange, each element is patched by means of “emit” function, which takes three important parameters:

  • Name of the event
  • Data to be transmitted
  • The information whether the event needs to be initiated 

Three.js. This JavaScript library is specially designed for 3D rendering. It provides developers with a set of tools to create appealing 3D objects that can be placed in any scene or environment. This tool comes with a complete control over textures and meshes, so you can change them and update whenever you wish. Three.js is rarely used as a standalone element as it can be applied as an additional tool to create immersive 3D experiences. In particular, React 360 heavily relies on this library in many aspects. Three.js can be integrated into React 360 to create 3D objects and animations. 

To get started with Three.js, you should go to its documentation and save the HTML file to your computer. When you open it in your browser, you can start using the library. Three.js will come in handy when you have to tackle the following issues and tasks:

  • Creating immersive 3D environments
  • When you have to work with “raw” 3D meshes and textures
  • When you require extra tools to complement your Web VR scenes 

Pannellum. This technology is an open-source panorama viewer that is designed to integrate immersive environments on your website or application. It can be used as a standalone technology being integrated through <iframe> tag. If you require a tighter integration, you can use JS API to integrate panorama views into your project. The tool also provides a number of additional functions that can help you in constructing realistic VR experiences:

  • Integration of hot spots for displaying information
  • Implementing a set of panorama views into VR tours
  • Adding panorama views to your website
  • Allow more convenient management of VR experiences

React VR vs React 360

React VR marked the first efforts of Facebook to allow the creation of VR experience right in the web browser. However, with the appearance of the C++ native version of React VR,  the application of the framework went far beyond web VR development. As a result, the APIs of these two versions diverged as each of them addressed different needs and served different purposes. To draw a clear distinction between the two projects, the framework received a new name “React 360”, which reflects its primary goal — creating 360 experiences that can be easily accessed with the help of any device: PC, mobile, tablet, or VR headset.

If we are to compare React VR and React 360, the two frameworks seem much similar. The upgraded version simplified many processes by reducing the amount of manual work. For instance, it became easier to place 2D UI elements into 3D environments. Furthermore, Facebook’s team improved the performance of all components that significantly eased the development process. 

React 360 vs A-frame

React 360 and A-frame have a lot in common since they are both applied to bring dynamic WebVR experiences to the user. Nevertheless, each tool has a set of specific features and instruments that are aimed at reaching a specific goal. For instance, if your application or a website has many 2D and 3D UI elements, then you’d better choose React 360 for your project. It allows you to improve the user experience and make VR accessible to your visitors. 

However, if you have to work with numerous 3D objects and ensure they are placed into scenes smoothly, you may find A-frame more beneficial. A number of renowned and successful organizations, such as Disney or Chevrolet, are using the framework to build interactive animation and realistic 3D objects.

React 360 vs Unity

Unity, compared to React 360, is a standalone tool that provides a wide range of instruments to launch projects of any size and complexity. Apart from a clear and detailed documentation, Unity comes with a set of tutorials. A big community of supporters and contributors can get your questions answered, which significantly speeds up the development process. Furthermore, this engine is a perfect match for game dev companies. You don’t have to write lots of code to place one object into the scene. 

React 360 also has the features to create VR experiences that can be accessed through your browser. It has a short learning curve, which means you can find the right developer quickly and shorten your time to market. In contrast to Unity, React 360 allows to build an app for a mobile browser. At the same time, this technology is not suitable for game dev, as it does not have enough instruments to create AAA projects. You will bother yourself by writing lots of code, which is not convenient and time-consuming. 

Where to Use React 360?

  • Education. React 360 is the best choice when it comes to education. Plenty of apps were already designed with React VR to make learning more engaging and entertaining. For instance, one of the open-source projects on GitHub allows users to learn more about the solar system, our Earth and other planets. 
  • Retail. Virtual reality tours have become a common practice in the majority of online stores. Companies offering 360-degree shopping experience provide customers with the possibility to look at the product from different dimensions and choose the one that best meets their needs. This feature positively affects the client’s satisfaction rate and attracts a broader audience.
  • Real Estate. When you want to rent an accommodation in your city, you come to the place, speak to an owner and decide whether it suits you. However, selecting the right flat or house in another city is quite a challenge. WebVR can address this challenge by making real estate tours more realistic and immersive. 
  • Marketing. Immersive advertising is what always attracts users’ attention. Web VR can come in handy as it plunges your customers in a brand-new world of e-commerce, retail or technology. Show the full potential of your product with cutting-edge marketing tools provided by the top React 360 developers. 

Wrapping up

If you are looking for a technology to build interactive VR experiences in a web browser that can be accessed through any browser, React 360 is your best choice. This technology provides a solid foundation to create immersive scenes that will spark interest among your audience. Three.js, Pannellum, or A-frame can be used to add realism to your scenes and make your project stand out.

However, if you require a one-size-fits-all solution, Unity is what you have to look for. It equips your team with the necessary tools to create high-quality 3D scenes from scratch. Nevertheless, keep in mind that seasoned Unity developers are hard to find. Luckily, LITSLINK has a rich talent pool of developers experienced in all the latest tech. We take your idea, conduct business analysis and come up with a solution that perfectly aligns with your business model.



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