How to Make and Play HTC Vive Apps
The HTC Vive is a high-powered VR headset, perfect for exhibiting high-quality image and video based VR experiences. Making apps for the HTC Vive is surprisingly easy with InstaVR’s no coding platform. If your company has invested in an HTC Vive, or are planning to get one, you can make and publish Vive apps in minutes. Visit our VR Outputs section for a basic overview of HTC Vive. Below, we’ll go into more detail on why you’d want to create VR experiences for the Vive and the process for app creation.
- What is HTC Vive?
- Why Choose the HTC Vive headset?
- How to Author an App for the HTC Vive
- How to Publish an App for HTC Vive
- Client Example Built for the HTC Vive Using InstaVR
Thanks for using InstaVR and best of luck on your HTC Vive projects!
1. What is HTC Vive?
The HTC Vive is the product of a joint venture between tech powerhouses HTC and Valve Corporation. Launched in 2016, the Vive competes primarily with Facebook’s Oculus Rift. Both headsets target the high-end VR market, and sold just shy of 500,000 units in 2016. Sales growth accelerated in 2017, in part due to a $200 drop in price, with the headset now costing roughly $599 USD.
HTC Vives require not just the VR headset and hand controllers — which make up the HTC Vive bundle — but also a reasonably high-powered PC or Mac, with an appropriate graphics card. Exact spec requirements can be found here. And though not applicable to most of our client base, the Vive is capable of doing room-scale VR, with cameras set up for positional tracking.
The current incarnation of the Vive has a resolution of 2160 x 1200 (1080 x 1200 per eye). A new, more powerful Vive Pro is due out sometime this year. But with no official launch date, high-end VR users are best served purchasing the Vive now rather than waiting.
2. Why Choose the HTC Vive Headset?
While the Vive is a fantastic headset, it’s not for everyone. Below we’ll cover the Pros & Cons if you’re considering buying an HTC Vive. If you already own one, you can skip this section and jump down to Authoring.
- Ability to display high quality images and videos. One of the knocks on using mobile VR is a lack of support for graphics or pixel intensive VR experiences. That’s not the case with the HTC Vive. The required tethered computer, loaded with (at minimum) a Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 480 graphics card, can handle just about anything you can throw it. So if you’ve say invested in an 8K Insta360 Pro camera, you’d be foolish to skim on headsets and only buy lower-end iOS or Android ones. With 1080 x 1200 per eye, the Vive gives you a very strong picture quality.
- Works with Macs! Most users in the video production and graphic design world use Apple products. And yet, Oculus Rift has only worked to date on PCs. Rift co-founder Palmer Luckey once said, seemingly without irony, that Rift would work with Macs when Apple starts churning out good products. Yikes! There was a thought Oculus would become more Apple-friendly once Facebook tried to expand the footprint of the headset, but so far that hasn’t come to pass. So if you’re a Mac fan, you’ll definitely be choosing Vive over Rift.
- 110-degree FOV. To someone new to VR, the idea of Field of View might seem unimportant. But the truth is the difference in FOV of the major headsets — ie Google Cardboard’s 90-degree, Gear VR’s 100-degree — is noticeable when it comes to immersion. And the immersion factor of HTC Vive (and Oculus Rift) far exceeds the Google Cardboard.
- Price. Even at $200 off its original selling price, $599 for the HTC Vive is still in on the high end. Though the real expense is in the required high-powered PC or Mac + graphics card. Plus, you’ll need a nice travelling case, if you plan on using the Vive outside of your offices.
- Not mobile friendly (yet). The HTC Vive requires a decent set up space and a cord connected to a computer. For some, this is actually a pretty big obstacle. If you’re doing a sales meeting or setting up a trade show event, for example, bringing along Gear VRs or Daydreams is a breeze. HTC recently rolled out the standalone mobile HTC Vive Focus, which has gotten very strong reviews. But it’s only available in China with no date promised for release elsewhere! (and if you’re price sensitive, the Vive Focus will be more expensive than the forthcoming Oculus Go) That being said, Vive unveiled in January a wireless adapter that will allow Vives to go untethered, with a projected release date of Q3 2018.
3. How to Author an App for HTC Vive
Authoring an application for HTC Vive is very similar to authoring an application for any other platform using InstaVR. No coding is required and your output is a Vive-ready .exe file. You can literally author apps for the HTC Vive in minutes!
Because the HTV Vive is a uniquely powerful platform though, we’ll highlight some of the features of InstaVR that are uniquely suited for Vive.
Adding Navigation Links & Hotspots
Adding Navigation Links and Hotspots is a simple drag-and-drop process in InstaVR. Many of our customers using the HTC Vive are showcasing things like architectural renderings or similar high-quality CGI work. The ability to add Navigation between scenes or 2D image/video overlays, without having to code for them, provides an extra level of value in VR.
Here are the instructions for each:
Add Navigation between scenes
Once you’ve established if you’re using a Main Menu or a linear approach, you need to give your users the ability to navigate from scene to scene. App users can initiate navigation either through gazing at Navigation links or by pointing at them with a hand controller (depending on if your headset uses a hand controller or not).
Setting up navigation depends on if your VR scene is image based or video based.
Adding Navigation to 360-degree images (For images, you’ll have to add a navigation link — or multiple ones — somewhere within a scene to allow users to navigate to a next scene)
Select “+Link” from Bottom of Authoring Platform ->
Press Update Position ->
Select Location in Pano You’d Like Navigation Link to Be and Click ->
Select Destination Scene You’d Like Navigation Link to Go To ->
Override Nav Link Label, Change Nav Link Icon, Change Text Color, and Change Icon or Font Size (All Optional) ->
Adding Navigation to 360-degree videos (Videos require a different approach than images. There are three options for what happens after a video plays. All of them are found in the lower right corner of the Authoring view, under the “Transition Options” drop-down)
Loop – Loop plays that video over again and again. This is a good choice if you only have a single video for your Gear VR app.
Stop – If you’d like to give your users options after a video plays, select Stop. You can add Navigation Links to the scene, as discussed above, and the user can choose the next scene they’d like to go to.
Navigate – This choice allows you to choose the next scene or video that automatically loads after the video plays. This is a good choice if you want your VR to be passive, and you want to control the navigation flow of your app users.
Adding Hotspots to your 360-degree media
VR Hotspots are 2D media (images or videos) that can overlay directly on your 360 media. They can be initiated by the user (via gaze or hand controller), or can automatically be displayed if you’re a Pro user.
The steps for adding Hotspots to your VR scenes are:
Select “+Hotspot” from the bottom of the Authoring view ->
Press “Update Position” in upper right hand corner ->
Select location in 360 media where you’d like the Hotspot to appear ->
Select the 2D image or video from the File Manager you’d like to appear as the Hotspot ->
Add a Label that will appear in the 360 media below the Hotspot icon ->
Change Hotspot icon, Icon/Label color, or Icon/Label size (All Optional) ->
(Optionally) Pro users can change when Hotspots appear and if they play automatically ->
Utilizing Spatial Audio
Spatial audio is quickly going from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” in virtual reality. Even more entry-level cameras, like the Ricoh Theta V, are incorporating spatial audio into their cameras.
The HTC Vive is a highly immersive VR headset. To accompany the visual splendor that Vive is able to achieve, we strongly recommend incorporating spatial audio into your application. And without the app size limitations presented by iTunes or Google Play, creating a local Vive app augmented with spatial audio is a great benefit, if it all possible.
Rather than cut & paste the directions for spatial audio here, we’ll direct you to the two most relevant articles —
4. How to Publish an App for HTC Vive
The actual publishing of an HTC Vive app is very straightforward and simple. In the Package section of InstaVR, you’ll need to choose either Vive for Windows or Vive for Mac.
Once you hit Package, we’ll set to work creating the .exe file that will run on the computer tethered to the headset. Once the package is complete, you’ll get an email alerting you. On the computer connected to the HTC Vive, either open the link from the email or open your InstaVR Console. You can then directly download the .exe file to run on the computer.
(Make sure while packaging to select the correct “Mac” or “Windows” option)
5. Client Example Built Using InstaVR for the HTC Vive
Toyota High System
Our flagship enterprise user of HTC Vive publishing was Toyota High System. You can read their complete Customer Success story here. Of note, they were originally going to use a mobile VR headset, before deciding the HTC Vive would be more immersive and allow for longer form high-quality VR. Because Toyota High System’s HR team is set up all day at a College Job Fair, showcasing their VR office tours, the need for a mobile VR platform is significantly lessened.