Developing immersive Virtual Reality (VR) apps
There is a lot of hype around Virtual Reality. From the gaming perspective and thanks to the acquisition of Oculus by Facebook. If you strip away the ‘next big thing’ label applied by the media, there are a number of key benefits to using VR for training, marketing and education.
The SEEABLE team are visualisation specialists and can help you to avoid the trap of investing in VR for the love of the technology compared to need to solve a specific problem. So, if you are wanting to take your project to the next level of immersion in a 3D environment, read on…
VR – what you need to know…
If you are looking to use VR as marketing, training or engagement tools, there are a number of factors to consider. The basics are apps, hardware, content, navigation and experience. We will run through them below and if you are short of time, just give our team a call to talk through your ideas and they can cut to the chase.
This is the simplest part; if you have a headset, then you will need either a PC App or mobile app to run the visualisation. This is what the SEEABLE development team are creating for you. They advise on: hardware, optimisation of the 3D or 360 image content, create a navigation system and user interface (UI), and discuss the experience to be created which is suitable for your use case.
VR uses an immersive display to put you ‘in’ the scene instead of viewing on a screen like a CAD operator or exploring a 3D space with a computer screen. The hardware is head mounted, covering your eyes providing full immersion in the space being viewed. This can then be combined with headphones to give a realistic soundscape for further immersion.
At SEEABLE, we work with three of the main VR solutions:
- HTC Vive
- Mobile VR: Google Cardboard, Google Daydream & Samsung Gear VR
The first two require a powerful gaming laptop or PC to run from. Whereas Mobile VR solutions are optimised to run on mobile phones, as long as they have an internal gyroscope (which is included in most modern phones). Hardware for mobile VR can take the form of cheap & cheerful ‘cardboard’ headsets, the more refined Google Daydream or the vendor specific Samsung Gear VR.
Our team can advise you on which hardware is suitable for which type of VR App.
If you have design or survey data to start with, then you have a head start. This can take the form of Architectural models, Product designs or Building Information Modelling (BIM). Once you make this data available to the VR App development team, they can optimise it for VR and agree what visual effect we are aiming for. This can be plain shaded walls, or fully textured surfaces for added realism.
The level of texturing depends on the use case. Showcasing an Architectural design may need the scene to be ‘dressed’ with furniture, but visualising a space to get a feel for size, obstructions & sight lines may work better with plain shaded walls.
Finally, content can take the form of 360 Panoramic images. Instead of exploring a 3D modeled scene, you are placed in the centre of a panoramic image. See our blog on this project for a Shropshire Museum to visualise life at the Halley base in Antarctica.
The Navigation system…
Once wearing VR headsets, you need to navigate through the space. This is where the SEEABLE development team can build a bespoke user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) to allow you to navigate easily, with no training required.
In HTC Vive VR Apps, navigation is via the hand controllers which are tracked in 3D space and appear in the view, as in the image below. They allow you to ‘teleport’ to the next location, or navigate a menu in front of you.
With Google Cardboard (mobile VR), navigation is via ‘gaze control’. In the image below, you would turn your head to focus a small navigation crosshair on the arrow icon. Holding your gaze for a second on the same spot activates the menu just like clicking a mouse would.
The experience you are looking for needs to be crafted to the outcome you are looking to achieve. The App development team can create a marketing showcase, a safety training experience or an Architectural design review. The only limit is your imagination, but it all starts with a conversation with you. Some of the use cases of our VR solutions are listed below.
What will yours be?
1. Win bids – inspire funding for the project from the outline design stage through better visualisation.
2. Soft Landings – enable the end users or clients to explore and understand the building in 3D, explore the space.
3. Stakeholder Engagement – communicate effectively with local communities, interest groups, activists and allay fears of how a development will look, feel & sit within the wider region.
4. Language Barriers – can be broken down without so much need for verbal communication.
5. Occupancy – filling retail, residential or commercial office space by allowing potential occupants to see what they are buying into. Having the Virtual tour well before the actual building is built.
6. Create a PR story – at presentations, creating a buzz around the development by showing the audience something they have not seen before. Getting the audience immersed in your vision.
All we need to know is what you want to make ‘Seeable’, then let us create a bespoke visualisation app for you that eliminates complex paper plans allowing simple, non-technical access to complex data.
Want to create your own interactive 3D App ?