The concept that just a couple of decades ago was an episode of a sci-fi movie is now accessible to anyone. Virtual reality is no longer the topic discussed by writers and wild-eyed enthusiasts or a buzzword in the Net, it is the matter of business world as well.
How Virtual Reality can Affect your Business
Though Virtual reality (VR) technology hasn't gained much adoption yet, some great moves have been made to speed up the process. In fact, VR is getting more real than ever before. It can be driven by smartphones and DIY gadgets, which makes it more than affordable. Would you like to be among the first who benefit from it?
Virtual Reality basics overview
VR is occasionally referred to as computer-simulated reality, which artificially creates sight, touch, hearing and even smell experiences. How can we reach virtual realities? There are at least six interaction styles:
- Immersive VR (or first-person VR) provides full dipping into a virtual environment. This is possible thanks to head-mounted displays or headsets with 3D viewing and system of a head tracking.
- Desktop VR is the most widespread type as the user sees an artificially generated 3D world through the computer screen and navigates using familiar control devices (mouse, joystick, etc.)
- Projected VR is based upon overlaying the user's image on the computer generated world.
- CAVE (or Chamber World) is a room where computer generated world is projected on the walls.
- Telepresence gives users an opportunity to perform actions in the real but distant world. The created virtual environment is similar to the real one, equipped with special devices to ensure interconnection.
- Augmented Reality is a VR solution that invades into reality. The user sees the real world supplemented with virtual items aimed to enrich the informational content of reality.
Tech companies of any size work on tools that will bring VR to masses no wonder that virtual reality now goes mobile. Therefore, we are going to talk about VR technology that turned out to be open to literally everyone who has a smartphone. An intelligent smartphone VR solution is what makes sense in today's reality.
How VR works
Headsets that ensure the immerse into virtual environment make a huge splash. That is also so because such big names as Google, Facebook, Sony, HTC and others are in the game with their vision of VR experience. Obviously, premium VR comes at a cost. But there is a great alternative. Let's meet some of the products, which do not require anything but an inexpensive headset and a smartphone.
Google Cardboard. Announced at Google I/O 2014 and the version 2 unveiled at the following year conference is the most low-cost way to experience the virtual environment. You insert a smartphone into DIY cardboard container and voila! VR experience is possible via a simple cardboard as your smartphone has all the required gyroscopic sensors and positioning systems to track your head movements. Google Cardboard VR headset is compatible with all smartphones with screens up to 6 inches, including iPhones. All you need is a properly created app.
Goggle Tech Go4D head mount features a gyroscope and an accelerometer that allow to dive into virtual reality or 3D content using any iOS or Android device. At Cleveroad we have experience of creating VR apps for Go4D headset. Go4D 360 VR app reads unfolded 360 videos and displays them in mp4 format.
See also: Cleveroad VR experience
Samsung Gear VR is suitable for Samsung phones owners and extremely convenient for glass wearers. Moreover, Samsung and Oculus are continually adding more content to please their users.
This is not a full list of tech solutions that adjusted smartphones to provide VR experience. Goblin VR, Goblin VR, Archos VR, Freefly headsets, etc. also offer affordable hardware to support VR hysteria.
So, how that actually works. Here come some basics of how smartphone-powered VR headsets work. Let's leave the whole room projections and telepresence for another article discussion. The VR puzzle to setup headsets normally consists of three pieces:
- a smartphone to run the app;
- a headset to secure the phone screen in front of your eyes;
- optional inputs (controllers, head tracking, on-device buttons, trackpads, etc.)
Equipped with two lenses that focus and reshape the picture in front of each eye to create a stereoscopic 3D image. Head tracking system monitors the position, angle or rotation of your hand to adapt the image you see. The big VR players also work on motion and eye tracking, but this is a totally different story.
Virtual Reality for business
If you still think that virtual reality is all about playing games, it's time to broaden your horizons. VR can actually transform your business and level it up.
Real estate business. Do your customers find the process of searching for a home grueling? There is no denying the fact. Visiting dozens of houses, apartments or offices is tiring and sometimes impossible for those who move to another city. VR is a great solution for real estate companies that struggle to attract customers and make the process run smoothly.
Demo VR tours for the potential tenants or buyers to explore the place without leaving their own homes. Virtual reality offers more engaging and holistic experience than traditional illustrations. Customer chooses his own pace of exploring and you provide him with a realistic feel. Real Estate VR app ensures a 360-degree view of a location in a virtual world and real-time reaction to head movements. When you turn your head, the scene changes at once.
Moreover, VR gives an opportunity to visit places that are not yet built and potential buyers can influence the design and make the place look exactly like they wish when all the work is done. It's also possible to individualize it within the scope of predefined combinations of colors, fittings, lighting, etc. no matter where the customer is located in the world.
It's a win-win combination for both customers and business owners, isn't it?
E-commerce may soon transform into 'V-commerce'. Online stores have got to know about the advantages of the virtual shopping experience and make moves towards VR. Imagine how you can enlarge your customers' shopping experience by letting them take virtual tours through the e-commerce store and examine the products from all angles.
Furniture online stores can go even further and allow customers to place furniture into their houses within an app on the smartphone. The app scans the size of the room and scales a 3D representation of the pieces of furniture chosen from specially designed catalogs.
Tourism business is the next in our list of those who can only benefit from VR adjusting. VR apps is a great opportunity for tourism market to help customers make decisions where to travel.
Healthcare system also takes advantage of VR visual simulations, which are a cost-effective, safe and engaging method for education and training of healthcare professionals.
Thus, VR as a business tool is developing fast involving more technically sophisticated and at the same time accessible way of enriching customer's experience. What business do you run? Do you think virtual reality is helpless in your case? Let us convince you in the opposite.
Cleveroad VR expertise
At Cleveroad we are sure that the future is in the rise of VR, which can bring a new dimension to business. Moreover, mobile apps development is our field of expertise. That's why we eagerly undertake projects connected with virtual reality apps creating. We see additional opportunity in the affordable Google Cardboard headset coming app.
One of our really special projects is Go4D 360 VR application created as a supplementation of Goggle wearable solution Goggle Tech 4D headsets. The app built by our developers transforms RTSP, HTTP Streaming, and local Android mp4 files into a complete 4D environment.
There are 2 ways of creating content for a VR apps:
- 360-degree immersive videos and panoramas;
- 3D constructions and animations.
Even though a 360-degree video is not true VR, it intends to create a sense of presence. To build 360-degree immersive videos all you need is a camera and services to edit what is filmed. Here is how it works. Compact GoPro cameras with wide angle lenses help capture 360 videos. The other good entry systems as Sony Bloggie and VSN v360 are also a fine option. Google itself uses LadyBug5 for Street View. After filming, you need to stitch the view. VideoStitch turns the individual videos into a single, high-resolution, seamless panoramic video. Your 360-degree video is ready. It is a cheaper solution, but less impressive.
The next way is creating VR content is 3D constructions and animations, which allows users free observation of the surrounding space. There are a few ways of creating 3D models. You can either use 3D scanning tools as Structure Sensor or make it easier with the help of companies that are able to make the 3D content for you. The engines, such as Unity VR, provide an extensive catalog of ready-made sets and props that are relatively easy to use.
How to build VR apps
The process of creating VR apps is now fully under it's way. Not long ago Google revealed that roughly 25 million Google Cardboard apps are downloaded by users from the Google Play app store. Quite considerable number, isn't it?
It's high time to add your app to that list. Google provides developers with Cardboard SDK that help to create applications that display a binocular visualization of large volumetric scenes, track the movement of the head and react to it, as well as allow users to interact with applications through the magnetic sensors.
It is possible to create Android apps for Cardboard unit or convert existing Unity projects to support virtual reality using scenarios and prefabs provided by a module. Google created manuals for developers with useful recommendations and shared some examples to assist in creating VR apps.
Developers, first of all, should remember that VR content can occasionally make users feel disoriented and even cause the sense of nausea. In order to avoid unpleasant consequences, app developers should maintain a stable horizon line and pay special attention to head position monitoring.
Another important thing is to remember that all items in sight must be duplicated for each eye so that the user has seen them correctly. Thus, VR apps are build with two eye splitview. Objects should also be placed in the virtual space so that the user can focus on them. If an app tracks the head position, the number of places with unique interface increases: the user interface can be located alongside the user or above the line of his sight.
A lot has been done towards making Virtual Reality accessible to anyone, still even more is to be done. VR steadily moves from being a gaming matter to the business world. The earlier we accept and utilise it as one of effective business mechanisms, the more benefits we eventually get. The current situation of VR is in early stage and we'd love to contribute to it's development. If you want to join us, let's get in touch!