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July 21, 2016

How to Select the Right AR/VR Tools

Select the right AR VR toolsWhen it comes to selecting a platform for your next Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) project, it’s important to know your options. Weighing the pros and cons of each, you are better prepared to make smart choices in how you select the right AR VR tools for your project.

Audience & Proximity Considerations

Audience and proximity should play a leading role in the decision and help you select the right tool, for the right job – or use case.

AR/VR for a Large, Dispersed Audience

If your audience is large, and the locations you want viewers to experience your AR/VR project in are dispersed widely – or are out of your direct control, then your best option is a smart-phone enabled AR/VR experience.

 

This choice favors accessibility or ubiquity over immersion. There will be some technical and practical limits and it may not be a jaw-dropping AR/VR experience for your audience. It wins the tool selection decision based purely on ubiquity. This experience can be an elegant, innovative and valuable investment– when chosen strategically.

AR/VR for a Small, Contained Audience

If your audience is small and the locations you want viewers to experience your AR/VR project are within your control, then your project qualifies for the more robust versions of AR and VR. Great examples here include a customer visit center, learning center, trade show or special event.

This choice favors greater immersion since you can control the hardware and software environment. This is the AR/VR experience that can be newsworthy and can be jaw-dropping cool. The experience limited only by your imagination, your budget and the time to develop your storytelling experience.

Balancing AR/VR Ubiquity & Immersion

Other factors in choosing the right AR/VR tools is balancing your project need for ubiquity versus immersion. Which is more aligned with your business objective – accessibility or the depth of the experience?

When Ubiquity Wins…

When your project is driven by the business need to be generally available to everyone. anywhere, you need to work with the limits of a smartphone platform. This means you will access the user’s smartphone camera and enable some form of marker (or markerless) tracking to augment – or add to -  a view of the real world with your content.

 

This trick isn't new and brands like Burger King, American Apparel, and Ikea have been using AR to enhance shopping experiences. What has changed recently is the democratization of the software and hardware that all but automates the capability from a developer/designer point-of-view, and provides consumers greater access to AR experiences.

Branded Cardboard VR Viewers

 

When VR is the sweet spot for your audience, there are several affordable custom branding options that use a simple cardboard or plastic viewer to create an entry level VR experience. Expect a cost per unit around $20 and up for a branded viewerWith some limitations on platform and hardware, just about any modern smart phone user can experience your content using a viewer. However, it is important to align your expectations to the medium. This form of cardboard VR is neat, but is not deeply immersive. Optimizing this platform demands that you are creative, innovative plus understand your audience’s needs, wants and values so that you know what levers to pull for success.

 

There are two solutions to get your content to your audience using a VR viewer and smart phone approach. The first and most obvious is to build an app. The second option is 360° video or 3D rendered content.

VR Applications

Building an app is typically a costlier and more time consuming approach. Yet the clear advantages of an app include:

  • Non-linear interactivity;
  • Direct communication with your users; and,
  • Tracking analytics.

We often find that the need for analytics makes the choice of delivery platforms clear.

VR Video

Alternatively, a fairly new capability is creating stereoscopic 3D-360° video or 3D rendered content. Recent support from YouTube and Facebook make this attractive and accessible for mass distribution.

360 Video Example

An advantage of choosing this is the ease of publishing and distributing your VR content. The disadvantage of 3D-360° VR video content is that it is linear. Meaning the viewer clicks play, watches something and exits the experience. While primarily being a passive viewing experience, it has a lot of potential for experiential storytelling when used strategically.

When Immersion Wins…

When your users can experience your AR/VR project in environments that you can control, then you can create anything you can imagine. The result can be unlike anything anyone has ever seen, heard or felt before – a truly differentiating brand and customer experience.

While the pinnacle of AR/VR can be a deeply immersive, interactive experience that people will wait in line to try out, it’s OK to focus on simplicity, elegance and effective storytelling.

For example, in a proof-of-concept or starter project, you may develop for a specific computer or device. It can be as simple as a PC to run your experience, a Vive HMD headset and a pair of headphones that allow you to both see and hear it.

Or you may get more sophisticated and choose to add features including:

  • holographic displays;immersive VR gear
  • projection caves;
  • hand and body tracking;
  • simple or complex haptics;
  • extra-sensors to track biometrics, or electro-mechanical input;
  • live or pre-recorded camera or 3D generated visuals;
  • binaural or spatial audio; and/or,
  • other wearable technology like Hololens, Meta, CastAR, Vive/Oculus, Perception Neuron, Leap Motion, or even MagicLeap’s latest technology.

The possibilities are unlimited – literally. Except for the real world constraints of budget and time of course.

Ready to Choose Your AR/VR Tools Wisely?

It can seem overwhelming to pick a platform for your AR/VR project, but you don’t have to go it alone. In addition to using audience, proximity, ubiquity and immersion as criteria, it is helpful to talk with – and or work with – those who have first-hand experience.

 

Schedule a project discovery session today to evaluate your project’s business objectives, and provide practical review of your budget and time frame. Together we can and help evaluate what options might be best for your specific needs.

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Image Credits: Mr. Cardboard, Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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