UnfoldVR and Internet Computer Protocol

By: George Cretu, founder

Published: 18 Apr 2024

How it Started

UnfoldVR the first consumer VR app of CGArtefacts, a boutique VR and AR app development studio, based in Bucharest, Romania.

I founded CGArtefacts way back in 2016, working on GearVR and a Samsung S7 smartphone, moving up to the first Rift CV1 and HTC Vive and beyond. We ended up working for dozens of fortune 500 companies but, as the pandemic killed over 50% of our business, I started thinking on what Consumer Product we could create.

Together with the team we originally came up with CoachVR which turned into ThinkTools VR which ultimately ended up as UnfoldVR. But we only switched to working exclusively on UnfoldVR as we got the promise of a grant from Dfinity Foundation, in the Spring of 2022.

UnfoldVR is a VR Platform aiming to become the Spatial Creators Hub. We designed it to be the fastest way to create and share voxel 3D models with the world!

With zero blockchain experience we were grateful for the trust that Dfinity extended to us early on. And we delivered, over time completing three grants and pushing real-time 3D NFTs, VR blockchain pairing and other innovations open to the Internet Computer Protocol(ICP) community.UnfoldVR is a VR Platform aiming to become the Spatial Creators Hub. We designed it to be the fastest way to create and share voxel 3D models with the world!

What is the Internet Computer Protocol

You can learn more about ICP here. For the purposes of this post, suffice to say that ICP is a very modern, very optimized blockchain that can scale infinitely, without progressive costs, much like the internet. And this makes it one of the only blockchains that developers can use to deploy games onto.

But there are many games claiming to be blockchain games, and none of the big or popular ones are built on ICP(yet). These games are only partially deployed on a blockchain, with the majority of the data and even many of the user interactions stored on traditional web servers. This limits interoperability and defies the censorship resistance ethos of blockchain technology itself.

Why are we rethinking UnfoldVR development

The original version of UnfoldVR was built fully on-chain, on ICP Blockchain. We relied heavily on NFTs as a great system for digital ownership management. We never endorsed or pursued speculative marketing strategies.
Two Factors made us rethink our development approach:

First, as our product evolved and as the broader blockchain ecosystem did as well, we realized that the pacing of blockchain infrastructure development and blockchain regulation is quite slow.

Second, our target audience are existing VR users and a big part of them are teenagers or younger.

We can’t onboard the younger demographic to a blockchain product within the current regulatory environment. And even in a scenario where that is handled, interoperability, composability and other technical benefits of blockchain systems are only useful in a large pool of mature projects that follow similar NFT and token standards - which is far from the case now or in the near future.

Our long standing commitment to ICP

But we strongly believe in blockchain technology as a foundational consumer centric development framework. I personally think this is also why so much fraud was committed on blockchain. The fraudsters had unmediated access to consumers. With time, blockchain users will become more sophisticated and blockchain technology will appeal to the general public and not only to get-rich-quick and speculators so I expect the risks to eventually be lower than they are for traditional banking or the internet. 

It’s just very early for a team with our funding options and our target audience, as that future is several years ahead.

We’re not just grateful for the support we received from Dfinity Foundation and the larger ICP community. We strongly believe ICP is, right now, the best blockchain to develop games and other applications onto. It is not a viable platform for VR development targeting non-enterprise users, unfortunately.

How are we rebuilding UnfoldVR

So we decided to rebuild UnfoldVR with a traditional Web2 stack. This allows us to onboard new users with orders of magnitude less friction. It also shortens development cycles as we take in user’s feedback and usage insights, allowing us to be more agile as we shape up the product.

Over time, in keeping with specific geographic regulations, we’ll introduce blockchain elements back into UnfoldVR and offer them as an alternative option to existing and new users. Our dream is to iterate this model to a point where UnfoldVR has the full set of features fully on chain, on Internet Computer Protocol. We estimate this to take several years and is dependent on multiple external factors. 

The first step is converting our existing NFT holders, of both Creator Gloves and Butterfly NFTs, to users with specific benefits within our VR app. More details about this NFT conversion process will come soon. This conversion will be a one time process for each user and will not take away other ICP-anchored benefits that will come as more blockchain features will be introduced back into UnfoldVR. 

I strongly believe this approach is much more sustainable for a start-up with our resources. This will enable us to onboard tens of thousands of active gamers and creators to ICP. But in a few years time. The alternative would be onboarding a few dozens of users every month, at best!

What happens to the existing VR and web apps

The legacy UnfoldVR web app will remain on-chain but we’ll not be pushing bug fixes or additional features on it. The legacy VR app from the Quest Store is likely already replaced by the time you read this with a new version that does not pair with the legacy ICP web app. 

As more ICP features will come back into UnfoldVR we’ll likely link those to the legacy Web app at which point I guess it’s not going to be called legacy anymore. 

If you’re not a VR user, all the above doesn’t impact you significantly. We don’t expect new Web2 UnfoldVR users to be attracted to our existing NFTs. They will be directly valuable if you’re using the new VR version of the app. And they will be valuable in a few years as UnfoldVR will gradually move back on-chain. 

For new UnfoldVR users

If you don’t know what ICP or even blockchain technology is then you’re likely the kind of VR peer we’re hoping to join our cubes infused world. Welcome!

UnfoldVR is a free to play VR app you can download from the Quest Store or Sidequest. Over time we’ll introduce in-app purchases for aesthetic items and some power-user tools. You’ll be able to earn these items if you’re a regular, active user. 

Over time, as regulations will permit, we will introduce the option of having some of these add-ons purchased using blockchain technology. Also, you will have the option to have your data stored on the ICP blockchain instead of having it on a Google-owned server. You will never be forced to use any of these blockchain alternatives. 

If you want to discuss any of the above aspects further with me and the team, reach out to us on our Discord.

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