The world of virtual reality is fascinating and exciting. It gives new sensations and opportunities for perception, providing users with an absolutely unique experience. According to research, VR development has significant potential. By 2023, the global market value of virtual reality is expected to reach $ 49.7 billion. Therefore, if you are thinking of creating a VR application, now is a good time to start. In this article, we will talk about the basics you should know about developing a VR app.
What is VR
Virtual reality (VR) is a modern technology that artificially simulates space. With its help, you can recreate real objects or another fantasy world. VR technology affects the visual and audio channels of the user’s perception, causing the effect of realistic immersion in the environment created by the computer.
Computer applications, such as video games or movie viewing apps, allow us to fully immerse ourselves in a virtual environment. With a smartphone, VR becomes affordable for wherever we go. Contrary to the erroneous opinion that virtual reality can only be used for games and entertainment, it’s used in such areas as design, engineering, business, art, and even scientific development and research.
Virtual reality for smartphones
Virtual reality applications for iPhone and Android devices have marked the development of a VR headset for widespread use. So the mobile virtual reality for tablets and smartphones has expanded the boundaries of the market. VR for smartphones has great potential and has a competitive advantage since the user doesn’t need to stay near the computer.
Mobile VR is now at the initial stage of development. Some virtual reality platforms, such as Google Daydream, require launching in a separate application ecosystem, which isn’t convenient for most users. In addition, virtual telephony still has a number of shortcomings that need to be fixed to give such an intense dive as VR on a PC.
Virtual Reality for PC
Virtual reality for personal computers and game consoles is much more developed than mobile VR. Most VR applications are designed for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR are some of the most popular devices available today to work with the new technology. They are capable of giving you a cinematic and immersive gaming experience. As VR is becoming increasingly popular, developers are adapting their projects to it in order to attract more users.
Benefits for business
Before starting to create VR content for any platform, it would be nice to clarify what can be achieved using such applications. Virtual reality gives business the following benefits:
- Customer attraction and loyalty. VR technology remains a new tool for many. Companies can use it to communicate with customers, creating a unique experience.
- Demonstration of products and services. VR allows you to create a quick wow effect: present a product and service that is difficult to demonstrate in reality, show the amount of space, the layout of an object that has not yet been built.
- Customer and staff training. VR in training allows you to increase the efficiency of material delivery — you can put a person in situations that are difficult or expensive to simulate in reality. In VR, customers can test the product before purchasing.
Stages of VR apps developing
Creating high-quality virtual reality is a long and hard work of the whole team. You need to think about everything: from the choice of technology to the selection of the right employees. Like any project, the development of VR applications is divided into several main stages.
Set clear goals
This is an obvious, but very important step, from which any work begins. You already have an idea, but you need to bring it to mind and think out a plan of action. You need to determine the goals that you want to achieve using the application: sell products, attract an audience, entertain the user, etc. Also, understand what problems your app will solve. Explore the market and competitors in detail. Pay attention to the implementation of certain functions and design.
Decide on platforms and equipment
Time is determined with the development vector. To choose a platform and equipment to implement your idea, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I interested in the development of desktop devices like HTC Vive, or am I more attracted to mobile devices like Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard?
- If the development is carried out for mobile devices, will it support Android, iOS, or both platforms?
- Will the application be standalone or hosted by Oculus or other virtual reality providers?
If you have not decided yet, then read the reviews and think about what is best to choose for your market. If your ideas require motion controllers or high-quality graphics, then focus on VR glasses connected to the computer.
As for the technical part of application development, you can go in two ways: you can create the application on your own, if you have the necessary skills and resources, or transfer the work to a team of professional developers. During the search, pay attention to the portfolio and look for those who have already successfully implemented similar projects. Well-established communication is equally important because you will work on one project and you will need to “speak the same language.”
Most VR developers prefer to use game engines to create full 3D space. The most popular engines are Unreal Engine 4 and Unity. Both have very broad capabilities and are reliable tools for your VR app. Around both, active communities have developed with the support and numerous information resources. Both engines allow you to control the 3D environment and import your own content (3D models, images, sound, video). If you have chosen the path of creating the application yourself, there are a lot of tutorial videos on YouTube, and on the web, there are tutorials created by both the authors and the fans of the engines.
After you decide on the engine, it’s worth learning the programming language that your tool uses: C ++ and Blueprints Visual Scripting for Unreal Engine and C # for Unity. If you are developing VR for Android, then download Android Studio and try deploying a training application. For Google Cardboard and Unity, refer to the Google SDK.
Design in VR
The design for VR is different from regular apps design. The mobile application is created taking into account the fact that the user holds the device in his hands. It is also limited by the scope of the screen. When working on virtual reality, you should consider designing a 360º space based on user experience.
There are many materials about the principles of building UI and UX in virtual reality that are worth exploring. Detailed tips for VR design are provided by the most popular companies: Google Cardboard Design Lab, introduction to VR UI from Unity engine, video from HTC Vive.
Testing is an integral part of every project. This step allows you to identify bugs and improve the application before users try it. How easy and fun to use your product? Do the whole processes work right? Are the visual components really good? If at some point the application turns out to be too complicated or simply boring, then you are doing something wrong.
Your application is ready to release. However, the work doesn’t end there — now the stage of collecting feedback and continuous improvements begins. A successful app cannot remain the same as on the release day. Start collecting user reviews and use their feedback for future updates. No matter how detailed the testing is, your audience is the best critic. Conduct a study to understand which features are used and which are not, which content is more popular, how the organization of content affects key performance indicators.
At the same time, don’t forget about marketing and use all the promotion channels to attract new users. Be sure to post information in newsletters, blogs, social networks, tell users in detail about the application on your site.
Developing a VR application is a long multi-step process that requires special skills and a whole team of professionals. Also, such a project needs large financial investments, because it is based on powerful technical resources. But creating virtual reality is also an exciting journey and a completely new experience both for the developer and for future users. The technology is relatively young but extremely popular, and you can invest in its development by creating your own application or game. With detailed preparation, a study of all processes, and well-organized work, your application has every chance of success.