Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 Posted by Jim Thacker

Envelop for Windows lets you use 3D software in VR

Start-up Envelop VR has released Envelop for Windows, a new software package that enables users to view and control any Windows application in virtual reality, using an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headset.

The software is currently available as a free public beta. (It was actually unveiled at the VRLA conference earlier this month, but the story slipped through the net at the time.)

Display Windows apps as floating windows in virtual reality
By default, Envelop for Windows just takes the UI of a Windows application and displays it in virtual reality, so the results are relatively limited.

While the video above describes one use case as playing “all of your existing” games in VR, for example, it isn’t magically converting them into VR apps: you’re just playing them in a giant floating window.

However, the experience is fairly customisable: you can open multiple windows, adjust them to any size, and place them wherever you want in VR space, including along the Z-axis.

Another neat feature is the option to use a webcam or the HTC Vive’s front-facing camera to display an image of your keyboard inside the VR experience, so you can see where you’re putting your fingers.

Display 3D models in virtual reality, outside your software’s viewport
Things get more interesting when the application you’re viewing includes 3D data that Envelop for Windows is capable of displaying in virtual reality.

At VRLA, one demo showed the products from an ecommerce site being displayed and manipulated in VR.

Envelop VR tells us that if a website already has the product models in a suitable 3D format, enabling them for display in virtual reality just requires the addition of a chunk of Java code.

Another demo we saw showed the software running with Catia, in which it was possible to view the design being created as a floating 3D model within virtual reality, rather than simply within the Catia viewport.

Options included standard gizmos to transform, rotate or scale the VR model using the Vive’s controllers, or to separate the parts of the model for an exploded view.

The firm is also developing a dedicated plugin for Maya, which it hopes to release later this year.

The potential is obvious: being able to make changes to a model in the normal way within your DCC software, then instantly preview the results in virtual reality seems like an intuitive way to work.

Pricing and availability
Envelop for Windows is available now as a free public beta, both as a direct download and via Steam.

According to the developer, for “maximum performance”, you’ll need to be running Windows 10 and “VR-ready GPU”, which means a Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better.

Updated 14 October
: Envelop VR has just released an SDK for developers looking to integrate their software or websites with Envelop for Windows.

Read more about Envelop for Windows on Envelop VR’s website

Download Envelop for Windows (No registration required)