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What to Know Before Creating Your First VR App

With the virtual reality (VR) industry projecting over $100 Billion in valuation by 2021, it is becoming clear that innovative companies need to start developing for VR. Here at Cardinal Solutions, we already have one VR application in the iTunes Store and plenty more in development. Since there is a lot of information to digest, this will be the beginning of many posts on the VR space. Here are a few “Need-To-Know”’s for now, and then we will dive into each section separately.

Know the Difference Between VR, AR, and MR/HR

Currently in the VR world there are 3 types of realities you need to know. Here are the basic definitions and an example of each one: 

  1. VR (Virtual Reality) – using software and interactive hardware to generate realistic, or non-realistic, images, sound and other sensations to simulate a user’s presence in the virtual environment. 
  2. AR (Augmented Reality) – a live direct or indirect view of one’s world whose elements are augmented with computer-generated input. AR takes the current view of your world and adds digital information to it. 
  3. MR/HR (Mixed Reality / Hybrid Reality) - a mix of both VR and AR as it merges your current physical world with the digital or virtual one.

Define Your Market

It seems like a simple answer, but the answer “I want to reach everyone” won’t really apply here. There are certain deployment methods for what type of VR/AR/MR application you want to create and there are certain products you may need. You need to consider what platform you are going to deploy on: Mobile, Gaming Console, Mac/PC, Web, or Headset-specific. Each one will have its own advantages and disadvantages.

Do Research on HMD's

A HMD is a “head mounted display” and they are what bring your user into your VR world. There are different variations of a HMD and various price points. Some use external hardware such as a smartphone or a computer, while others are fully integrated and have no cords or external processing.

HMD Accessories

Generally, HMDs only provide a small amount of variation in input the user can provide. The main two are gazing and a single “touch” input. While this is good for some applications, you will generally be inclined to say, “I wish I could use my hands.” That is where some of these secondary input accessories come in. Single / Dual controllers, external sensor tracking, and full body controllers are a few examples. Some are HMD specific while others are cross-compatible. When you find an HMD you want to use, find out what controllers it supports.

Know what digital assets you are going to need

I wanted to break digital assets out on its own because they are something you need to think about as a separate piece to your application. Digital assets are referred to as the models, objects, photos, textures, and other items being used by the 3D engine to render your world or app. Because we are more than likely designing the application in 3D space, you are going to need 3D objects that the 3D engines can read and manipulate. At some point you will need things like a 360° camera, a 3D artist, or an asset collection online.

Know what development tools you will need

Now that you have an idea of what VR/AR/MR is and what hardware you may need, it is time to talk about the software and how you will develop your application. There are many tools out there, so you will need to find out which tool(s) will be best for you. The tools are generally defined by what you want to accomplish and which space you want to develop for, be it AR, VR, or the MR/HR space. As an example, here is what we chose in developing a VR application that had equirectangular photo’s:

Know the issues with VR/AR/MR

There are a few things you need to consider before you get all ramped up developing your application. Since we are sending users to a different world and messing with people’s senses, they have found people actually get motion sickness, hand eye coordination loss, eye strain, nausea and other symptoms. But it is not all so doom and gloom. We can fix or adjust a few things here or there to make the experience more pleasurable. Things like anti-aliasing, avoiding lag, avoiding awkward head positions, and using a frame of reference will help your user have a more pleasurable experience and avoid the issues.

Check all the examples out there

Finally, check everything that is out there in the world right now. There are many “showcase” applications that show great uses of VR/AR/MR and since the space has no “best-practices” yet, the world is completely open to creativity. There are a million use-cases for VR, from using it in a hospital setting to promote meditation and relaxation, to creating a new type of social network. The sky really is the limit for the space and now is the time to jump in!

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About The Author

App Dev Consultant

Matt is a mobile developer in Cardinal's Tampa office with experience in iOS and Android native development. He also has extensive experience in game development with Unity3D and is leading Cardinal's VR/AR application development. Matt will continue to develop the VR/AR space for Cardinal as the market grows.