Do you still consider virtual reality as something futuristic? If yes, you should know that this technology is much closer to you than you can even imagine. Nielsen analytical agency gave the world new interesting data. The poll shows that 51% of respondents know what VR or AR means. One year ago only 28% of respondents could answer this question. It means that awareness of people about virtual reality has almost doubled during one year.
Although nobody can forecast poll results next year, they will undoubtedly increase since the popularity of VR technologies grows every day. Do you want to estimate how much the building of your VR app for headset or smartphone would cost? You are welcome to read our article!
Virtual reality popularity: why VR is in trend
Mobile virtual reality is the bridge connecting people to the non-existing world. Today a wide variety of mobile devices support VR. But for real fans of virtual reality trends, the IT market offers special headsets that provide them with the full immersion. Despite some shortcomings, modern mobile headsets and smartphones are rather powerful to provide you with a fancy VR adventure. Moreover, figures tell for themselves: Google sold more than 10 million of Google Cardboard glasses in the first half of 2017. As for Samsung, it sold almost 800K of Gear VR headsets within the same period.
How VR will develop in the next years (Source: Digi-Capital)
See more about VR technology particularities. Read Is virtual reality real? Looking into the future
It means that people are interested in the further development of VR technology. Online stores represent numerous headsets and glasses. It proves the popularity of VR technology among modern users. A great choice gives more space for customer experience. As for the development of VR apps, it requires a proper kit of hardware and software tools to provide the end user with a really immersive gaming process. So, in our article, you will find all headsets you may use together with tools used by us for virtual reality app development.
Google Play Store is full of VR apps, however, just a few of them can boast about having really cool VR experience. And here we will describe to you how to create a VR app with a first-rate quality to meet the demands of all potential users.
How to make a VR app: a detailed guide
VR game development or building of any other VR app type is much more different from ordinary apps development. More resources are required, and also it requires diverse experience along with numerous professional skills. Furthermore, it requires the availability of an auxiliary device. Unfortunately, VR app cannot let you immerse in it without glasses or headsets. Hence, we should first discuss what hardware you should use before to start VR application development.
Step 1. Choose your VR hardware
Google Cardboard. It is cardboard glasses that can function in tandem with Android smartphones with OS version not older than 4.4. Also, it supports VR apps for iPhones. Currently, Google Cardboard is considered to be the easiest way to immerse in a virtual world. Unfortunately, it's cheap price means lower quality, so full immersion will be impossible.
Daydream VR. Another Google's invention. This headset is quite expensive, but it makes the quality of the VR picture better. It supports only the latest models of Android smartphones such as Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Motorola Moto Z etc. Consider it during your VR software development.
Daydream VR headset in action
Samsung Gear VR. A headset developed by Samsung in collaboration with Oculus VR. This fully autonomous device works with Samsung Galaxy Note smartphones, starting from Note 4. Apart from high-quality lenses and touchscreen control panel, it also has a handheld controller that makes VR experience better and provides us with user-friendly control.
Oculus Rift. This high-tech headset was developed for working with PC. It also relates to tethered VR headsets. With the help of easy-to-use motion controllers, movements in virtual reality look quite natural. VR apps for this headset are also very popular today.
HTC Vive. The product created by HTC in collaboration with Valve. Equipped with two hand controllers, it makes customer interaction deeper with an excellent virtual reality design. HTC Vive headset works with your PC, the same as Oculus Rift does.
HTC Vive takes you inside VR
Thus, the most popular VR hardware is considered above. Despite the fact that Vive and Oculus are tethered devices, they provide users with a really great VR experience. So estimate your budget and choose the right VR device you want to create an app for.
Step 2. Use special 3D engine: Unity vs Unreal
Well, you made your choice. Great! Then let's proceed to the development process. Now you need to figure out the availability of all required software development kits (SDKs) in 3D engines. The most popular 3D environments for building games and VR features are Unity and Unreal. They are both good, but our company prefers using Unity engine because it meets all our demands. With the help of Unity, VR development becomes much easier.
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But, for example, if you just need a non-complicated mobile VR application for Cardboard or Daydream, you can use only Google VR NDK for Android or VR SDK for iOS to develop an app without using Unity Engine or another platform. However, if you are going to engage in virtual reality game development then Unity or Unreal are at your disposal.
Choose your 3D engine to create a VR app
As we already told, we consider Unity to be a more applicable engine. Moreover, paid version of Unity has an option of apps publishing in mobile stores like App Store and Google Play.
Step 3. UX design
When you create VR app and it's design, you should pay a rapt attention to it since design means everything in your future VR app.
Some important points you should follow during the development process:
- Don't create too long sessions (if you develop a game). Actually, good VR app shouldn't tire potential users, it should have an easy flow;
- The duration of VR sessions will help users monitor the status of the battery. As you know, VR requires a lot of energy;
- Interaction level: making VR content, provide users with a simple control panel, try not to complicate because VR may be stressful for those who experience it for the first time;
The example of VR app using Google Cardboard
- Devices should respond to head movements instantly - then VR experience will be amazing;
- The movements of users should be easy and smooth - forget about abrupt acceleration and deceleration;
- Don't change point of users' vision. Don't switch between first-person and third-person mode, because it can make user feel sick;
- Let the user customize the comfort level since each person has it's individual sensitivity to the quick motions, or somebody can be prone to nausea;
Step 4. VR UI design
First, you need to fill your virtual reality with 3D models and animation. Proprietary tools like Autodesk or Blender will help us implement this complicated VR content development stage. Also, consider the following:
- Keep in mind to create a stereoscopic app, so render all elements properly;
- Integrate UI into the logic in interaction with 3D objects to let users feel themselves as if they were in a real world;
- UI should have the following scheme: it should be located in a comfortable visibility user zone and the user won't need to move his or her head constantly;
UI concept of VR app (Source: Pinterest)
- In mobile VR apps, the eye-tracking technology could be used. A virtual cursor tracking head motions will help users monitor the information. However, this feature should be presented optionally, to make it possible for users to disable it at any time.
In addition, when you create your own VR app, let users choose object manually, not only using eyes. Because if your app provides a multi-level menu, for example, eye tracking can be exhausting;
Step 5. VR performance optimization
Performance optimization plays a very important role in the development process since it provides the future user with the necessary comfort level.
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Some performance aspects should also be noted: battery power consumption, general app performance, 3D optimization. They play an important role in a further destiny of your VR app design. Now then, what should be done to optimize it?
- The app should be optimized for 60fps. But don't test your software in Unreal or Unity environment only, use your target device to consider smooth process of app using;
- Use special integrated debugging tools in 3D engines that will show weak points of your app such as lagging, for example;
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Is VR Real?
- Perform batching of draw calls using special batching tools in Unity and Unreal;
- Developing virtual reality applications, you should avoid overdrawing, so consider to use special auxiliary tools like Scene View Control Bar in Unity;
- CPU and GPU throttling must be activated, otherwise, it can lead to the decrease of the clock frequency.
Step 6. Testing
Testing the app is the final stage before it is released. Usually, VR app demands a longer and more proper testing than an ordinary app, as virtual reality development companies note. Also, the app can be offered for user acceptance testing that helps find all bugs and fix them before the app goes to the public. Graphics engines also read the performance level of your app. Moreover, integrated testing tools will help you find bugs and any imperfections to fix them easily.
These stages are vital for the VR app development. Now we will proceed to the main point of this article - how to earn on your VR app and how much money you should spend on the development of such app.
Monetizing VR app
There are some the most popular and applicable ways of monetization, let's check them out.
Your app is available for free. But some additional services will become available only if users are ready to pay for them. For example, they need to disable advertising or add some new features. They should pay for it. This model is used in many apps and it can be profitable in case of a wise approach. Also, the freemium model will let you earn on it if you include an advertising it.
This monetization model offers you some additional bonuses like new cool tools in the game or auxiliary tools in the business app that the user can buy. The cost of virtual goods may vary depending on their value in the app. This model can be added to a free app where you can get some sweets unlike others if you pay. Everything is simple.
These apps you can get only paying a certain amount of money. But when users pay initially for this app, they get it free of advertising, with all interesting and attractive add-ons and bonuses.
Advertising or product placement
Ads is the most common way of monetization in many apps that are free to use. In such apps, the user can see the different type of ads on a Homepage, during the process of use and so on. It can be rather irritating, so it is better to pay some attention to product placement. It is an unobtrusive way of advertising where various popular brands may appear in windows inside the app, on cars, devices and so on. For example, you use a real estate VR app that lets you surf the virtual house that includes furniture with IKEA label.
There is no a singular right model - everything will depend on your personal app and right marketing approach. All of them can be beneficial.
How much does it cost to develop a VR app?
The final and the most important point of the article is the cost. First, we would like to state that it is impossible to indicate VR app development cost exactly. As you know, every app needs to have MVP feature set that allows estimating the cost of this specific app - it is a fundamental truth.
It can be any app that has integrated VR feature whether it be a business e-commerce app or a multiplayer game developed for the specific headset. And MVP features will vary depending on the app itself.
But, anyway, we can provide you with an approximate price range for VR app development.
It doesn't matter whether you want to get an app for Android, iOS or for tethered devices like Oculus Rift. In any case, we will use Unity engine because it is a cross-platform engine and it allows developers to create an app for any operating system and device.
Learn about the best development strategy for your app. Read our software development process guide
As you see, the cost of your app may vary from $5,000 to $100,000+. Did you like this article? In case you are already determined to create your own VR app, just contact us and we will help you. Also, look at right side of the page - do you see Subscribe button? Enter your e-mail and click it - you will receive our topical newsletters.
Depending on the type of the app the cost varies:
- The simplest app costs $5,000-$8,000
- Online shop costs $15,000-$25,000
- 3D games cost $50,000-$150,000
- Step 1. Choose your VR hardware
- Step 2. Use special 3D engine: Unity vs Unreal
- Step 3. Сreate a convenient UX design
- Step 4. Develop outstanding VR UI design
- Step 5. optimize VR performance
- Step 6. Test your app
There are several monetization models for a VR app:
- Freemium. Your app is available for free. But some additional services will become available only if users are ready to pay for them.
- In-app purchases. This monetization model offers you some additional bonuses like new cool tools in the game or auxiliary tools in the business app that the user can buy.
- Premium. These apps you can get only paying a certain amount of money.
- Advertising or product placement. Ads is the most common way of monetization in many apps that are free to use. In such apps, the user can see the different type of ads on a Homepage, during the process of use and so on.
- Samsung Gear VR
- Oculus Rift
- HTC Vive
- Daydream VR
- Mixed reality headsets
The most common engines for VR app development are Unity engine and Unreal engine.
- Don't create too long sessions (if you develop a game)
- The duration of VR sessions will help users monitor the status of the battery. As you know, VR requires a lot of energy
- Interaction level: making VR content, provide users with a simple control panel, try not to complicate because VR may be stressful for those who experience it for the first time
- Devices should respond to head movements instantly
- The movements of users should be easy and smooth
- Don't change point of users' vision
- Let the user customize the comfort level since each person has it's individual sensitivity to the quick motions, or somebody can be prone to nausea
Evgeniy Altynpara is a CTO and member of the Forbes Councils’ community of tech professionals. He is an expert in software development and technological entrepreneurship and has 10+years of experience in digital transformation consulting in Healthcare, FinTech, Supply Chain and Logistics
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