Building VR apps – What do you need to know?

Virtual reality is still in its relative early days, especially when it comes to VR app development.

However, the businesses that do choose to adopt the technology earlier have a huge opportunity to beat their competitors to the punch and position themselves at the head of the market when the technology does reach the mainstream tipping point.

Today, then, we’re going to take a look at some of the main factors you need to take into account when designing and building a VR-based app for your businesses.

First things first, why should you build a VR based app at all? Here are some of the main benefits to the technology.

It can make a very effective learning and development tool

VR has been used as an effective training tool for years in the most cutting-edge industries – pilots have used it for decades in some cases, for example.

However, as the technology becomes less expensive, more mainstream industries are now finding out the benefits of using VR in their education and training.

From training sales staff to deal with different scenarios to helping train freight or bus drivers, VR has a huge amount of training the potential

This is also invaluable for companies that have a lot of remote staff – which is, of course, becoming more and more common.

It can improve productivity

The main benefit is, of course, that it’s far cheaper and less resource intensive to carry out tasks remotely that would have been performed in person previously.

Whether it’s hosting meetings with clients on the other side of the world, or simply helping drivers train using simulations before they head out onto the road, the potential for saving money and time is huge.

The other thing it’s worth noting is that in the case of staff training, it can help massively reduce the risk of mistakes. Previously, for example, sales staff learning on the job would simply have to make mistakes as part of their training, and would lose the company money as a result. Now, staff training can take place through VR until the company feels their teams are ready for the real world.

The experience is, simply, more immersive

One of the main objections to VR from some people is simple – is it really necessary? After all, software such as Skype offers easy remote communication, and there are plenty of normal software training programs.

However, anyone who has experienced VR will be able to tell you that the experience is hugely different through VR. There’s a reason that the world’s biggest companies – from Google to Microsoft to Facebook are pushing so hard to bring the technology to the mainstream. It’s because they recognize how huge the opportunity is.

So what are some of the key things that you need to bear in mind when working in VR design? It’s fair to say that it’s a totally unique field with a steep learning curve, but here are some of the things you need to bear in mind:

Start getting used to ‘first person’ design

This is perhaps the biggest jump you’ll need to get used to. Pretty much any other kind of design, from television to tablets to paperback books, are designed in the ‘third’ person.

Virtual reality and augmented reality as pretty much the only true ‘first-person’ media formats in the world, and it’s important to approach them from this point of view.

How can you do that? Simple: there’s no substitute for simply immersing yourself in VR technology yourself. Grab a headset – Google’s cardboard is relatively cheap – and use it as much as possible.

Learn what you find easy about using it, and what annoys you – which features you find help and which seem to get in the way.

There’s no point pretending otherwise – VR is totally unique. So there’s no substitute for getting as much experience with it as you can before you start building.

Learn to be picky

Despite the VR world still being in its early days, new technology and hardware is popping up all the time.

As a result, it can be tough trying to choose which technologies and companies you should choose to develop for.

Put simply, we’d recommend using mainly the more pre-eminent tech from the big companies – Google, Facebook, Microsoft and so on.

Put simply, the VR market simply isn’t old enough yet for smaller companies to have earned much of a trust-worthy reputation. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t good companies out there, of course – simply that it’s worth minimizing risk in the early days by going with the more mainstream, established names.

Be realistic in your design time frame

If you’re learning a totally new field from scratch – which is essentially what all companies venturing into VR development for the first time are doing – it pays to be careful in setting expectations.

Though tight timelines are pretty universal in the world of development, the sheer complexity of VR and AR projects – compared to more traditional ones – means that going too fast is likely to lead one way: to a poor final product and a below-par user experience.

In the early days, make sure to take the time to build the best possible app you can. Over time, you’ll learn to move faster, but it’s worth taking the time to learn the ins and outs of the VR market properly during your first few projects.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that you’ll need to take all of these factors into consideration when planning your timeframe and budgets:

  • Content. How much content will you need to plan and create, and which kind will it be? Most VR experiences will use video and imagery in some sense, but you’ll also need to take into account quality and – of course – how much of it you’ll need to complete your project. This is a topic in of itself, and we’ll explore it in more depth in a future blog post.
  • Headsets. There are a number of factors to take into account here. Which headsets are you planning to create for? Are you looking to make a lighter app ideal for mobiles and smaller headsets? Or are you going for a more immersive, in-depth experience for PC users? Again, this can make a huge difference to your project, so you’ll need to plan carefully.
  • Software. With all the focus on the hardware and the content, it can be easy to forget just how important it is to have the right software application in place. Unfortunately, if you’re planning to run an app across multiple platforms – such as Oculus or the HTC Vive – you will likely have to create one app for each platform, which can be a time-consuming process.
  • Distribution and marketing. Whatever app you’re designing, you’ll need to develop an in-depth marketing and distribution plan. Fortunately, you’ll be able to publish most apps as normal in the relevant app stores. We’ve covered in-depth app marketing strategy in a previous post, so be sure to check it out.

Get in touch today
If you’d like to find out more about how you can use VR technology to improve your businesses app, get in touch with Iconic Solutions today – we’d love to help you.