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July 14, 2016

Not Just Another Mobile App: How AR VR Projects Differ

  AR VR

Understanding the AR VR Experience and What to Solve For

AR-VR-Projects-Not-Another-Mobile-App

It’s The Same, But Different

As Pokemon GO tops Twitter in the number of daily users, it’s clear that the appetite and consumer comfort level with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) is growing.

And with the hardware market set to reach $4 billion by 2018, it’s inevitable that more product, marketing and sales teams in both B2C and B2B will soon be producing AR VR applications.

Not to worry though, right? AR VR is just like producing a mobile application.

Nope, not so fast. Like mobile apps you’ll need to leverage an agile methodology and typical Discovery, Design, Development stages. But for AR VR there are unique nuances in the process, tools, deliverables, and the problems you need to solve for.

To best understand these nuances lets first define AR VR.

What’s The Difference Between AR and VR?

AR is an augmentation layer added to a real world environment. The visual component of that augmentation layer can be computer-generated or camera-based and is superimposed onto your actual view of the real world, creating an enhanced composite view. AR creates additional visual input and contextual layers of information like product specs on your companies latest model can be added, or architectural notes can appear as engineers tour a new building.

In contrast, VR hides your real world environment and surroundings, and replaces it with a completely different environment, such as a satellite orbit around Mars VR can be a computer-generated simulation, or created with the use of specialized 360 cameras. The pinnacle of a VR experience is the feeling of being physically present in a non-physical world. That sense of presence is enhanced by user-controlled navigation, and interactions.

Physical Reality vs Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality

Both AR and VR can have varying levels of engagement – ambient to immersive. An ambient experience is interactivity embedded or built into physical structures. Your phone, tabletops, screens or walls. Typical VR experiences aim for a deeply experiential immersion. Achieving the desired level of immersion might require the use of specialized hardware like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Cross-over hardware like the Samsung Gear VR, or Google’s new Daydream platform will diminish the cost to enter this emerging trend.

AR VR Requires Moving Beyond The Square

Because an AR VR experience is immersive and multi-dimensional, your story is no longer told in a square frame. AR VR projects require much different form factors and considerations.

Camera use - Parallel, convergent or spherical

Field of view – 90,180 or 360

Object distortion – Finding the ‘safe zone’ to provide proximity without distortion

Object modeling – What does a product or interaction look like in 3D

Spatial definition – Defining interest points, markers and optical flow to ensure accuracy and a comfortable user experience

So while the general process or stages in mobile application development remain similar, the activities and deliverables need to be optimized for an immersive viewing experience.

Experience Technology First Hand and Make the Proper Selection

It’s critical your team has hands on experience with real-world examples already in the marketplace as well as the wearable technology. Selecting what kind of experience - and how immersive you want it to be - is critical to decide before kicking off your project.

As you review examples and experiment with gear, ask these questions:

  • Where and how is the user going to experience this?
  • Is the goal to augment something existing and help provide more detail, understanding or engagement?
  • Or, is the goal to showcase something the user normally couldn’t experience on their own, or in their typical environment?
  • How immersive or interactive does the experience need to be? For example, would a 360 video suffice or is it critical the user interacts with an object or performs a certain function?
  • What is the level of quality your looking for? Think about how realistic you want the product to be. What is the ideal depth of field, image and sound quality.
  • How accessible does the experience need to be and will gear requirements be a constraint for the user?
  • Consider your budget and timeline requirements.

Define Use Cases and Your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Define the storyline, and outline the types of views and/or interactions you want a user to have. Then determine the minimum features and no more that would allow you to launch the final product to your audience.

Once you’ve identified your MVP, a proof of concept (POC) is key. Work with your in-house team or your development partner to create a lo-fi animatic or prototype to verify that certain concepts or interactions have the potential for real-world application. Determining feasibility prior to any wireframe, storyboard or animation development will save time and effort.

Your proof of concept is a success. Now what?

Now it’s time to wireframe and define user interactions. Because AR VR is interactive, and the user’s control of the experience will vary greatly based on the hardware and how immersive the experience, wireframing is still a key activity. However, with AR VR we are discovering that wireframing and storyboarding are becoming a merged activity, and the deliverable is a combination of both – an experience board.

AR VR wireframing and storyboarding

Animatics will be needed during the experience boarding. Specific interactions, positions or look/feel of a scene might be complex and rough animatics are a quick way to test what works and what doesn’t, and ensures technical and spatial requirements are documented for development.

When the experience board is set, model comps need to be finalized. For example, if creating a VR surgical demo, you’ll need to develop an initial design composite of the key models, like a heart and the tool you may be demonstrating to ensure a look/feel and general scale is agreed upon before beginning development.

Define your sprints and begin development. Each sprint will include animation, testing and revisions, and typically requires a couple iteration cycles before moving to the next development sprint.

Once development is complete and renders  have been generated, post production is completed and a final product is ready for release or app store submission. And just like mobile apps, the iOS App Store submission can take several weeks, so plan accordingly.

It Is A Whole New World

AR VR opens a whole new world of rich, contextual and immersive content, but can be overwhelming to produce without the right approach. Make sure your team understands AR VR and has the right tools to produce a great solution.

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