The Virtual Reality (VR) market has taken great strides in recent years and viewing 3D configurators in VR has become very popular. The VR industry is now supported by giants such as Facebook, Microsoft and Samsung. This is driving the market even further by lowering the price of VR headsets and improving the quality of these gadgets.

Unity Virtual Reality

The global virtual reality market was estimated at $2 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow tenfold by 2021. VR’s development is following this trend and growing accordingly.

But why should this interest you as a developer?

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The first reason is the challenge, working on a new project in a completely different technology than the one you are used to can stimulate and refresh your brain after the project is finished.

The second reason is that virtual reality will become more and more established over time. We can assume that more and more developers will switch from their current position to VR-related ones. So don’t be surprised if web development becomes obsolete while VR development becomes one of the best paid jobs in the industry.

Starting early means taking advantage of the first mover advantage, which could be an advantage in the long run. After all, leaving the comfort zone did not hurt anyone.

If you have decided to take a risk and try VR development, the first steps are to choose a device and a platform. Let’s start with the basic differences between device types.

Getting started: Selecting a device.

Mobile VR and Console VR are two important VR device types. Mobile VR is a separate device that is connected to an iPhone or Android device. It is wireless and requires no additional hardware, which facilitates access. The Console VR is connected to a computer or game console such as the PlayStation VR. Currently, the cost of mobile VR headsets is relatively low compared to other consoles that require a powerful computer to run VR games and simulations.

The main difference between the Mobile VR and the Console VR is how immersive the experience is.

Mobile VR does not provide a fully immersive experience due to hardware limitations as it only allows tracking of gyroscopes so that the user can look around with 360 degrees. Console VR extends the experience by using sensors that not only detect the player’s position on a room scale, but also his hand and finger movements. As you might guess, this provides a completely immersive experience.

If the player wants to move when using Mobile VR, he does so either by shifting his gaze or by analog translation of Bluetooth controllers. This movement can cause dizziness and must be carefully optimized and tested to make the movement as smooth as possible.

The developers are now competing for solutions for VR environments and for solving some of the problems of VR usage. On the other hand, the VR console mostly uses hand teleportation and analog control input. However, developers are working on other solutions to provide a seamless immersive experience.

As already mentioned, there are several VR headsets on the market. The most popular are HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PSVR and other devices that target Mobile VR, such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR. Since the current technology could be outdated in less than a year, when choosing a device you want to develop with, consider the upcoming editions of headsets. We can expect new versions of Playstation (PSVR), HTC and Oculus at any time.

Select a platform.

Once you have selected a device, selecting a platform is the next step. Developing for VR requires a basic understanding of the game engines and some programming knowledge. Many developers are exploring the possibilities of becoming VR developers as the market grows every day and there are not enough people who can develop for these specific platforms.

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Currently, there are a number of experiences that can be conveyed in VR, including games from a first-person perspective where the player uses his hand to shoot and drive vehicles; a commercial aspect where companies develop VR solutions to train their employees to perform specific tasks; landscape views; and architectural visualizations. The most common VR development platforms are Unity, Unreal, Android and iOS.

Unreal is preferred by designers because it has a much better material system for quality, lighting, ease of use, easy asset import, a larger selection of building tools, and a prefabricated terrain system. Unrealistic projects can be deployed on Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices. However, Android support is not as comprehensive as Unity. Since most VR projects are tested on cartons due to expensive headsets, using Unity makes more sense in this case. Creating apps with native Android and iOS platforms is also possible, but it can be too much work for beginners.

VR Development Tutorial.

Once you have selected a device and platform for VR, it’s time to start with a tutorial.

For the purposes of this guide, we will focus on Oculus Rift. To develop for VR in general, you will need a Software Development Kit (SDK or DevKit). For each platform there are several SDKs on the Internet, such as Oculus SDK, OpenVR SDK, VRTK, GVR and many more.

To start developing the Unity 3D game engine for Oculus Rift or Vive, you need a basic understanding of how to use the engine – for example, how to add game objects and behaviors to these objects, and how to import assets. If you are not familiar with this, I recommend that you read the Unity manual and the tutorials.t tutorial introduction will not be possible without these steps. We will use the OpenVR SDK developed by Steam, which is aimed at some VR gears on the market like Oculus and Vive.

First you need to download and install Steam and SteamVR. Once you have SteamVR installed and running, and Oculus is connected to your computer or development platform, you will receive a popup confirmation telling you that SteamVR is ready.

You will then need to start a new Unity project, mark it as a 3D project, and select a directory where you want to save it.

Basics and changes to the Unity interface can be found on the official tutorials page. There you can also learn more about the interface and the engine.

When creating a project you have to activate VR mode within the engine to activate VR development. This can be done via Edit > Project Settings > Players > XR Settings and then you have to click the button “Virtual Reality Supported”.

Then you have to make sure that OpenVR is in the list via Oculus or other SDKs. They are not set directly in the hierarchy, which can lead to conflicts.

Next, download the SteamVR plugin from the Unity Asset Store page and import it into the Unity project.

After importing the plugin and setting up the project to support VR, you can turn on your Oculus and see which scene you are developing.

When you start your project, the main camera in the scene can act as a stereoscopic VR camera. You need to position the camera in the right place within the scene. Then you can add objects such as cubes and layers for reference.

Now, for more functionality, we also need to enable hand tracking. We can either bring the prefab object into a SteamVR plugin called CameraRig or use our camera to set the scene in scene.

Browse through the SteamVR plugin files within your project structure and find the Prefabs subfolder. This contains objects like the CameraRig, a ready-made game object whose controller tracking is enabled for both controllers Game objects to which it is attached in the SteamVR TrackedObject script.

When you now play the game, you can see their Oculus Touch controllers being tracked in the scene with a model of the Oculus Touch.

With this simple demo you can now explore the virtual world you have created in VR. You have headtracking and tracking for both hands.

You can create and test this progress without opening the engine, which you can easily do using the menu bar above (File > Build Setting > Build). You now have an executable file that you can run without using the engine.

With what you have achieved with this tutorial, you can create a VR movement in which you can display any VR content such as models and animations. In the world of virtual reality, however, this is called a “passive experience” because you don’t interact with or contribute to the scene. Players are only allowed to view the content.

VR is here to stay.

VR is a growing industry that will last and it should be a goal for every developer to become an early adopter of this technology. In addition to the challenge and personal improvement already mentioned, it is expected that new hires in this area will increase exponentially over the next ten years.

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Based on your project you have to decide which VR mechanics you want to implement into the scene. For example, in architectural visualization, the most important mechanic moves and navigates through the scene. However, you can add another functionality that allows you to change the models in the scene or even change the materials on the models, giving the user a more interactive experience.

There are so many cool things you can do with SteamVR, like teleporting and moving in the scene or even interacting with other objects by carrying or throwing. These topics are more advanced and we can cover them in other guides.

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