Growing interest in the realm of Virtual Reality (VR) apps has generated a lot of questions about how they can work for businesses – and not just for games or entertainment. Most mobile VR apps can only make use of a small fraction of the possibilities associated with VR owing to hardware requirements. Even so, they are able to offer content features and user experiences otherwise impossible using 2D media. We’ll go through the different levels of virtual reality, their hardware requirements and readily adaptable, sometimes futuristic, business applications.
Technically, Virtual Reality involves an interactive, computer-generated environment. It could be a digital reproduction of our real world or one that only exists in fantasy. Most VR applications provide visual and audio feedback, while some also provide haptic (tactile or touch) feedback. Only the most advanced digital technologies are capable of rendering sensations associated with balance and motion, smell or taste. For full VR immersion, we heartily recommend visiting the Venetian Resort. It offers a state-of-the art VR experience letting you masquerade as a rebel in a Stormtrooper suit.
Most VR apps require some extra gear like a $199 Oculus Rift headset or $499 Vive HTC. Despite being uncomfortable, you can still make do with Google Cardboard, which has options as low as $9. Google Cardboard is a fold-out cardboard viewer, where you can place your phone in the back to mimic a true headset. That’s not to say that any of the headsets are as portable as your smartphone or iPad – and that’s a limiting factor where mobile apps are concerned.
Panoramic 360 Degree Images
With 360-degree panoramic images, you can swipe or click and drag to move a camera or view angle in any direction, left-right, up-down. Panoramic images are limited in that their fields of view are centered on stationary fixed points. They can be viewed on all devices and don’t require a VR headset. It’s hard to call a 360-degree image “VR” but it is useful in early stage app development to provide proof of concept.
You can find in-depth, hands-on reviews of a vast selection of 360-degree cameras like the GoPro Fusion, Insta360 Titan, Samsung Gear 360 and others on threesixtycameras.com.
You don’t need a high-end camera to produce panoramic images. As explained here, an assortment of apps enable you to create panoramic images with your smartphone or iPad. These tend to be lower in quality and lack up-and-down perspective. Apps like LiveTour by iStaging and My360 are designed with real estate agencies in mind, for offering higher quality virtual tours.
The Federal Lab Consortium’s LabTech at Home website provides a great example of how this can be put to use. It uses panoramic images to showcase federally-funded inventions you are likely to find in each room of your own home. Use of object links within the image adds a layer of augmented reality, so you can pull up extra details of specific inventions – like NASA’s memory foam.
Google Street View (for browsers) and Google Earth VR (for Vive and Oculus) take 360-imaging technology a few steps further so you can walk and fly around anywhere around the world, except for places like, well, Area 51.
Panoramic 360 Degree Video
Panoramic videos also let you see in all directions, up and down, from a fixed point, whether on a tripod, helmet, drone or other vehicle. YouTube has all kinds of 360-degree videos that you can watch at your leisure. Get some face-time with baby orangutans, visit Macchu Picchu or get your groove on with high-speed skateboarding. All quite cool, but they pale in comparison to
Anton Squeezer Anderson who takes 360-degree video with him on a wingsuit jump in the Swiss Alps. Dispensing with cameras, the high-end “bodysuits” like the Rokoko Smartsuit Pro serve as “an entire motion capture studio” for about $2500.
Panoramic videos, however cool, best serve as content, not applications unto themselves. They are a perfect fit for travel and tourist agencies for providing a “preview” of a vacation package and letting people compare where they’d like to take their next trip. The Deadpool Everywhere 360-video suggests interesting possibilities for the movies of tomorrow. Facebook has proven a willing partner for 360-degree media as the novelty still works quite well for social-sharing. And while not as new, 360-degree video can be used as an incredible educational and training format, as demonstrated by Dr. Shafi Ahmed in the first live-stream VR surgery in 2016.
VR Apps and Gloves
If you really want to dig into the possibilities VR makes possible, you’ll need some working gloves, or VR gloves like Manus, Plexus, or the thin, light-weight Dextres. These are just a few examples that start at roughly $200 and can jump to over $1,500. What they enable you to do is downright amazing, right out of movies like The Matrix and Ready Player One. It’s better to see for yourself – if you’re in a hurry, just jump to about 1:50 below:
The implications and possibilities of Virtual Reality are endless, it is an “exponential technology” – rapidly accelerating and having a profound impact on major industries and our lives. Where the above video introduces you to the very basics of how it works, Singularity University constantly talks about the advanced, brain-altering, reality-warping things it can do:
Today, it’s difficult to see a financially viable case for VR apps requiring regular mobile customers to have VR gloves to use. In the world of VR development, that’s really thinking too small. There are three major areas where VR apps are being put to exceptional use in conjunction with full-fledged VR environments:
VR Apps for Engineering:
Creating a virtual-environment that models real-world physics and object properties affords a potentially radical reduction in product development costs, facility design, and troubleshooting of complex systems. If this is interesting to you, you might check out IrisVR, Autodesk, and InsiteVR.
VR Apps for Training:
Hands-on training is universally regarded as more effective and offering higher levels of retention than regular book studies. Some types of training are too expensive or dangerous to carry out. TechRepublic reviews STRIVR, HTC’s VIVE Business Edition VR System, and Doghead Simulations rumii.
VR Apps for Medicine:
Going beyond training and surgery simulations, many new and exciting medical applications are emerging to treat mental disorders like PTSD, depression, overcoming phobias, pain management and breathing disorders. More futuristic applications see VR being used in conjunction with nanotechnology to address health issues at the sub-cellular level.
VR Apps and Bodysuits
Donning a VR Helmet and Gloves is a lot like dipping your toe in the water compared to putting on a full VR body suit. The TeslaSuit, Haptx (formerly AxonVR) among others like Bhaptic’s TactSuit which claims to be “more realistic than reality” range from $300 to $1200. Simply put, VR bodysuits let you feel whatever may be happening to you in a virtual environment. You can let your imagination run wild and in just a few seconds, shift from what it feels like to get virtually shot with a paintball… into actual NSFW territory.
Presently, the majority of VR bodysuits focus on haptics, but they are rapidly expanding into temperature control and capturing vital signs. This technology is way ahead of the tech-adoption bell curve. Its business applications serve to take VR training and simulations further along with more advanced medical applications. And of course, there’s always the huge NSFW market currently fixated on artificial biological companions:
Full-Motion Virtual Reality
If you’re ready to jump into VR’s Deep End, you’re going to need some serious space, Our friends at MM1 Project developed the world’s first 360-degree full-motion attraction. This machine works in-tangent with other VR devices like Oculus Rift but it requires four cubic meters to operate. This isn’t for your regular home entertainment center, as its intended for commercial VR entertainment venues. It debuted in late 2015 with Ubisoft’s racing game TrackMania 2 at the eSports World Cup (ESWP) in Paris:
VR Apps for Taste?
VR Tasting Apps will require some pretty exotic hardware. But, imagine being able to virtually taste anything you want without eating a single calorie. Imagine the impact for Jenny Craig and other diet programs. Got a craving for chocolate? Strawberry cheesecake? What about some Ghost Peppers? While early in the game, it’s interesting to consider the monetization possibilities for when taste-testing hardware becomes commercially available. For more food for thought, consider hooking up your favorite VR Tasting Apps and Recipes to a 3D printer. That’s not so far-fetched as it may sound considering we are already using 3D printers to produce human organs.
Is Your Business Moving into VR?
While mainstream mobile users aren’t regularly using headsets or gloves, they’re likely enjoying panoramic images and videos. It’s cool content and you can create it without ever needing a mobile app. But, if you are looking to offer 360-degree images and videos in an app with additional features and functions, you will want to optimize it for easy downloading and viewing to provide the best user experience possible.
As the entire realm of Virtual Reality is evolving at break-neck speed, what may not have been viable yesterday could be the newest, hottest thing tomorrow. Reinvently is recognized as a top App Design & Development Company on DesignR