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If you are doing Virtual Reality development, there are a number of tips and tricks you should consider for your projects. I attended a local event put on by VisionThree on this exact topic. The following tips and tricks are ones Jake Leeman, V3 Partner & Strategy Director, suggested, based on their experience in developing a number of production Virtual Reality solutions. The wording of the tip is from a presentation they did; the interpretations presented are my words.
It is worth stating that these tips come from the lessons VisionThree learned doing real world development of VR solutions for companies like Stanley, Purdue University, The Indianapolis Children's Museum, the NCAA, and more.
One: Virtual Reality is still new to most users
If you are familiar with Virtual Reality, mixed reality, or augmented reality, you might be mistaken in believing everyone else is aware of it as well. Although VR has been around for decades, most people today are still not familiar with what it can do and how it is being used. You need to be careful in your assumptions on what people know about VR.
Two: Create simple & clear UI design, tasks, and objective within the space
As with most application solutions, don’t over complicate what you want or expect the user to do. Keep things as intuitive and clear as possible and remember to keep point one above in mind.
Three: Design for the virtual environment user’s need
Said differently, don’t over produce your virtual solution. Consider what is needed in the application by the user and build on those aspects. Will the user be looking 360 degrees, or will they really only be looking at a portion of that? As indicated by Vision Three, many solutions only need a 180 degree field of view, so developing for 360 is a waste of time and money.
Four: Keep the experience short and focused
Virtual experiences should be kept focused and short. Even though there might be a tendency to make an experience last as long as you can, for most virtual apps it is better to focus on what needs to be done. In many apps, this would be a one to two minute experience.
Five: Ease your users into the experience
A virtual reality environment is a different experience for most. When having someone run your application, give them time to adjust before pushing them into the full app experience. A few seconds of something simple in the VR world can help provide time to acclimate to the application. The orientation period can be a simple welcome screen or somewhat static instructions. Give the user a chance to get their bearings and orientation before assaulting them with a full VR experience.
Six: Don't forget about the actual reality
Virtual Reality is, well, virtual; however, the space around the person that is experiencing Virtual Reality is not virtual. It is important to consider how the person experiencing your VR environment will be interacting with the real environment around them. Will they be turning? Will they be moving controllers? Will they be swinging anything?
You need to consider whether the movement of the person would cause issues. For example, if you expect a person to move around, is there going to be a cleared space, or could they trip on furniture or other items? Could they run into a wall or fall down stairs? The limitations of the physical space should be considered in your application design.
Similarly, you should consider the hardware you are using for the VR experience. If there are cables, you need to make sure you consider how those could impede the experience. Similarly, if you use a controller or other device, you need to make sure it is up to the task. When you swing electronics, or hit them against something, they can break!
The Vision Three team built an application to simulate using an axe to break through a roof. The user has an axe (that is more of a mallet) that is built with a controller. In the virtual world, this axe is used to chop through the virtual roof. The user is swinging this peripheral, so the physical environment needs to be considered. There has to be room for the user to swing, plus there has to be consideration about the possibility of the user being turned or moving, which leads to the next item….
Seven: Test, test, and test some more
If something can go wrong, it generally will. As such, you need to test for any possible issues that could occur. This testing should include not only what could go wrong in the virtual world, but also with the physical world around where the app could be used.
These are seven tips and tricks might sound very intuitive, but it is easy to over think, over develop, and then rush to a solution for a project. This is true whether you are building a regular app or targeting Virtual Reality. It never hurts to step back and consider each to make sure you truly are considering their value.
To give credit again, the above tips originated from VisionThree’s experience. If you have additional tips or tricks you've learned regarding building effective VR user experiences, drop me an email or submit a comment below. If you are relatively new to applying Virtual Reality to your solutions, then I suggest you take a look at VisionThree’s site to see the interactive experiences they've created. If you are in the Indianapolis area, you can even look them up!
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As a disclaimer – I have no direct association with VisionThree or the companies mentioned in this article. Any opinions expressed in this article are solely my own.