6 min read

This post gives a short overview of what you can do and which tools to use to maximize the reach of VR content that you publish. It will also outline some pitfalls.

Rule No. 1 of VR: No shortcuts

Rule No. 2 of VR: seriously, no shortcuts. This is important. Stick to native SDKs and high-performance 3D rendering. Stay away from WebVR and JavaScript. WebVR will become a great standard one day in the future, but right now we are months away from the sort of adoption and user-friendly-ness it needs to be suitable for the run-in-the-middle consumer. If you don’t believe me or disagree, just head over to this Sketchfab 3D Model (or any other, really) and enter VR mode on your mobile phone. Unless you are on the latest-generation Android device you’ll see a distorted mess, which runs well below what anybody would call smooth.

If you’re absolutely in no position to use a native-code VR player, you can choose krpano (or Kolor Panotour, which is built on top of krpano) to wrap your 360 images and video. They have decent enough cross-platform support and some nifty workarounds in place to mitigate the most common browser-based VR pitfalls.

For 3D content use Unity 3D. There might be other tools, but especially true if you are a beginner, Unity offers the quickest results. 

Serve everyone

Figure out a way to serve everyone. As I have outlined in previous posts, there are many different VR device types out there, and all together, there’s not yet a huge amount of VR devices at all. Aiming to reach everyone will give you a decent audience reach in the end. If you set out and only publish your content on Oculus, or HTC Vive, or GearVR, you can be sure that you will exclude over 80 percent of the total audience.

You should also offer a non-VR mode to access your content. While VR is a good way to get an extra kick out of an experience,you should never ever only offer a VR mode; this will exclude anyone without a VR device from your potential audience, which will shrink the reach of your content dramatically. You also have to consider social situations in which people might access your content (for example, on the bus or waiting in line at the airport) where it is not feasible to enter a VR-based view mode.

Fragmentation & Pitfalls

Fragmentation in VR is huge; it means that out of 100 users that access your VR content, only 10 might use the same type and generation of VR device at the same time. Unless you are creating a VR game (where it might be practical to only target one device type at a time) you should always aim to support all VR devices out there.

Here are some pointers on how to make that feasible and some common pitfalls:

  1. If your main experience is desktop-based 3D content, you should offer a 360-image or video-based tour for mobile devices. This can easily be achieved by doing a 360 screen capture of your 3D content. The 360 images/videos might offer less interaction, but most of the time this format is enough to bring across your main story points. You can always hint to the user that there’s a full-blown immersive experience available on another platform, which the user then might check out or recommend to a friend.
  2. If your experience is video-based, make sure you offer multiple resolutions of your content, including a streaming version (you can host it via YouTube). You should offer streamed variants, but also an option to download content to the device (like Netfilx now does); this again helps with re-engagement in case a user accesses the content for the first time in a setting where VR-mode is not feasible, but wants to revisit it later to view it in VR. There are plenty of shareware video converters available to help you create all of those versions of your video, or you can use the free, open source tool ffmpeg (tutorial available here). Bear in mind that while VR video is a great experience for the first couple of times, it will quickly wear out its novelty, so make sure to create great content and distinguish it with cool features like spatial audio.
  3. Image-based experiences are inherently very scalable across all the different types of VR devices. They load fast and most of the time are not a big strain neither on PC nor on mobile devices, even older ones.
  4. Interactions, that is, hotspots or popups, need to be device-agnostic on all potential target devices. For this your hotspots need to be able to react to gaze-based interaction as well as touch based. You should stay away from motion-based gestures (like asking the user to nod his head to access a menu) because most of the time these only work somewhat reliably. The word is still out on the usability of direction-based menus (for example, “look down to open the menu”). Personally, I think they are a good option in combination with gaze-based interaction, but bear in mind: I have been using VR on a daily basis for a couple of years.I hardly qualify as a run-in-the-middle consumer anymore.
  5. File size: VR assets tend to be pretty large, at the same time the context of accessing this content is mobile. Don’t expect anyone to download a standalone mobile app, which is a couple of hundred megabytes in size because you baked it into a 4K video. Reduce file size and include streaming assets where possible. Provide some sort of offline fallback in case there’s no active Internet connection (for example, a very low res fall back video). You can keep file size down most efficiently by keeping your experiences short and sweet. VR still is not well suited for long sessions. A casual experience is best kept below 120 seconds. 

Include Sharing options and a Feedback Channel

Great content needs to be shared. Make sure your content can be shared and include calls to action for users about what to do once they consumed the main portion of your content. Direct them to related content, or to a website where they can learn more about what they have seen (outside VR). 

Don’t Despair

Today, VR is still a challenge. It is still a challenge to create great VR content, it’s a challenge to publish and deploy it and after that it’s an even bigger one to reach 100 percent of your potential audience. Don’t despair; everybody is dealing with the same issues and there’s no magic solution yet. We are working on it, however. 

About the Author

Andreas is the founder and CEO of Vuframe. He’s been working with augmented andvirtual reality on a daily basis for the past 8 years. Vuframe’s mission is to democratize AR & VR by removing the tech barrier for everyone. 


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