WebGL as a Disruptive Technology

The technology that excites me the most (not counting virtual currency, which I am excited about more because of its a sociological, commercial, and political implications rather than the technology) is virtual reality (I’ll use the term “virtual reality,” or “VR,” as a blanket term to encompass augmented reality, cinematic reality, 3D visualization, and that type of stuff in general). Most of the ideas I’m fascinated with (to the extent that I would like to pursue an entrepreneurial venture around) surrounding VR are capital intensive, which make them a non-starter. However, there is one area that seems to be very in my capital range (i.e. close to free) and still, I believe, exciting and filled with opportunity: WebGL. 

#WebGL is a JavaScript API for 3D rendering in the browser. To put it simply, it makes creating VR in your browser very simple – essentially as simple as creating a web site. Of course, creating a web site can be a project that is fairly simple or inordinately complex, and WebGL enables quite a bit of sophistication as well. 

The idea of VR in the web browser is not new, and historically it hasn’t worked very well. This leads many to believe it won’t work now as well. However, I think the appropriate parallel here is mobile computing, which is a technology that was around long before the iPhone. However, it wasn’t until the around the time of the iPhone in 2007 that capacitive touch screens became cheap enough. 

Likewise, I think we are now at a major point in VR, in which graphics processing units are finally cheap enough, and frontend technologies (namely HTML 5) are finally robust enough  to make browser-based VR a reality. 

So what kind of entrepreneurial opportunities does this enabling technology allow for? Put another way, what incumbents are at risk?

I think all the firms built on old school animation software are at risk. Granted, old school animation software is WAY better than what you are going to get out of WebGL. Of course, disruption is often about something crappy and cheap iterating until it shatters a paradigm, and I think we may have the genesis of that ready to foment. A grandiose vision might be that “the next Pixar” would be a firm that gets its start by developing expertise in WebGL, who finds a currently undiscovered set of customers that industry incumbents like Pixar are unable or unwilling (because of too little profits, presumably) to satisfy. This might be a WebGL animation studio that focuses on creating and curating short web animations, delivered and monetized via the web, mobile apps, VR headsets, special events, and who knows what else. 
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