We recently launched a free VR course that summarizes our key learnings from 1000 hours of user testing, and from partnering with our clients who have been early adopters. They’ve been through the friction of adopting VR in their businesses, and learning from them can help you get there faster.
Our free VR course only requires you to invest about 10 minutes a day for 5 days - and you’ll get access to a bunch of great resources, too. But, if you don’t quite have enough time….or if you’re summarizing the state of VR for your colleagues later today....here are the most important things you need to know about VR this year:
1. Stop Waiting for things to Settle. VR is here
You may have Played with VR in the 90’s, and it may have disappointed you. That’s because clearly, VR requires head tracking so the virtual images track where the user is looking and while simple in concept that technology is quite complex. But we’re there now. The advent of inexpensive gyroscopes, displays, and graphics processing in mobile phones have brought the costs down and the quality up, making it practical at scale. And the industry has responded huge investments by Facebook, Google, and Apple through 2016-2017 indicate VR is here to stay. Add to that the exponential growth in the availability of inexpensive VR headsets and the ability to run VR from any smartphone and you have a storytelling medium that has arrived.
2. There are Established, Winning Content Patterns
Each new medium is challenged by content creation - and we typically try using old patterns in new media. When TV was first introduced, the early shows were just pointing a camera at people doing a radio show. BlackBerry was sure you needed a tactile keyboard to type emails on a smartphone. We have learned over the last few years that winning use cases for VR content typically fall into one of three categories and we'll share examples in our free VR course:
Something that doesn’t exist yet
Something that exists but is a long distance away
Something that is too large, impractical or expensive to model
3. Movement - Mobile vs. Tethered
When we talk about Yulio being mobile and fast VR, we often get asked about movement, and it seems to be on everyone’s mind. So, to clarify, Tethered VR, like Vive and Oculus allow you to walk around in VR, in what we call 6 degrees of freedom. Mobile VR, like Yulio, tracks only head movement, so you can look around in 3 degrees of freedom, but not walk. Yulio uses navigation hotspots to change the scene and allow the illusion of movement. Tethered and mobile each have their pros and cons, but considerations on what to choose are mostly around the trade-off of immersion for the viewer and flexibility of viewing. Tethered VR is definitely the most immersive - It takes a dedicated space of about 3m square, and some hefty computing power to make it run. And, it usually takes what we call a cable monkey - someone monitoring the user and making sure they don’t trip or get tangled. Obviously, this is the least flexible format - you have to have someone come into your office, or (but it might be great at a tradeshow booth), and you can’t share the experience remotely It also has the most barriers when it comes to being motion sick - we’ve certainly seen a lot of installs of this where there really is a ‘sick bucket’ off to the side. Additionally, we’ve heard reports from clients of ours who tried tethered VR that in spite of the increased level of immersion, their end clients aren’t engaged enough in the experience to come in repeatedly. The tradeoff hasn’t been worth it. By contrast, mobile VR can be operated on any smartphone so you can send some goggles to a client for them to experience VR anywhere - especially valuable if you work with clients at a distance. And since there are no cables or headstraps, mobile is fast VR - something you can pop in and out of while discussing design in a social experience - it’s less isolating and easier to use as the discussion calls for since you don’t have to get into a rig each time you want to check something.
Finally, don’t forget that goggles aren’t ubiquitous. Look for a solution where you can share VR work on social media or your website, and not assume everyone has a headset - for Yulio we call this ‘fishtank’ viewing - a browser experience you can use to get some interaction with the design. It’s obviously not a true VR experience, but it rounds out the viewing options and is great for very motion sensitive people.
We can also give you a very quick primer on budget. If you’re talking about Tethered VR, Oculus Rift is around $500-$700 depending on some tracking options and you’ll need a computer of about $1000 to run it. Mobile VR headsets range from $10 for a decent quality cardboard or plastic viewer to about $100 for an experience like the Samsung Gear VR, or the Noon. But of course there’s also the need for a smartphone to display the images - and some hardware only works with certain phones, especially as new headsets enter the market. For example, At its launch, the Google DayDream only worked with 3 or 4 phones. While it will increase the cost significantly, consider dedicated phones to avoid interruption in viewing - if the presenter uses their personal phone, there is the possibility that incoming calls or text alerts will interrupt the viewer. You can certainly save some money by having a pool of devices, but if you can afford it, I recommend you give each salesperson or presenter a headset and phone That will stop disrupted viewing experiences but possibly, more importantly, it stops the potential for sharing the wrong file with a client and protects you from any issues around non-disclosure agreements. It’s absolutely possible to run VR without these things, but you will want to think through procedures to minimize any issues if you go the shared route.
5. Implement for Success
The most successful VR implementations are the ones that choose software and hardware for the jobs they need to get done - not for the highest fidelity visuals, most immersive experiences etc. Consider how you want to use VR inside your organization, and with your clients. Do you want team members to collaborate on low fidelity versions of your design? Do you want to bring clients into the office, or to present remotely? Or do you want to share finished designs on your website or portfolio to generate leads? Thinking through your workflow from how you create designs, collaborate, present and build your portfolio will guide you in making important decisions like choosing mobile or tethered solutions, which authoring is supported and which qualities you will prioritize - like the ease of jumping in and out of VR versus more immersive experiences.
That’s a quick review of some of the key things to consider when you’re investigating VR this year.
Be sure to get up to speed quickly with our free VR course, and download our state of the industry presentation. You’ll have a jump start on your Q1 goals in no time.