Getting started with VR? Key things to consider…

Virtual Reality (VR) has been a long time coming. While some dismiss it as a superficial buzzword of the day, the tech behemoths are investing billions into the development and commercialization of new VR technologies. Though the VR revolution won’t happen overnight, it is projected to reach $25 billion by 2021. The world of VR is evolving rapidly in the form of hardware accessibility, performance breakthroughs, design advancements, etc. As such, a wealth of related opportunities lie ahead, both in the possibilities of creating completely new, innovative digital experiences as well as for business to capture early competitive advantages.

For those interested in getting involved in pioneering the next generation of VR, here are a few considerations to start with:

 

UX & UI Design

Immersive 3D experiences are a far cry from the days of clicking or scrolling through buttons on a screen. VR engages all of our senses. In turn, designing for the VR medium calls for exploring novel new interactions while also adhering to the conventional design concepts that cleanly align with user intuition. For instance, menu navigation schemes in VR will likely inherit those established hierarchical principles from 2D interfaces, yet also introduce entirely new interaction concepts such as positional audio to draw the user’s attention in a certain direction (e.g., hearing a plane overhead). With new fundamental capabilities such as multidimensional space, movement, sound, and touch, VR is driving the evolution of UX and human-computer interaction!

Content

One of the trickier components to building VR apps remains content creation. Content type will depend upon the experience you envision for your virtual world, which could take the form of 360º videos, 360º photos, modeled 3D environments, highly interactive games, etc. A clear vision of the content is imperative as it will largely dictate the software development costs, timelines, and skills needed to execute on the project. As this is firmed up, one can proceed to determining which platforms to target and who is best suited and capable of creating the content (you, the developer, a 3rd-party content creation agency).

Platforms

One must also determine which headset(s) to support? Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, Playstation VR, Google Cardboard and Daydream…? This requires reflection around two key points: 1) who is your target audience? 2) which platforms support the feature capabilities you need? Hardware ranges from the high-end headsets tethered to a powerful PC (i.e., Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) to cheaper ones that merely clip a smartphone within the front cover (i.e., Gear VR, Cardboard, Daydream). As there are significant differences in the time and cost to developing for each platform, it is essential to define this early on in the project. Additionally, it is always wise to cross-reference your intended platforms against adoption trends in the broader market:

 

Top 5 Worldwide AR and VR Headset Companies, Shipments and Market Share, Q1 2017 (shipments in thousands)

Company
1Q17 Shipments
1Q17 Market Share
1. Samsung
489.5
21.5%
2. Sony
429.0
18.8%
3. HTC
190.9
8.4%
4. Facebook
99.3
4.4%
5. TCL
91.3
4.0%
Others
980.0
43.0%
Total
2280.0
100.0%

Development

When it comes to the actual building of apps, there are a variety of options. There are common frameworks such as Unity and A-Frame, then there are the SDKs provided by each of the major VR platforms for their respective hardware. As building against the raw SDKs can be arduous and inherently limited in their support for only a single platform, Unity and A-Frame offer more developer friendly avenues. For those lacking technical prowess (or interest), one must weigh hiring technical talent or partnering with external development teams that possess the requisite experience and expertise.

Take a look at how VR Dimensions 360 is helping creators bridge the last mile by transforming their content into amazing VR experiences.