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Virtual Reality App Development: Checklist For Businesses

VR may seem like another industry buzzword. Everyone are talking about how VR is about to go mainstream and create a new (non-virtual) market segment for businesses. Yet, consumer interest still remains seemingly low and the prices for VR gear appear to be beyond reach for most users.

So does virtual reality ROI for businesses are too “virtual” as well? Alty team decided to investigate the matter.

Should You Bother Building a Virtual Reality Application?

Indeed, why should you without knowing the whole landscape of the VR market?

According to Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, VR and AR have the potential to become the next significant computing platform, just like PCs and smartphones. The good news for users is that gear prices will be falling by 5-10% annually just like it happened with smartphones.

Additionally, the company predicts that 75% of the software market will be occupied by VR technologies and just 25% will be driven by AR use cases.

When it comes to VR use cases, Goldman and Sachs shared some intriguing findings both for startups and enterprises interested in the domain:

VR Market Forecast

Let’s take another opinion. Yeti team has published a massive survey called “The State of Virtual Reality in 2016” with some additional industry insights:

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Okay, so both market reports show that gaming & entertainment will remain among the fastest growing segments.

However, we are more in the camp of the virtual reality app development for other niches.

Take education, for instance. A custom VR mobile app could be used to teach kids about the surrounding world in a highly interactive manner. And not just kids, professional VR training is already becoming a “thing” for pilots, doctors, and even professional athletes.

Here’s just one exciting VR use case – an Australian team of recent graduates is now working on a VR simulator, which would allow caretakers/relatives to see the world through the eye of a person suffering from dementia.

“We truly believe that gaming is the best educator because it allows you to experience something firsthand. Using virtual technology and gaming, we were able to help improve people’s empathy.” – says Norman Wang, one of the project co-founders.

And that’s just one point towards how VR could be used outside the gaming niche.

But still a lot of companies feel reluctant about exploring the opportunities created by VR. According to the same survey from Yeti, the cost to develop a VR app still remain inhibitive for most companies and 40% of respondents claimed they don’t have the budgets for it right now. What’s more interesting, however, 23.2% of decision-makers have admitted that they had difficulties with determining the strategic direction for VR projects.

Hence, in this post, we’ve decided to share some tips and the key reasons to create a VR app for businesses outside gaming specifically.

Is My Business/Product Relatable To VR?

Before you rush into shaking your head in denial, give it another thought.

VR isn’t suitable for making linear, commercial-like stories. Yet it offers a more immersive and explorative experience to the user. Bonus point: it’s non-distractive. You own 100% of the user’s attention and can pitch your brand message precisely.

Apart from that VR can be used as a product of its own. Here are just a few interesting application cases from several industries.

Fitness and Healthy Living

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enerG a new LA-based startup plans to disrupt the fitness market by offering VR-café style workouts and exercise guides. While the product is still in making, the company already secured a sponsorship deal with Reebok and plans to generate most revenues through product placements, creating branded studios and other sponsorship deals. And that’s just one possible app monetization strategy to use.

Real Estate

Arguably, this niche has experienced the most benefits from the VR popularity so far. Or at least, their successes are the most public ones

Matterport, a startup specializing in creating VR showcases for properties, is driving the change. The visualizations they have created for properties for far gathered over 40 million views. That’s a grand exposure for one property, right?

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The Matthew Hood Real Estate Group said that using 3D tours for luxury properties they are selling has massively reduced the time to close their sale, especially when it comes to catering international buyers.

“I can lead a VR tour remotely and even see where the client is looking, which allows me to address things like a kitchen counter style while they’re looking at it — just as I would in a real world tour,” – Hood commented recently in the Fortune magazine.

VR content, however, still remains a bit of a pricey option, though. Apart from hiring virtual reality developers to code the tour/app for you, you’ll need to account for the costs of scanning a house for VR, which currently range between $300-$700 per house.

Virtual Visits Beyond The Estate

Hosting VR tours and demos results in tangible benefits not just in the real estate industry. Hospitality and travel could largely benefit from deploying this practice as well. If you are planning to build an innovative hotel app, think about leveraging the VR component.

YouVisit, a startup specializing in creating immersive virtual experiences for a variety of markets, shared the following ROI numbers from their recent partnerships with colleges:

  • Participating establishments have seen a 30% increase in physical visit requests.
  • On average, there is a 12.3% conversion rate of their use cases.
  • The company additionally measures “engagement rate”, which is based on the duration of use. The average number right now is 10.4 minutes. How’s that compared to your average commercial?

So let’s return to the initial question – is my business relatable to VR?

It might be. If there’s a product to showcase; if there’s a physical experience involved, which could be streamlined online; creating a custom VR app may make much sense!

What Platform Should I Pursue?

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Yeti report ranks smartphone VR app development as the most popular option.

Indeed, it might be the best platform to pursue right now as the price of Google Cardboard or Figment VR smartphone holder is significantly more affordable than of other VR gears. Heck, you can even DIY one if you don’t have $15 to spare.

If you are planning to launch a mass-market product, geared towards your regular consumer, cardboard is the platform to choose.

Additionally, Google has already created extensive guidelines, tools, and SDKs for creating VR apps for cardboards. VR SDK is available both for Android and iOS platform.

And that’s not it. This fall Google has officially launched the developers’ tools for Daydream – the new VR-special marketplace for apps and content. iPhone owners will have to wait, however, as Daydream only supports Android gadgets at the moment.

How Should I Approach The VR Design Process?

UI/UX design is the primary challenge in VR app development.

After all, the journey will be completely non-linear and users may choose to venture out in different directions. Hence create a set of prototypes first, test your assumptions extensively with a selected audience.

One of the best ways to test your ideas is to present a product MVP during a large event e.g. a conference or a trade show and watch the live response from the audience, survey them and ask for immediate feedback on their experience.

How To Create Content for a VR App?

There are two common ways to create immersive content for your app:

  • Shoot and modify 360-degree videos.
  • Create 3D animations or constructions.

Producing 360-Degree Videos

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First of all, you’ll need a spherical camera to capture high-quality footage. If you are a novice, it’s better to hire a professional videographer to do the shooting.

Next, you will need to edit the footage and transform the video together into an experience. One of the best VR editing tools right now is VideoStitch. Afterward, you transfer all the content to the virtual reality app development company and have it coded into the final product.

This option is suitable for filming real-time events and transforming video content into VR.

Creating 3D Animations and Visualizations

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The problem with 360-degrees videos is that users constantly stay glued in the same place while enjoying the experience. They remain as a passive viewer, not an active participant.

3D animations allow creating a more interactive experience and let user actually move around the created reality – think of your journey in Google Street view as an example.

To create 3D content for your VR app, you have two common options:

Power up your animations with Unity engine. Though it’s typically used in game development, this technology allows virtualizing other types of content as well, for instance, interior designs or construction models. The engine comes with extensive documentation in tow and there are plenty of tutorials around the web explaining the nitty-gritty of coding a cardboard VR app in Unity.

Alternatively, you can 3D scan the environment around you using a specialized camera. One of the popular options is Structure Sensor – a camera add-on for iPads, which allows 3D scanning any types of objects and even people. The product comes with an extensive Structure SDK, which supports positional tracking, allows creating volumetric reconstructions and real-world occlusions. This gadget can be used to serve a bunch of intriguing use cases including capturing body parts and transforming those into accurate 3D models for custom-fit prosthetics, orthotics and other medical appliances.

How Much Does VR Application Development Cost?

While we always aim to give accurate project cost estimates, with VR things are bit more tangled. First of all, you’ll have three separate areas of cost estimation:

Content production. The costs of shooting 360-degree videos, creating 3d animations or conducting realistic 3d scans differ significantly. You’ll have to decide whether you want to purchase the camera and conduct the shootings yourself or hire professionals to do that for you.

Headsets & hardware costs will depend on the platform and content production method you’ll choose. Developing a cardboard VR app will be the cheapest option in this case.

Actual app development costs. Again, these will vary depending on the project scale. Building an MVP VR app doing just one thing well e.g. showing an immersive 360-degree video to the user could be accomplished for under $10.000. The same applies for a very simple VR game.

Creating a VR shopping app, for instance, featuring a selection of 20 different products that users can scrutinize from every angle can be done for under $25,000.

Yet if you are looking for a more comprehensive custom app or a large project visualization e.g. of a property or a virtual tour, the app development costs can go well beyond $150.000 for an app.

Alty team would be happy to provide more accurate cost estimates based on your project specifications and outline the different content production options possible!

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