4 Top Free 360 Image Viewers for Developers


#1

I’ll look at the four most popular open source 360 image viewers and give recommendations as to which is the best tool for your purposes.

  1. A-Frame
  2. Google VR View for the Web
  3. React VR
  4. Photo Sphere Viewer

A-Frame

A-Frame is the leading open source project for WebVR. What this means is that your project will work not only with web sites, but also on Vive, Rift, Daydream, GearVR, and mobile phones.

Pros

  • Backed by Mozilla
  • Active community
  • Works with VR headsets and VR controllers

Cons

  • in beta, pre-release
  • video does not work on mobile devices in a browser
  • may require the developer build of some browsers

Verdict

A bit premature for prime time, but excellent for education, ranging from middle school students to adults.

Examples

Live Site

A-Frame mobile example developed by middle school student

Example with falling stars and theta images

Google VR View for the Web

Google VR View for the Web is part of a set of technologies that Google makes available for mobile and web VR. It’s a solid choice for developers that either want to build browser-based sites or are committed to Cardboard and Daydream.

Pros

  • Backed by Google
  • Works on Daydream
  • Supports hotspots

Cons

  • optimized for the web. Other SDKs available for native mobile app development
  • limited viewing options compared to Photo Sphere Viewer
  • media may need to be placed on same web server that the code is saved on, especially with Mac OS X and Safari

Verdict

Google VR View for the Web is a solid choice for web sites that need an embedded 360 image. Separate SDKs are available for Android and iOS. If you’re focused on Daydream or Cardboard for a VR experience, there is a VR Entry Flow. If you’re looking for a wide market of full VR headsets, A-Frame is a better choice.

You can tell your clients you’re using Google VR technology and they’ll nod their heads. Google has a significant investment in VR and 360 image technologies. VR View for the Web was recently updated, indicating active development.

Examples

Live Site

1 minute video overview explaining how web developers can quickly test Google VR View for the Web.

React VR

React VR is a VR framework for React. It’s easy to use and requires Node.js.

Pros

Cons

  • community not as active as A-Frame
  • same problems with using cutting-edge technology that A-Frame encounters. May not work as expected on all headsets
  • currently on 0.2.0 (not really ready for prime-time)

Verdict

If you have a Facebook app for a client as a proof of concept or a flashy marketing concept, this is a good choice. If you like React, then it’s a great choice. It’s probably fairly stable in a browser, but doesn’t have as many control features as Photo Sphere Viewer when used as an embedded 360 image viewer in a web page.

Examples

Photo Sphere Viewer

Photo Sphere Viewer is an open source project made by Jeremy Heleine. It focuses on viewing the 360 image in a web page.

Pros

  • most features to control the image in a web page
  • stable JavaScript library that been around for a while
  • allows download of 360 image and zoom from menu bar (you can disable the menu bar)

Cons

  • made by individual, not large company (which might be relevant to your clients)
  • optimized for the web, not headsets
  • no clear path to augmented reality and virtual reality (compared to the technology from big name companies)

Verdict

This is a good choice for web pages and should work well for most commercial 360 sites where the menu system is below the primary image. It’s more appropriate as a gallery, rather than a VR or virtual tour. While VR and AR are definitely the future, most commercial sites, like a restaurant or auto dealer site, use a series of 360 images with an external menu. For web applications that do not require linking to another image inside of the sphere, Photo Sphere Viewer offers more features than the other technologies.

Example

Live Site

Made with jQuery.

Conclusion

VR and 360 image technologies are changing rapidly. You should check out the technology for yourself. However, if you have limited time, here are my recommendations to get you started.

Commercial Options

You can use cloud-based services to embed 360 images into your web applications. Ricoh offers theta360.biz as a pilot service in North America. A list of other services is available here.

theta360.biz service for real estate sales

There are also a range of developer tools including Unity and Pano2VR which are popular. Example of using THETA images in a Unity Skybox is below.

Live Site


Using Google VR To Display RICOH THETA Images?
How to read the 360 degree image in Raspberry Pi
#2

cool, thanks for the detailed introduction of the free 360 photo viewers. and I think the top 13 panorama viewers might help guys looking for viewers


#3

I’m a web dev and tested A-Frame and it works great especially the city builder feature, so thanks for the tips! When my customers ask for a simple embedding on website, my best options are Panoraven.com and 2vr. It’s simpler and most of the time, customers don’t need complicate features that require an heavy dev (VR frameworks like A-Frame). Both services work great with my Theta V!


#4

@Adam_Olkin fantastic contribution of information. Thanks so much. would love to see some of your work if it is public. This whole space is new and we’re all still trying to figure out the best way to bring the 360 images to the public.

How does your audience view the 360 images? In a web browser, mobile device, or headset?


#5

Adam,

Very cool. Would love any screenshots or code you can share. I was using A-Frame before with my THETA S. Actually haven’t tried it any with my V. I’d like to do that. Hoping your efforts can help jumpstart me. :3theta_s:

Jesse


#6

Would be interesting to test the video file in a mobile device.