How to Create and Publish 180-degree VR180 Apps
You will be hearing a lot of talk about VR180 very soon. The Lenovo Mirage Solo package, which contains a Lenovo Mirage standalone headset and a nice 180-degree camera, starts shipping May 5th. The headset is already getting positive reviews and the camera has some solid specs (point & shoot, dual 13 megapixel fisheye lenses for capturing stereoscopic, 16GB of storage expandable to 128GB).
The following page explains what VR180 (180-degree VR) is, why you should considering using VR180, why InstaVR is the leading platform for creating VR180 apps, and a how-to guide on publishing VR180 apps.
1. Why InstaVR is the Leader in the VR180 Publishing Space
Creating a VR180 application is quick and easy with InstaVR.
Before walking you through the step-by-step process, we first wanted to discuss why you should select InstaVR as your VR180 application building platform. Many of the benefits you will receive are the same as those experienced by our 30,000+ 360-degree VR app creators. But we also have specific features that make us ideal for VR180 users. Those benefits include:
- Output to stereo (3D) VR180 for images and video. Distribute impressive, immersive stereoscopic VR using cameras like the aforementioned Lenovo Mirage.
- Output to mono stereo 180 as well. Utilize existing cameras like the Kodak Pixpro that can capture 180-degree media to quickly and easily publish monoscopic VR180 experiences.
- Import from future VR180 cameras. Beyond support for existing VR180 cameras like the ZCam K1 Pro, you can also have confidence you can utilize InstaVR with upcoming VR180 cameras such as the YI Horizon and the KanDao QooCam.
InstaVR is unique in being the largest web-based solution for publishing immersive media. The same great experience you have authoring 360-degree applications applies to 180-degree applications too.
2. Explanation of what VR180 is
The 360-degree media space has seen impressive growth over the last several years. There’s been a torrent of new cameras being purchased by professional photographers and individuals — everything from the popular entry-level Ricoh Theta to the professional-grade Insta360 Pro. But capturing in 360-degrees is not always practical or simple. Nor is it even necessary, in many cases.
That’s why it wasn’t surprising in June 2017 when Google announced a new line of VR180 cameras it would be making along with partners such as YI, Lenovo, and LG. In conjunction with Google’s announcement, we announced our own compatibility with the media format. 2018 is shaping up to be a year of solid growth for VR180, as the aforementioned cameras come to market, and new ones get announced.
One question we get asked is why consider using VR180 instead of standard 360 VR media? Here’s a couple main reasons:
- Because VR users are most focused on the front 180-degrees anyway. We know this from heatmap data. Users may glance behind them, or be drawn there by audio. But generally speaking, for video, users are still focused on the front 180.
- Lower cost for VR180 cameras of better quality than 360 counterparts. You can get a good brand name 180-degree 4K stereoscopic camera for less than a comparable 360-degree camera.
- Less setup time, with a tripod not even necessary. With 360-degree cameras, you have to consider a lot of factors, like what’s going on in the whole field of view, and how to hide from the scene if you don’t want to be included. Worse yet, if you don’t have a tripod, you’ll have to edit yourself out of scenes using something like Adobe Premiere.
- Smaller file sizes, less SD cards. 360 images and (particularly) videos are data intensive. You can fly through SD cards trying to capture 360 scenes. Although the quality is comparable to 360, with only half as much data being captured, VR180 cameras use significantly less memory.
3. Overview of Current VR180 Camera Market
ZCam K1 Pro – High-end VR180 camera for professional photographers.
LucidCam – One of the first commercially available 180-degree cameras, LucidCam is a crowdfunding success story. The LucidCam camera, which sells for $499 USD, is able to capture in 4K at 30 fps.
Lenovo Mirage – Either bundled with the Mirage headset or standalone. Nice specs mentioned at the top of this article, including capturing stereoscopic.
YI Horizon VR180 Camera – Similar to Lenovo’s offering, YI’s camera is point-and-shoot and tied closely to Google. It captures 5.7k resolution images and videos, has a four microphone design. Original release date was supposed to be Spring 2018.
Kandao QooCam – Available for pre-order on Kickstarter with delivery August 2018. Both a 2D 360 camera and a 3D 180 camera.
4. Use Cases for VR180
VR180 is a versatile format. The smaller camera size, lack of dependence on a tripod, and quicker set up means VR180 recording more closely resembles traditional DSLR photography. There are some use cases that are particularly well-suited for employing VR180. They are:
VR for Training – A lot of VR training videos are done from a 1st person perspective. A major client of ours is using VR to train new customer service reps, for example. Their view and interaction is done almost entirely in a front 180 field of view. So VR180 allows them to do focused, more long-form VR training. Another example might be a flight simulator, where the pilot would rarely be looking behind them.
Tourism/Event VR – The less structured a situation, the harder it is to capture it in 360-degrees. Real Estate tours, for instance, are relatively easy to do in 360. The rooms are stagnant and it’s easy to set up a tripod and remotely control the camera from the adjacent hallway. But if you’re filming in the outdoors, or a live event, or in crowded area — those all require flexibility. Setting up a tripod and accessing the whole landscape isn’t easy. In those cases, because of the benefits of VR180, it’s often a better fit.
If You Need Stereoscopic 3D – There’s nothing quite like the immersion of stereoscopic 3D for VR. It mimics real life as closely as currently possible. Capturing that type of image or video, as mentioned, is logistically easier with VR180. And while you may lose a little realism from not capturing the view from behind, most users will not really notice, and even less will care.
Download Example VR180 App –
InstaVR Private Yoga for Daydream
5. How to Publish a VR180 App Using InstaVR
The first step in creating a VR180 application is authoring the app experience. One of the great things about InstaVR is our “write once, publish to many” approach. So you can create the VR180 app narrative once, and then publish it across all the major VR headsets.
Sign up for a Free InstaVR account
Signing up for InstaVR is both free and easy. You can either click the “TRY FOR FREE” button in the top right corner or visit https://console.instavr.co/signup. With a free InstaVR account, you can publish an unlimited # of practice or Proof of Concept apps. (subject to a few limitations, such as 100 MB max app size)
Upload your 180-degree images and videos to InstaVR
The first step in creating your app is to upload your media files to our File Manager. You can organize them on your desktop and upload them all at once. Or do it sequentially. As mentioned previously, we accept both 180 Mono and 180 Stereo files.
Select the correct type of media you’ve uploaded
On the lower right side of the screen, you’ll have to choose which of the 180-degree file types you have — standard 180, side-by-side stereoscopic 180, or top-bottom stereoscopic 180.
After you’ve selected the correct file type, your 180-degree image will be mirrored to create a full 360-degree experience, with both 180 views being identical.
Create a menu OR select the initial scene
After your files are in our cloud, you can in the Authoring tab select which panorama you’d like your app to launch into first. Whichever 180-degree image or video you have as the top-most in your Authoring tab will be the one that loads first. There’s two approaches that our clients generally take for initial app launch, partially dependent on what platform they’re publishing to.
- Use an initial 180 image as your “Menu Page” – Some clients will want to allow their users to select between a number of different images or videos off of a de facto Menu Page. To do that, you’ll select a 180 image as your menu background, and then add multiple Navigation links off that main menu for the user to choose from. (more on Navigation Links below) This approach is good if you have multiple distinct VR experiences for your audience or if you’d like to give them a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style experience.
- Launch right into a 180-degree image or video – Rather than allowing your user to choose their narrative direction via a Menu, you can have them automatically open on an image or video-based scene. This is good if you want to have a linear experience for your users where they go scene-to-scene, without needing an initial multi-choice Menu. If publishing to iOS or Android, you can create a Menu made of thumbnails that can launch various distinct VR experiences. If publishing to Gear VR, Google Daydream, Vive, or Rift, it’s best to use the above menu approach if you have multiple VR experiences for your users to choose from.
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 180-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 180-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.
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 180-degree media
VR Hotspots are 2D media (images or videos) that can overlay directly on your 180 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 180 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 180 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 ->
Note that Hotspots work a bit differently in 180 images and videos. For 180 images, the Hotspot is coded to appear fixed to the object where you place it. For videos, it will appear in a location. For that reason, the Pro feature of Hotspot appearance time is something to strongly consider for video.
Overall, Hotspots can be used for educational purposes, for close-up views of things, for adding a video component to a still image, and much much more. Hotspots are a great way to make your app interactive. You can also track Hotspot initiation by adding a Google Analytics id marker to the Hotspot, and viewing the counting stats related to that in Google Analytics.
Creating a Narrative to your VR experience
Authoring a VR app is as simple as creating a series of scenes, and ensuring your users have a way to navigate from scene-to-scene. This is what we call creating the narrative. You want to ensure that users can intuitively figure out the navigation of the app. Because they’ll be wearing a headset, you want them to experience a logical narrative flow without having to involve you in the process.
Other VR Authoring Options with InstaVR
Above, we’ve listed the basic components of creating a VR application… uploading media, adding navigation between scenes, and placing Hotspots. There’s many, many more options possible with InstaVR, particularly for InstaVR Pro users. Below are just a few of them.
Branding a VR180 App
Before publishing, you’ll want to add you or your clients’ branding to your app. That will include an app icon and an app splash image/video (if you’re a Pro customer). You can also choose between a number of different home screen options.
Adding an App Icon
Your VR users will access your app through an icon placed on the phone’s screen. You can customize this icon. InstaVR recommends a 512 x 512 square png file.
Adding a Splash Image or Video
The splash image or video will load just prior to your VR experience. This is a great branding opportunity. The recommended file dimensions are 1920 x 1080 png or 1920 x 1080 mp4.
Publishing a VR180 App
How you publish apps depends on which of the VR headsets you’d like your VR180 app to be viewed on. Because there are so many options, we’ll link to more comprehensive articles on each below:
Distribute a VR180 App
Distributing a VR180 app is heavily dependent on the headset you’re distributing to. You can do either InHouse apps or Store-ready apps if you’re a Pro customer. For the sake of this article, we’ll only discuss the InHouse app download process.
Open Your Console to the Download Section
After your app has completed Packaging, you’ll get an email letting you know your application is ready. You can either click through from the email or go to your Download section to see your app ready for download on your appropriate device.
Distribute Your VR180 Apps
This is heavily dependent on the purpose of your app. For broad distribution or to monetize an app, Pro clients will publish to iTunes or Google Play. For internal use, clients either invite users to download the app via email (iOS) or create a QR code and/or self-distribute completed .apk files (Android). WebVR is easy to create, and Pro users are able to embed the WebVR directly on their web pages. Vive and Rift packaging creates .exe files which can be run on the computer connected to the headset. And Gear VR has a very specific download process which you can read more about.
Open the Downloaded App & Approve it in your Security Settings
With any iOS/Android/Gear VR app created for InHouse packaging — ie not distributed through a Store — you’ll need to go into Security Settings on your phone and state that the app is approved. This is done by the phone manufacturer for security reasons. You’ll only need to do it once for the app.
That’s it. The VR180 app is ready to be experienced. We strongly believe that 2018 will see significant growth in the VR180 market, as more and more cameras come to market. Google is obviously heavily invested in the technology.
So don’t miss out on your opportunity to publish and distribute VR180 apps using our InstaVR platform!
Analyzing and Improving Your VR180 App
There’s two main ways to analyze your VR180 app once you’ve published it: Analytics and Heatmaps. Heatmaps are closely tied with 360 media — you want to know where users are looking within the entire viewing area to ensure focus is where you want it to be. However, you can also learn a lot from VR180 heatmaps, which will allow you to re-think your recording approach based on the focus areas.
Analytics require you to have a Google Analytics account already set up. You can then tag objects such as Navigational Links and Hotspots while authoring your app. If you include your Google Analytics overall account # when packaging, we’ll be able to send data into your analytics account for all your app users who are connected to the Internet when viewing it.
Heatmaps will allow you to visualize where your users are focusing their attention. Our new Heatmaps 2.0 gives you access to Live Heatmaps, 3D Heatmaps, Grid-based Heatmaps and more. You can use this data to understand if users are looking where you intend them to look.