A Guide to Virtual Reality – from a VR Developer
Virtual Reality (VR) is a very trendy term – you’ve probably been hearing it a lot and not sure how it could even have anything to do with industries outside the IT realm. However, VR is quite the gold mine of innovative opportunities! Whether something needs to be advertised, demonstrated, or even taught, VR can replace a regular experience and even enhance it, according to the user’s needs. As one of the top 10 industry leaders according to Clutch, we at WeAR Studio can lead you through every step of your VR journey – from the briefing to full execution of your custom product. VR can be applied to our currentday widespread consumerism as well as hidden, inner business processes. This industry is still new, so let us explain all the important bits to you.
So, what exactly is VR? It is one of the three main categories within the sphere of Extended Reality (XR), along with Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR). VR entails complete immersion into a different, computer-generated 3D world, allowing you to experience pretty much anything – the limits being a developer’s imagination and capabilities. Specific hardware and software is needed in order to actualize VR ideas. AR is about adding 3D/2D imagery on top of our existing physical world, most commonly seen through smartphone applications and Web using devices with a camera function. MR blends physical and virtual objects into one – directly into a user’s field of view. Although the latter two are newer than VR, both AR and MR are becoming more commonplace – you can read our guides to AR and MR on our blog as well. All three can be applied as a solution to pretty much anything, depending on the target audience and application of the XR tool.
Virtual Reality, unlike traditionally common audio/visual experiences via screen or music, you can both interact with what you see on the immersive display and have the virtual environment respond to your actions – it’s a two-way street. Your hands, voice, walking, and even eye movement can be tracked and utilized for the happenings of the virtual world. Motion can be tracked with both built-in sensors to give the user that hyperrealistic participation in a virtual space. Virtual Reality headsets typically include small, but high-definition screens – one for each of the eyes, simulation real world visual experience. The most important factors for a realistic virtual experience are image resolution, refresh rate, field of view, motion delay, and video/audio synchronization. Special handheld tracking gear can be commonly found in the form of joysticks or gloves, however the industry is constantly evolving with the development of motion sensors for many body parts seperately, even full-on tracking suits and machines. Here’s why all these trackers are important:
- Eye Tracking – done via infrared controller sensors to provide users with a more in-depth, realistic experience.
- Head Tracking – the headset being the vantage point for tracking, the user’s directional and turning movement is accounted for with the X, Y, and Z axes. It is critical to have no delay between movement and the visual experience inside a headset.
- Motion Tracking – one of the most rigorous challenges for VR consoles today, it is difficult to make movement identical to that of the real world… For now. There are two types of motion tracking systems (a combination of both is most commonly used):
- Optical Tracking – a camera is built into the Head-Mounted Device (or also referred to as HMD) to track motion visually.
- Non-optical Tracking – various sensors are attached to controllers, gloves, suits, and other wearable devices.
How do I enter this Virtual Reality? There are various devices that have been developed over the years as well as new ones in the works, as the demand for this type of technology skyrockets in the coming decade. In 2014, the first VR headset – the Oculus Rift, as we know them today, was created by Palmer Luckey in his garage and was later acquired by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. By 2016, the first headsets became available for purchase to the wide public, and more companies have been coming up with their own iterations of the head-mounted VR experience. The most known brands of hardware include the Oculus series, HTC Vive, Playstation VR, Varjo, and others (not to be confused with Mixed Reality glasses like Microsoft HoloLens series and Magic Leap). Each of these have a range of products with various implications for the Virtual Reality that they can immerse you into. For example, a key difference exists between models as to whether it utilizes a Personal Computer/Console or whether it can work as a standalone device. There’s pros and cons to both.
Standalone VR vs. PC VR – what sets them apart? First of all, the user’s real-world mobility is affected depending on which you use. Standalone VR has no strings attached, literally: you are free to explore and move around, confined only by the physical room you are in. PC VR requires cord attachment between the PC and the head mounted device. Sure, you can’t walk too far with that… But the plus is the large processing capacity, a better display, as well as no worries about running out of battery power! Standalone VR devices have to compromise by cutting down on some specs in order to make users more mobile (free movement within any location) while keeping the weight of the VR headset light enough for comfortable wear, making the transition from the physical reality to the virtual one more seamless. PC VR may feel more bulky and constrictive at a glance, but it can provide a more detailed and lasting experience, immersing the user with little to no time restrictions. It is advised to do research on what type of VR a company wants to produce and the limitations of the differing types of supported head mounted devices. In the near future, there are hopes to go completely cordless with HMDs, while still retaining the quality and power that comes with a PC VR.
An in-between solution, also with its own quirks, is handheld VR, which has been the most accessible type of VR to date. All you need is your smartphone and a headset to place it in, like Google Cardboard, GearVR, or one you make yourself. Unfortunately, this kind of technology is completely reliant on the specs of a user’s smartphone – its size, screen resolution, software updates, processing capacity, etc. The newer the user’s smartphone, the better the VR experience would most likely be. Still, it is very useful in getting out a VR product that can be easily available to the public. This type of VR may not be as immersive or have a high quality standard due to the amount of devices that it needs to run on smoothly, unlike the HMD counterparts made for more specific use. Handheld VR still proves to be useful in demonstrating 360º image and video materials, which can serve as an amazing tool for marketing, guides, learning, tourism, etc.
Other than that, some organizations build entire virtual reality rooms and setups in order to fulfill particular kinds of immersive needs. If you have ever been to an arcade, you must have definitely seen games that simulate driving any type of vehicle, shooter games, roller coaster simulators etc., but without the use of a head mounted device (also referred to as HMD), but rather TV-size displays. Those too, are a more old-school type of VR that gave way to present day, professionally used virtual reality programs for training purposes.
VR can be categorized into three types in accordance with the level of immersion it provides: fully immersive, semi-immersive, and non-immersive:
- Fully-immersive VR: a user’s visual and sensory experience is fully that of a given virtual reality simulation. The point is to trick all of your senses to make you think you are actually present in the virtual world, basically playing a trick on your brain. For example, Mountain Biking VR, Skydiving VR that use special builds in order to simulate natural phenomena like wind, feeling of free falling, etc.
- Semi-immersive VR: the user experience is not fully submerged into the world of VR, but still provides a believable simulated experience without fully disconnecting from the physical world. For example, flight simulators for training pilots at Boeing.
- Non immersive VR: the user is only slightly being immersed into the virtual realm. For example, 360º video or images that allow one to witness a location from all angles, but with flat imagery (rather than volumetrically scanning the surroundings or having to use 3D objects).
What uses does VR have? The first thing that would come to mind is probably the gaming industry, and entertainment in general. However, with some imagination, there is a possibility to implement VR into any area of work. A lot of organizations apply VR into their education and training programs. A neat solution to recreate the feelings and tasks within a dangerous environment can prepare professionals for the real deal with a confidence boost as well as drastically minimize safety risks. Try-before-you-buy functions have also been implemented into many B2C companies, which you can read more about here, in our blog post. Amid the COVID19 pandemic, the demand for VR solutions for tasks usually done in the physical world have only been increasing.
The following are some examples from various industries:
- Healthcare – according to Fortune Business Insights, use of VR has grown in the areas of preparation for surgical procedures and operations that cannot be simulated otherwise, as well as in patient education and rehabilitation. For example, a surgical VR simulator called Medical Realities. A controlled and safe virtual environment can help treat mental illnesses, such as PTSD for war veterans, among other things.
- Education – it is very useful for visualizing data, research, and provide imagery usual textbooks or video cannot. VR is also perfect for learning skills required in certain situations without having to move your location or need a specific person. For example, using VirtualSpeech to learn soft skills in the worklplace. Virtual reality would greatly benefit classrooms with its versatility of content that can be taught using it. Schools have different programs and not very sufficient budgets, so the idea of VR (and Extended Reality in general) in public education would probably have to wait a few more years.
- Training – VR can help professionals qualify for certain jobs with no hazards. Military training costs are cut significantly thanks to new VR training opportunities – less costs for equipment and ammunition. Such as HTX Labs for the Air Force. We even have a video where we talk about the effectiveness of VR applications in training programs. You can also check out WeAR Studio’s recent VR project in collaboration with UNICEF to prevent families from getting injured from explosives in the Eastern Ukraine Donbas area, near the line of conflict.
- Building/Architecture – a user can inspect and explore the inside of a building or any type of location without having to build a physical model, diminishing waste production and material exhaustion. Virtually explorable models allow for sharing across the board of architects, engineers, and other decision-makers without the For example, Matterport.
- Retail – immerse clients and/or partners into an experience that showcases products in an innovative way. Products can be viewed in real time, as if they are actually right before the customer’s eyes, before seeing them in real life. For example, Amazon Prime Day VR. You can also take a look at our Virtual Reality as a game-changer for in-store experience video.
- Entertainment – experience games previously only available in real-settings, such as VR Poker. Also, never before seen types of games like VRChat create new avenues of communication and gaming interaction for individuals on the internet.
Are there any negative effects of VR? Just like with any new medium, VR has received criticisms as to neglect of our real-world responsibilities and issues. Such a critique had been applied to television, gaming, the Internet, etc., but is a long shot from how the technology is usually used. Additionally, the threat of us abandoning reality through VR is too far fetched. About 0.025% of VR headset users have reported experiencing motion sickness or seizures after using it, due to not being used to the immersiveness of the device. Such a low percentage indicates that VR is absolutely safe and any health threats are of extremely low occurrence for those with no preexisting conditions. VR is not something that could become an everyday use household product just yet, but is seen as more of a solution for education, communications, marketing, training, and other, more niche uses. In 2019, Google discarded its Daydream VR project referring to a shortage of wide purchaser interest in VR due to the unaffordability of the head mounted devices. The absence of tech industry giants like Apple Inc. in the VR market also defers widespreadability. Thus, while VR may not be as widespread as a form of entertainment, it certainly is gaining momentum as an innovative tool.
The future of Virtual Reality? 2018 IDC projections estimated around a 15.5 billion Euros worth of investments in AR and VR technologies by 2022. The pandemic has furthered these numbers: spendings on Extended Reality could reach up to $136.9 billion by 2024. This growth is not surprising considering the rise of eCommerce and emerging technologies such as 5G connectivity and Artificial Intelligence, which are also to be integrated into VR and AR in the future. Extended Reality is now seen as “necessary tools to engage with consumers” due to the fall of in-store and face-to-face sales for the sake of safety concerns and social distancing conformity. Especially for a consumer-reliant industry like retail, using new techniques to entice customers is crucial so as to not fall behind. According to Business Insider, consumer revenue of XR technology has grown from 5 billion USD in 2016 to almost 8 billion USD in 2021. VR is also becoming increasingly popular among gamers, with around 2.8 million standalone headsets bought worldwide in 2019, and 3.3 million sold in 2020. Slowly but surely, Virtual Reality might still have a bigger future as the general demand for VR grows exponentially.
If you are interested in learning more about VR and other XR technologies, explore WeAR Studio’s case stories. If that isn’t enough and you would like to learn how to use VR and – take a look at our Virtual Reality Development Guide: 10 tips for those who want to build apps now. Also, feel free to reach to us with any questions about XR technology. We can help you implement XR solutions into your line of work, just email us at email@example.com or send a message through our website’s system!