UtopiaVR: APIs and integrations bring prototypes to life

The pandemic sped up the adoption of remote work, as business owners, professionals, sales agents, students, and teachers were forced to work from home. Upwork’s 2020 Future Workforce Pulse Report estimates that 36.2 million Americans will be fully remote by 2025 — an increase of 16.8 million people compared to the pre pandemic rates. But a lack of home office space, mediocre teleconference services, and Zoom fatigue has left remote workers unsatisfied.

Utopia VR offers remote work business solutions that leverage virtual reality technology to make digital meetings more engaging, collaborative, and fun. Utopia’s VR chatrooms simulate real-world interactions in virtual board rooms, private offices, conference rooms, theatres, restaurants, or even your own private Island — and no special equipment is required

When Utopia VR set out to build a robust website and app to power their virtual reality meeting platform, they wanted a full-service partner skilled in both website and app development.

Another vendor recommended Zeek and after one call with Steve, I knew we had found our partner. It’s next to impossible to find a one-stop shop with skilled developers in both website development and app development, but that’s what we found with Zeek. They got us up and running in a very reasonable timeline and the price was extremely fair for the quality of work they delivered. I’m very impressed with the whole team.

Martin Carleton
Utopia VR

The tech-savvy team at Utopia VR came to Zeek with a rough proof of concept — a WordPress site built to interface with Mozilla Hubs, a web based, open-source virtual reality project that empowers developers to create virtual chatrooms from the ground up. They engaged Zeek to turn the proof of concept into a fully functional prototype with an integrated app that can be used to raise the next round of funding.

Business First, Technology Second

Whether engineering data dashboards and enterprise resource planning systems or designing large-scale ecommerce sites and interactive mobile apps, creating software that moves businesses forward requires a fundamental understanding of how the organization works and how revenue is generated. That’s why at Zeek, before any design work is done or a single line of code is written, the focus is on understanding and clarifying the business logic and goals, related workflows, and desired user experience.

After using Hubs in their own company, Utopia VR knew what they wanted at a product level but the user experience and business logic were still a bit fuzzy. Zeek provided strategic consulting to flesh out the business model, monetization opportunities, audience engagement, and user experience. The result was a clear monetization model and a clear path for users to learn about the virtual chatrooms, sign up for an account, download the app, get started with their first room, and access account upgrades.

Seamless Website And App Integration

While Zeek continues to work closely with Utopia VR, the initial engagement was to engineer working prototypes that could be used to secure funding

The first step was enhancing the WordPress site and engineering a seamless integration with Mozilla Hubs that elevated the user experience. The challenge was that Hubs is a relatively new technology that has no documentation and is constantly changing.

Zeek drew on Utopia VR’s own research and its deep experience working with open-source software, experimental technology, and third-party APIs to bring the website to life. Today:

  • VRrooms (virtual chatrooms) are automatically created for new users upon account creation
  • Themes can be easily selected for a room to set the tone for a meeting
  • Users can enter a room and join a meeting without downloading any extra software

To get to a working beta prototype quickly, WordPress and GraphQL were used to interface with Hubs. Once proven, a more scalable solution was needed. For the alpha, WordPress is used as the content management system for the front-end of the website, while Laravel powers the backend and room management functionality.

The second step was building out the iOS app to manage room creation and room links, contacts, and meeting scheduling in the palm of your hand from anywhere in the world.

Together, thre Zeek and Utopia VR teams experimented with giving users the ability to join and participate in VRrooms directly through the app, but Mozilla ended their support for running hubs within an app.

Today, the Utopia VR website and app provide a consistent, harmonious user experience.

  • Users sign up for an account on the website and when they log into the app, their initial rooms automatically appear.
  • In the app, they can manage their rooms and contacts, schedule meetings, and invite people to join them in a room.
  • When a user joins a room from the app, it automatically opens the Safari browser and the room.

Every member of the Zeek team brought an impressive level of technical expertise and competence to the project and with a dedicated project manager, I never had to worry about what was happening or the quality of work.

Deliverables were always on time, and never shoddy or ridden with bugs, which meant we never lost ground and every meeting was focused on our vision and the next step forward.

Having a partner we trust to follow best practices and build with long-term flexibility and growth in mind meant I could stay focused on the 30,000-foot strategy and running the business. Knowing that everything from design to development and testing was handled, made the experience almost hands-off — which is exactly what you need when you’re already spread thin.

My background is in web development and I’m more than pleased. I’ve never experienced this before.

Martin Carleton
Utopia VR

A Forward-Thinking Partnership

While the cloud-based experience works with advanced hardware such as an Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, or an HTC Vive, anyone can join a meeting without downloading software or buying expensive technology.

Currently, the iOS app is still in beta. When the alpha version is approved, development of the sister Android app will begin.

Bringing this startup’s big vision to life through a complex third-party integration with cutting-edge virtual reality technology was a welcome challenge for the Zeek team. From strategic consulting and user interface design to website and mobile app engineering, our close collaboration with Utopia VR made building their fully functional prototype a true partnership every step of the way.

From large-scale digital publishing and media sites to high-traffic eCommerce, membership, and online course sites, to complex integrations with smartphone apps, the team at Zeek Interactive has done it all. When combined with our experience in platform technologies such as WordPress, Drupal, and Laravel, we can help you discover, design, and engineer the right solution for your unique needs.