Hardly any other application is so content-dependent as virtual reality. For its primary purpose, VR is supposed to create realistic immersive experiences making us forget that we are, in fact, in a virtual space.
Thus, the requirements of the content used in virtual reality are extremely high.
In addition to the graphics quality of the VR content, it must be created and implemented so that not to cause any physiological discomfort to the users – headache, double vision, or dizziness.
Therefore, building the content is one of the most time- and labor-intensive components of a virtual reality app development.
In this article, we will try to reverse-engineer the content used in VR applications to see how it should be built and which main components it should include.
First, let’s see what VR content consists of.
VR content components
There are several aspects that you may need to consider when creating your virtual reality application.
The virtual space is the main element of the entire VR experience. It is what the users see when they put on their VR headsets.
The virtual reality space may recreate a real environment or be totally fictitious – the main thing is that it should be three-dimensional, surrounding the user and responsive to the user’s actions.
In apps like virtual tours, the VR space will represent a real site, such as an apartment they wish to rent, a hotel they are going to stay in or a tourist attraction they are planning to visit.
In apps of other types, such as simulators or games, the VR space may fully consist of graphics and models created by 3D artists.
When virtual reality is described as creating an “immersive experience’, it means that the VR app is capable of making the user forget that the world around them exists only within their virtual reality headsets. The user feels to be a part of a virtual space, to be in the center of it.
The sense of immersion is achieved through the interaction with multiple senses – vision, hearing, spatial position, tactile sensations.
When all senses receive the perception of being within the virtual space, the user feels completely immersed in VR and disconnected from the real world.
As we said already, senses play a major role in creating fully immersive experiences in virtual reality. By stimulating the senses, VR apps transfer the user within the virtual space replacing the real world with the virtual one.
All virtual reality apps, from the simplest to the most sophisticated, definitely involve visual stimulation.
Even a basic virtual tour, while not including any sounds or tactile sensations, will have visual content in the form of the virtual space.
More advanced VR apps, such as games or virtual training, may also contain sounds and respond to the user’s movements and position in space.
Of course, the more senses you are going to involve in your virtual reality app, the more complex your soft- and hardware will be. Spatial and tactile stimulations, for example, require a set of sensors and special interactive gloves in addition to the VR headset.
The ability to interact with the virtual space enhances the sense of immersion. In this context, interactivity means the ability of the virtual space to respond to the user’s actions.
In virtual reality, interactivity can be of the two major types:
- Navigation, where the VR responds to the user’s movements. This category can be further subdivided into positional interactivity (left-right, up-down, forward-backward) and rotational interactivity (pan, tilt, roll).
- The key is to create the visual content so that it responds with no delays or blurs. Otherwise, it will destroy the immersion.
- Manipulation, where the user can manipulate the object in the virtual space. This is a more sophisticated type of virtual reality, as it involved 3D models of interactable objects.
How to choose the right components for your app?
The answer to this question is within your application. Not every VR app requires a fully interactive immersion.
For example, for a real estate app, a virtual space built with 3D videos or images and using simple navigation will be enough. The purpose of the app is to show the place.
However, if you are building a surgeon-training simulator or a VR game, you will definitely need manipulation and artificially created content.
Types of VR experiences
Now that we have clarified how virtual reality generates the immersive effect, it’s time to look at the major types of virtual reality experiences that the application can create.
Seated VR experience
This is the simplest type of VR experience where the user remains in the same position. In such apps, the user has a passive role; they can observe the virtual space with hardly any interaction.
A good use case for such applications is travel or education, where the virtual reality application will transport the user to a location recreated in the virtual space and provide its description.
Seated virtual reality apps typically do not require hi-end hardware – in most cases, a simple viewer, such as Google Cardboard, will be enough.
Magic Window VR experience
While we include this type in our classification of VR experiences, this is, strictly speaking, not a virtual reality case. Such applications require no VR headsets.
Magic windows combine the effects created by 3D videos, accelerometers, and gyroscopes of the user’s smartphone to generate a sensation of the surrounding space. However, no immersive experience is created, as the user is always aware of being “outside” the app.
Room scale VR experience
This is the most advanced type of virtual reality experience. It requires a hi-tech headset, such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, and a set of sensors making the virtual reality respond to the user’s movements.
Room scale VR apps can include all kinds of interactions, of both the navigation and manipulation types, and stimulate multiple senses.
VR games, training simulators, art applications allowing to do creative works in virtual reality – these are the typical use cases for such kind of VR experience.
Creating VR content
Let’s see how different types of VR content can be created and what it takes to create them.
3D videos are used to recreate a real location in virtual reality. It is easier than developing the graphics and putting it together.
To record a 3D video, you need a special spherical 360-degree camera. The market offers quite a diverse choice of 360-degree cameras in a rather wide price range.
However, to film a 360-degree video is not enough to obtain content usable in a VR app. You should “stitch” it properly, and this requires special software.
The most popular 3D video editing solution is VideoStitch Studio. This tool allows creating immersive videos with necessary synchronization, resolution, and calibration.
VideoStitch offers quite a lot of automatic editing functions together with the manual adjustment option for the finest tuning.
The VideoStitch Studio license will cost you $295.
For VR applications intended to transport the user into a completely make-believe world, you need to build this world yourself. Using the 3D animation technique, you can create fully immersive and interactive spaces where users can move and manipulate objects.
Building 3D spaces requires special software. Companies working in the virtual reality sector almost unanimously agree that the hall of the fame of 3D animation is occupied by Unity and Unreal Engine. Both platforms can be used to create powerful feature-rich 3D animations, models, and interiors, with Unreal Engine a bit better suited for VR game development. Both Unity and Unreal Engine are cross-platform toolkits allowing to build VR apps running on iOS, Android, and various desktop operating systems.
If you choose Unity, we recommend investing in the Pro version ($125 per month). Unreal Engine, in its turn, is free to use, however, charges 5% of the gross revenue from commercial products after you reach the first $3,000.
How to achieve the best user experience with VR content?
In creating visual content, especially when you expect it to stimulate multiple human senses at the same time, every small detail matters.
What should you take into account when building your VR content?
- High quality of the visual content. Try to achieve the best quality, sharpness, and resolution of your videos or images. This is especially essential if you are planning a highly-interactive application with movements and manipulations.
- Poorly recorded or improperly processed visual content may make the user feel dizzy or otherwise uncomfortable, and that would be the end of your VR app.
- Thus, pay attention to the quality and test the virtual reality app before releasing.
- Sound effects. The audio content may be as important as a video for the enhanced immersion it may create. Some background music or narrative in real estate VR apps, audio descriptions, and trivia in tourist VR apps, voiced instructions in training VR apps, and, of course, all sorts of sounds in virtual reality games – this way, you will involve the user’s hearing in addition to vision to create complete immersion.
- Consistent flow. Make your VR content unfold logically in front of your user’s eyes.
- In virtual tours, recreate the same path the user would walk in real life.
- In educational VR apps, include a complete demonstration or tutorial and, if you expect your users to practice what they learn, allow them to repeat the process from the beginning to the end.
- In virtual reality games, create a story. The time of just running around and shooting at anything that moves is long past. Now, if you do not want your users to get bored five minutes into the game, give them a story and make them live it.
Can your business benefit from VR?
In this article, we have mentioned quite a number of use cases where virtual reality can enhance the experience of an application. Transporting the user to space you have built gets you closer to them even if, in fact, you are half a world apart.
What other benefits can virtual reality give to businesses?
- For real estate and tourism, the cost-effectiveness of recreating houses and apartments in VR and allowing customers to visit them without actually traveling.
- In addition, by “walking” through the virtual house or hotel, the customer will subconsciously feel as if they belong there. This can improve your selling position, as your customers will be better inclined to discuss the sale.
- For training and education, the ability to provide a hands-on experience without the need for building expensive training sites and exposing trainees to danger. Flight simulators have been used for decades to train pilots and test aircraft, and VR can raise the flying sensation to the most realistic level.
- For ecommerce, the possibility of displaying an inventory of any size without renting large store spaces. Invite your customers to your online shop and allow them to see and examine your stock in VR – and your operating costs will decrease.
- For entertainment and games, the ability to place the user literally inside a movie or a game and make them active participants of your story. Such experiences, when implemented with the highest quality, are sure to make your users come back for more and invite others.
These are the most popular use cases of virtual reality, but who said that this list is exhaustive?
The VR concept may fit your business idea perfectly, and with professional implementation, your product will have all it takes to become a hit on the app market.
The advanced technologies are very flexible and adaptable, with unique and non-standard solutions appearing all the time.
Describe your idea to us, and we will find a way to showcase it in the best possible manner.