Envision being able to fly across the world and see the Great Wall of China without leaving the comfort of your own home, or even fight off a horde of zombies from your living room – this is the magic of virtual reality. Consumers are investing more and more into this market. The consumer-based spending in 2018 on virtual reality content and apps is forecasted at 1.3 billion US dollars and is expected to reach 2.8 billion by 2021.
If you are just joining to us now be sure to read up on the previous chapters in our handbook on app development for the non-tech savvy including connected objects, hybrid and native apps and an introduction to app development terminology.
This chapter we will dive into defining virtual reality, identifying its different elements, the pros and cons to using the technology, understanding content viewing hardware and its components, knowing what to do during the development process of a VR project, how different industries are using virtual reality to their advantage and the most popular VR apps making waves on the market.
Virtual Reality is a computer-simulated reality or an immersive multimedia experience using pre-filmed content and 3-dimensional images in a virtual environment. Virtual reality, or VR, is the creation of an imaginary reality. It simulates a different environment using a headset, making users feel like they are truly living in that reality with sounds and visual effects.
Virtual reality can simulate anything from an everyday experience like walking down the streets of New York and riding a roller coaster or it can be something completely unrealistic like floating in space or walking on a different planet. The goal is to convince a user’s brain that they are somewhere else, forgetting their actual reality.
It is important to note that virtual reality should not be confused with augmented reality and mixed reality. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how businesses are using augmented reality technology where we provided a definition on AR, which is used in apps for mobile devices to add digital aspects to reality, essentially enhancing the real world and adding to what already exists. For instance, using a Snapchat filter that adds dog ears to your selfie.
And finally, mixed reality is a combination of augmented reality and virtual reality where physical and digital objects exist and interact in real time, ranging from natural to virtual environments.
You may not know this little fact, but virtual reality does not always include wearing head-mounted displays (HMDs). There are actually 3 levels of immersion: non, semi and full immersion. Each of these levels has different interactivity and engagement components. Here we have detailed each category:
Non-immersive: This is the least interactive version of virtual reality which usually includes looking at high-resolution monitors. Only part of the user’s senses is stimulated. This level of immersion is like experiencing virtual reality from the outside, excluding the use of HMDs, where the user is still aware of their surroundings while being somewhat immersed in a virtual world.
Semi-immersive: This is the partial immersion in a virtual environment. An example of this type would be like in a flight simulator recreating the feeling of takeoff and landing in a controlled environment. There is also no HMD needed at this level of VR. The user is surrounded by large screens projecting 3-dimensional images and are still aware of the real world outside of virtual reality.
Fully-immersive: This level of immersion is where head-mounted displays (HMD) come into play. HMD equipment can then be accompanied by headphones and hand controllers for a fully immersive experience along with motion detecting devices to stimulate all the senses.
We just mentioned the use of HMDs or head-mounted displays, so what are they exactly? These are made up of sensors, lenses and display screens. It’s a device with a display that goes in front of a user’s eyes covering their whole field of view showing virtual content. This device is also combined with a headset for audio immersion. Other instruments like treadmills, motion platforms and joysticks are used to help trick a user’s brain into thinking the virtual environment is as real as possible. Below we mention the different components that make-up head-mounted displays detailing how they function.
Like with all electronics and devices, they each have their upsides and downsides. Yes, virtual reality is a fascinating and entertaining form of technology, however, it is important to look on both sides of the spectrum and examine the pros and cons.
* These advantages are just a small glimpse into the upsides of virtual reality. Later on, in the post, we will talk more about how different industries are benefiting from the technology.
Mobile app development is shaping and driving the virtual reality market. It is at the root of its success. More businesses are jumping on board to create a virtual reality project to stay ahead of their competition and mobile development companies have to keep up with the tech trends to remain relevant. If you are thinking of starting a VR project, below we have highlighted a general list of steps to get the process going.
As we mentioned above, businesses are using virtual reality to stay ahead of their competition and remain up to speed on the technological trends. The virtual reality market has had a big impact on a variety of industries like the healthcare and retail sectors. Below we mention a few industries benefiting from the technology.
Automotive/Manufacturing: Engineers and designers can see how a car would look and function internally before building it. Ford, Volvo and Hyundai are adopting VR for the building process and with this technology, customers can test drive and try different features.
Healthcare: Healthcare professionals can practice on virtual human bodies before working on the real deal. This option is ideal for students who are learning and for professionals preparing for high-risk surgeries. Robotic surgery can also be performed using VR and surgeries from around the world can be viewed using the Medical Realities App. Virtual reality is also being used to help traumatized veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. In some hospitals in the U.S., VR is used to expose veterans to stressful situations they experienced in the field all the while being in the safe environment of the hospital to help deal with PTSD.
Tourism: As mentioned earlier on in the post, you can experience a destination before going there, looking at different landmarks and sceneries using virtual reality. The hospitality sector, including chains such as the Best Western, has also been taking advantage of this by letting customers view and experience hotels before committing to staying.
Architecture: Architects can manipulate different aspects of a building like the lighting and layout. Clients can then view how their new home might look once it’s done.
Education: Virtual reality can provide immersive training experiences. This includes experiencing real-life situations rather than learning through textbooks or lectures. It enhances the education experience making it more enjoyable and interactive. For instance, schools in Canada are implementing VR technology to help kids with mathematics and drawing shapes and structures. Check out the video below.
Marketing/Retail: Virtual reality in marketing and retail is all about letting customers test products before buying them. For instance, the company Arctic Cat (ATV and snowmobile seller) uses VR to take customers on virtual test drives. Customers can try before they buy and see what it’s like from the driver’s seat. Using VR gives customers a first-hand virtual experience with the product they might purchase.
Now that you have read in detail about virtual reality, let’s take a look at some fun apps you can test out for yourself! According to Digital Trends, these are the best virtual reality apps of 2018. We decided to list the top 5 for you to check out.
Based on the short story “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen, according to Penrose Studios: “Allumette is intimate on an emotional scale – focusing on the love between a mother and her child as well as the sacrifices that people are willing to make for the greater good. Simultaneously, we tried to push the boundaries in terms of scope and scale.To tell the story of Allumette, Penrose crafted an entirely new and fantastical VR world, with a city loosely inspired by Venice floating in the sky. Clouds lap the buildings like waves in the winding canals and rios of Allumette’s world. We see ourselves not only as storytellers but also as VR world builders.”
According to the technology company Oculus: “’COLOSSE’ is a real-time virtual reality storytelling experience, with a stylized, character-focused visual language. An experience that explores viewer directed storytelling in a unique setting. The story of the long lost Great Spirits known as the COLOSSE explores themes of fear, power and respect.”
The Google Earth virtual reality experience allows users to fly over any part of the world they wish to see. They could fly over Tokyo or Venice, looking at the landscapes and landmarks.
A realistic graffiti simulator where users can create street art wherever they please along with realistic spray, colour and drip effects. Some locations include train yards, rooftops and abandoned subway stations.
This virtual reality experience can be compared to an underwater safari experience. According to Oculus Rift, “Explore a vivid underwater world full of life including dolphins, sharks, turtles, orcas, sea snakes, rays, whales, manatees, sea lions and even dinosaurs! Ocean Rift is divided into 12 unique habitats ranging from coral reefs, shipwrecks and lagoons, to the Arctic, the deep and prehistoric seas. Discover and touch 45+ information points throughout Ocean Rift to learn more about the animals.”
Virtual reality is certainly an interesting form of technology. Being able to go on deep sea expeditions looking at marine wildlife and traveling the world by simply wearing a headset is an impressive advancement. We are going to continue discussing ingenious technological improvements in the last couple chapters. Next, we are going to be looking at artificial intelligence and the final chapter will be about augmented reality. Check it out soon!
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