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Closing a Chapter: Within
I spent 3 years chasing VR storytelling on the web at Within, now they are archiving the platform.
In 2015 I left my role at Google and joined the roller-coaster of virtual reality (VR) startups. I was one of the first employees at Vrse, which later became and more broadly known as Within. During the 3 years I worked there, I architected the web platform. It consisted of 3 products: a gallery, a player, and other pages.
The gallery showcased our “immersive experiences”, primarily 360° spherical videos that you could watch on a VR headset. Sometimes you could watch the experiences directly in your browser. Other times the site would display a trailer with links to download the Within app on an appropriate VR compatible device.
The player was technology I built to stream and render the 360° videos with appropriate interaction modalities on VR headsets. It also worked on mobile devices and desktop computers. For example, in a headset you could look around. On your phone you could swipe or rotate the device.
The other pages were typical website pages: SEO, about, careers, terms and service, educational information about the platforms we supported, and contact pages for feedback and outreach.
It was a period marked by a tremendous amount of technical learnings. We led the VR industry with sophisticated user experience and premium content. The product touched millions of people online, but also in person at film festivals like Sundance and government summits like the World Economic Forum. While impressive, over the years it became clear that the VR community was enthralled with a different kind of experience altogether.
Today, the Within app is no longer. But, some of the stories that were told are still available through an archive called Within Heritage. It was my pleasure to return to Within, work with the team, and make a new webpage announcing this heritage project. It is a farewell, but not goodbye, letter to the community.
I am proud of our contributions to the VR community and look forward to see how it advances in the future.