JanusVR: A Brief Introduction

JanusVR is an interesting and different proposition for a social VR platform: a reimagining of webpages as collaborative 3D webspaces interconnected by portals. Started by James McCrae and Karan Singh in December 2014, it is named after the two-faced Roman god of passages.

I first explored JanusVR back in 2017 when I first got my Oculus Rift VR headset, but I never got around to writing about it for my blog until today. Here’s a brief promotional video for the project:

According to their press kit:

We are proud [to] introduce a major release of JanusVR, an immersive web browsing and design platform that reinvents the Internet as a connected network of 3-dimensional spaces. Users can experience JanusVR using virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift, or on a conventional computer. 

JanusVR completely transforms Internet surfing, providing users with a multi-dimensional, collaborative browsing and building experience. 

Through JanusVR, websites become 3D spaces interconnected by portals. Users navigate, explore, collaborate and create content through a combination of traditional keyboard-and-mouse input, controllers, voice and gestures. 

“Internet content has moved well beyond traditional text, image and video,” said Karan Singh, a computer science professor at the University of Toronto and JanusVR’s co-creator. “Now people can experience rich three-dimensional models, animations, immersive audio and video, and amazing data visualizations in an intuitive VR context.” 

When you start off in JanusVR, you spawn in a pavilion filled with portals. Each experience in JanusVR has its own URL associated with it, just like a regular webpage. Just click on the portal, and wait a few seconds for it to load, then walk right through the door into a different experience!

JanusVR pavilion with portals to other experiences
(you can visit on your computer desktop here)
The Eternal Lab (you can visit on the desktop here)

The following video demonstrates how you can even teleport from JanusVR to Cryptovoxels! (Notice that your JanusVR avatar appearance does not come with you, though. Once you cross over, you appear as the default Cryptovoxels avatar.)

JanusVR is part of a project which comprises a complete suite of free programs, including web.janusvr.com (a WebGL-based version of the JanusVR client which runs in your web browser) and Vesta, a free web-hosting and content-sharing community.

You should know that JanusVR can still be bit buggy. I installed the client via the Oculus Store but it would not run for me, so I uninstalled it and tried downloading it from Steam. That version worked for me. Some experiences do take a while to load. And I did crash out of the program completely at least once. But you really can go down the rabbit hole in JanusVR, following portal after portal in much the same way as you follow link and link in the Web!

If you are interested in this project, you can follow JanusVR on Twitter and Facebook. You can also join their Discord server. And if you want to learn how to build in JanusVR, there is documentation available online. There’s also a GitHub for the project.

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