BabylonJS WebVR Hello World

In a few weeks, we have our next WebXR NL meetup . This evening we are going to put a couple of WebVR frameworks head to head: A-Frame, ThreeJS, and BabylonJS. Since I happen to have some experience with BabylonJS it is upon me to explain how to work with WebVR in BabylonJS. This post will be the first part, “Hello World”.


For this tutorial I use StackBlitz, but any other online or offline editor will work. In my case, I started a new TypeScript project in StackBlitz. This will give you an HTML file, a TS file, and a CSS file. The HTML file is the simplest. This contains only 1 element in the body of the HTML file: the Canvas element. All renderings will go to this canvas.

The CSS file is pretty straightforward as well. It makes sure the canvas element will file the entire screen.


To get BabylonJS to work we need to install a few packages. Of course BabylonJS itself, this packages also includes the TypeScript definitions.

BabylonJS needs a couple of packages, which you don’t need right away, but may become handy in the future. However, if you don’t add them, Babylon will complain.

  • Oimo => JavaScript 3D Physics engine
  • Cannon => JavaScript 3D Physics engine
  • Earcut => JavaScript triangulation library

With StackBlitz it very easy and fast to install them. Just enter the name in the ‘enter package name’. If you miss one StackBlitz will offer to install the missing package.

Main Class

I started by clearing the index.ts file with the exception of the import of the styles. I’ve added the import for BabylonJS as well. This will make sure the library is loaded and you can use it.

We need a TypeScript class for our app to run, I named it VRApp. Add an empty constructor and a function named ‘run()’. This is the basic outline of the class. After creating the class, instantiate it and call the run function.

Babylon works by having an Engine, that talks to the lower-level WebGL. You also need one or more BabylonJS Scenes. The Scene contains, for example, the geometry, lights, and camera that needs to be rendered. I created 2 private fields for these because there need to be available from different places in the class.

The engine itself is instantiated in the constructor of the VRApp class. You need to pass 2 parameters to the constructor of the BabylonJS Engine: a reference to the canvas and a bool to turn the antialiasing on. After that, we can instantiate a scene and pass it the engine. Right now, your code should like something like:

Next, we need to add a few things to the scene to render. We need a light to illuminate the scene. The first light I often create is a hemispheric light. This light has a direction. This is not the direction of the light itself, but the reflection of the light. The hemispheric light is used to create some ambient lighting in your scene. For ambient lighting in combination with other lights, you often point this up. In this case, I kept it at an angle to get some shading going.

Lighting alone won’t do anything. We need some geometry. For the ground, I create a Ground Mesh. This plane is optimized for the ground and can be used in more advanced scenarios like octrees if you wish in the future.

The rest of the scene will be made from a couple of cubes randomly scattered around. I created a simple for-loop in which I create a cube mesh and change its position to a random value.

Almost there. We need two more things. We need an implementation of the run function of the VRApp class. In this function, I provide the BabylonJS Engine I created in the beginning with a render loop. This function we provide to the engine is called every frame and is responsible for rendering the scene. This function can do more and probably will do more in the future, but for now, it only calls the render function of the scene.

At this point, you should see an error when running the application using StackBlitz.

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And the error is correct. We didn’t create a camera. In a ‘normal’ WebGL application you need to create a camera, and you can do that in our case as well. But you don’t have to. Creating a WebVR project from a WebGL project takes some effort: You need to configure everything; And render a special camera. To make it as easy as possible BabylonJS has a special method that creates all of these for you and converts your application to WebVR, createDefaultVRExperience. The function creates a default VRExperienceObject. This helper will add the VR-button to the UI, checks if WebVR is available and by default creates (or replaces) the device orientation camera for you. I’ve added the following to the end of the constructor of the VRApp class:


The result of the tutorial should look something like this, the full code is in here as well:

You can open this code on StackBlitz and play with it yourself. Of course, there’s much more you can do with WebVR, but this is it for this tutorial. If you have any question feel free to add a comment or come to our meetup on the 12th of June in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

Getting started with A-Frame – #1

Getting started with A-Frame

For a while now I’ve been working with the A-Frame framework for building virtual reality application in the browser and I really like it. So, it’s time to dive in deeper and what better way to do that, than writing a series of tutorials. Of course, I have to start at the very beginning and work my way through the entire framework.

This first tutorial will explain a little bit about the framework itself and shows you how to get your first polygons on screen in the browser.

What is A-Frame?

What is the A-Frame framework all about? A-Frame is a framework for building Virtual Reality applications using web technology, originally by Mozilla and started in 2015. It is built on top of the WebVR API and uses Three.js. Three.js is built on top of WebGL. This may seem like a dependency on top of a dependency. And, although it is, you probably do not want to write everything for WebGL and WebVR yourself.

A-Frame uses a declarative syntax in your HTML files, which makes your HTML files feel very natural, easy to understand and it makes copy-pasting very simple. A-Frame is, just as the web itself, cross-platform. Applications build with A-Frame run everywhere from your desktop browser to your mobile devices, on Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, and Samsung Gear, and on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. It supports the controllers for the various devices as well.

A-Frame is using Three.js in the back, but you are free to use whatever you want next to it on your website. Because it used the HTML component structure you can use whatever you want next to it, like Vue, Angular or React. It also comes with a visual inspector, just hit CRTL+ALT+I when running. In a later tutorial, I’ll dive deeper into this and show you what it is capable of.

A-Frame uses component you can build yourself or download from a large repository. This list is curated and can be compared with the Unity Asset store a bit. These components make it very easy to extend your application and create reusable pieces. More on this in later tutorials as well…

Let’s start a scene

In this first tutorial, we are just going to get our feet wet. Let’s start by having a look at a piece of HTML.

On line 3 you can see the A-Frame framework scripts being loaded from their CDN. You can use npm or a local, offline copy of the framework, but I personally use the CDN most of the time.

The more interesting parts are on line 6 through 8. All A-Frame tags start with an “A”. And every A-Frame application must have a scene.  The a-scene tag creates this. You can add attributes to the scene as well, but just the tag is sufficient for now. Inside the scene is an **a-box_. _**This tag adds a box entity to the scene. There are two attributes defined on that: color and position. Both are pretty self-explanatory.

What’s next?

Next time I’ll dive a little deeper into these attributes. How that work and what you can do with them.

In the meantime, you can have a look the code for this tutorial (and possibly the next tutorials as well) on my Github page. If you like to support the series you can use one of the affiliate links throughout the page. Another way of support is to become a Patreon. This will provide you with all kinds of benefits, like early access to pretty much everything I write.



Recording of VR in a Box @ Techdays

Last weekend the recording of my session VR in a Box for the recent Microsoft Techdays was uploaded to YouTube. If you have any feedback let me know. I might do a follow-up if necessary.

You can view and download the slides over here:

In case you are looking for the APK to try it for yourself:

Issues with native WebVR on Daydream

When I was building my entry for the JS13K games contest , I tested my app on the Google Daydream. One issue I ran into was that it was hard to focus my eyes in VR. I thought it was just me at first and during the contest, I didn’t have the time to investigate any further anyway. Now that the contest is over I’ve decided to dig in a little deeper.


I’d like to start with a little background on how to debug a WebVR app running on a phone in a Daydream View. Since the app will probably be running in Chrome on the device ( although debugging Microsoft Edge works as well!), I use the Chrome remote inspector. The remote inspector can be accessed by starting Chrome on your dev machine and navigate to chrome://inspect. When your phone is connected to your PC via USB it will show up there, but it is possible to find it over WIFI as well. Select the page you want to debug and click ‘inspect'.

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Now you can debug the page as you would normally.

To test if the page supports WebVR you can check if ‘navigator.getVRDisplays' exists. Just type this in the console:

You should get one of these three responses.

“undefined”. In this case, WebVR isn’t available. Not native, and not through a polyfill.

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In this case, you’ll see an implemented function. This function is implemented in the polyfill.

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Best case scenario. The function is implemented natively.

In the last two cases, you’ll be able to call the function and get info about the device. This function returns a promise, but with the following like you can view it in the console.

Now, you can dig into the result and see what is in there. For example the device that is used.

Issue and Fix

It turned out that for some reason my WebVR app was defaulting to ‘Google Cardboard' and not Daydream, while other examples had access to the Daydream native VR. This seemingly weird behavior is caused by the polyfill, flags in Chrome and a meta tag.

After a lot of debugging, testing and digging around, I learned the following:

  • The polyfill defaults to cardboard, even when running it on a Daydream device, which causes the wrong settings for the Daydream lenses. This makes it very hard to focus your eyes on the VR.
  • To get WebVR running on your Daydream supported Android device everywhere on any page, you need to enable it through a flag. Go to about://flags and search for ‘WebVR'. After doing that it runs natively.
  • If you don’t want your users to have to enable a flag, there’s another way. That is by adding a meta tag. You have to enable the experimental feature by registering an origin trial. This is very easy to do. Start by going to the OriginTrials Gitbub and follow the link there to a form to register. You’ll receive a token you can add to the page to enable the WebVR feature for every visitor.

That last point, the meta tag, is what is used in the examples from ThreeJs.

VR in a Box @ Microsoft TechDays

Today I spoke at the Microsoft Techdays in Amsterdam about Google Cardboard, Unity3D and Visual Studio.

There will be a recording available later which I will add to this post. But I promised the APK I’ve built during the demo.

You can download it here:  VR_TechDays

In case you are looking for the .FBX model, you can find that here: VRBox FBX Model

Thanks again to everyone attended!

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