Updated thoughts: The spatial computing future of WordPress

In 2019, I wrote an article for WP Tavern titled "Possibilities of a CMS in the Spatial Computing Future" . I explored the potential role of WordPress in powering Extended Reality (XR) experiences. Since then, we've seen an exciting evolution in the metaverse landscape, with spatial computing now being embraced globally by the largest technology companies and impressive devices that eliminate the need for controllers. Today, I stand by the vision I shared four years ago, but with way more insight and firsthand experience bringing 3D WordPress to life.

Prior to my 2019 article, I was focused exploring how WordPress could facilitate data consumption in platforms like Unity apps and other 3D platforms using the REST API. While these experiments are still relevant today, it was completely missing much bigger opportunities for WordPress in XR.

Since then, with the development of the Three Object Viewer (3OV) plugin, my perspective has shifted to: "WordPress is the 3D platform." It's no longer just the data layer, it can be the entire stack start to finish with zero third party dependencies. Instant immersive publishing for all!

A screenshot of a character named Pixel saying hello to the visitor and introducing the new NPC block

I always like to take a step back and frame why I choose WordPress as the platform to build around versus building my own 3D focused CMS from scratch. It comes down to the following:

  • Proven post type data structure
  • Extendable data structure for users
  • Secure user system
  • Rich content editor
  • Extendability through plugins and themes 
  • Community <3

One thing that struck me recently was the realization just how positively impacting the introduction of the block editor was to adapting to the future of the web. It is no exaggeration to say that without the new editor, I would not have been able to bring this plugin to life. 3D content for WordPress would have likely still been limited to consumption by and of "better" apps.

The recent news...🍎

Apple recently announced their first serious step into XR with the Vision Pro headset which focuses heavily on mixed reality content. Many, including myself, believe that this was the signal needed to show the world that the immersive web was not only viable, but the inevitable future of the web. I am very happy to report that with Apple's added support for WebXR in Safari, the headset will be compatible with 3OV making WordPress fully ready to activate on this device! 3OV comes standard with hand tracking for movement, and based on what I have read from Apple, will be compatible with the new headset. 🥳

Let's Take a Quick Look Back at 3OV

Looking back at the past year since the public release of Three Object Viewer, the plugin has evolved from a simple model viewer into a comprehensive metaverse building experience.(They grow up so fast!) When the plugin first released in March of 2022 I really had no larger ambition than making a 3D model viewer. The hope was to make a simple viewer block that would allow folks to select a single file and share things like avatars or wearables.

With the introduction of the 3D Environment Block and nine core 3D inner block components, 3OV has transformed into a feature-rich 3D builder. I'm quite proud of where it has ended up!

I think one of the best new blocks was the introduction of the NPC Block. This block utilizes language models and our open sourced worker for plug and play chat bots in your 3D worlds. I see great potential in AI driven assistants that can live in virtual spaces with knowledge of you and your website to communicate with visitors in your absence.

A screenshot of the NPC block settings and the avatar beside it. The settings allow input for Name, Personality, and default message.
screenshot of 3OV User's @emotionull showing off his AI avatar "Phetta" in his website using 3OV. The Phetta character is a purple rate and is explaining to the visitor what the phettaverse is.

Where to next for 3OV?

Now, as I chart the course for the next year, I'm setting my sights on several areas of focus for the plugin:

  1. Networked Experiences + Multiplayer Editing
    • Networking is very close to finished. Once this lands my focus will shift to collaborative frontend editing using this network layer.
  2. Third Person Controller
    • Introducing a third-person controller will enable visitors to interact with the virtual environment using avatars. Focus will then go to VR compatibility with these avatars. VRM will be the file type used.
  3. Mixed Reality
    • Building upon the existing mixed reality features in 3OV, I will add configuration options for setting the display type. This will open up opportunities for creating mixed reality-specific blocks, such as a "Screen Block" for defining areas as screens or monitors.
  1. Further enhanced AI
    • Expanding AI and NPC features to include multi-modal or multi-action capabilities will empower users to create more interactive experiences. The ability to program pre-defined tasks for virtual characters will bring a new level of interactivity to websites. I think this could power AI assistants that follow you in your everyday life.

I'll be doing blog posts about each of these focuses as time goes on but I think this will be the best direction forward for the most impact.

What about the spatial future for WordPress?

This is where I have been noodling on the last few days since the Apple headset release. I think it is almost certain that WordPress will adapt to a spatial computing future in more ways than just the front end of a website. The admin dashboard will likely have great opportunity in giving us truly distraction free writing. Imagine grabbing the sidebar of the editor and pinning it to a corner of your desk. An avatar embodied AI assistant is on the other side of the desk providing you paragraphs of data relative to what you are writing about on screen. You go down the street to get tacos and your AI friend is there still being rendered from your website ready to have a chat while you wait for your friends to arrive. You snap a photo and attach it to a blog post. (This is all mostly possible with 3OV today!)

A screen capture from WebXR using the AR features in the 3OV Three Object Block. In the photo is a 3D avatar robot girl standing in front of a mexican restaurant.
A screen capture in WebXR using the AR features in the 3OV Three Object Block. Captured from Android.

So anyway, I'm rambling. It's safe to say that I'm excited to see WebXR being supported by practically all XR headset makers. This builds a more open 3D web. The future of WordPress in this space is obvious now more than ever. Back in 2019, I imagined WordPress powering basic 3D data visualization. Today, I celebrate it as a beacon of the open 3D web, and I can't wait to see how far we can take it in the years to come.