How to Make and Publish Gear VR Apps (Without Coding!)
The following is a guide on to how to make and publish a Gear VR app. No coding is required. All you need is 360 media, an InstaVR account, and a Samsung Gear VR headset + compatible phone (ie Samsung Galaxy or Samsung Galaxy edge). You can create Gear VR apps in minutes!
1. Authoring a Gear VR App
The first step in creating a Gear VR application is authoring the app experience. One of the great things about InstaVR is our “write once, publish to many” approach. So all of the steps listed below for authoring a Gear VR application will be applicable to publishing to other platforms as well.
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 up to two practice Gear VR apps.
Upload your 360 images and videos to InstaVR
The first step in creating your new Gear VR project is uploading the 360 media you’d like to use. As a web-based solution, that’s as simple as collecting your project media into a single folder on your desktop and dragging it to our File Manager. Once in our File Manager, you can easily select the 360 images or videos you’d like to include in your project.
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 360 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 Gear VR initial panos:
- Use an initial 360 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 360 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 360-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.
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 ->
Note that Hotspots work a bit differently in 360 images and videos. For 360 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 Gear 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. Rather than going through them individually here, we’ll link to the main features that may be of interest to you while authoring your Gear VR app.
2. Using Live Previewer to Test Your Gear VR App
As you’re authoring your Gear VR app — or after you’ve completed it — you may want to view what the application will look like prior to doing the final packaging. That is why we introduced our Live Preview feature in July 2017. Live Preview will help make you more productive, as you can see in real-time what your app will look like to end users. This will help you to better place and edit your Navigation Links, Hotspots, etc
Using the Live Preview app is simple:
- Click Live Preview from the left side of your Authoring tab.
- Add your Oculus Signature File to your account. (we’ll talk more about that below in the Publishing section as well)
- Download the Live Previewer app to your Samsung phone.
- Scan the QR code in your Console.
- Place your phone into your headset.
Note, you’ll need internet access for the Live Previewer feature to work, as it’s constantly updating your view based on the changes you’re making in the Authoring view.
3. Branding a Gear VR App
Before publishing, you’ll want to add you or your clients’ branding to your Gear VR app. That will include an app icon and an app splash image/video (if you’re a Pro customer). You won’t have to worry about the Home Screen option, as InstaVR launches straight into your app from the splash media, if placed in a Gear VR headset.
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.
4. Publishing a Gear VR App
Publishing Gear VR apps is simple with InstaVR. Unlike with a standard Google .apk file though, you will need to publish distinct apps for each phone that will be used in each Gear VR. But one of the many benefits of using InstaVR for your Gear VR app production is the ability to create apps for multiple distinct Samsung phones at the same time. So InstaVR helps make the process simpler and faster. Below are the steps you’ll need to follow:
Download the InstaVR Device ID App from the Google Play Store
If you don’t already know your Samsung phone Device IDs, you’ll need to identify them using a simple app we’ve made available on the Google Play Store. It can be downloaded here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.instavr.instavrgearvrutil&hl=en.
Run DeviceID App and Write Down All the Device IDs
After you’ve downloaded our DeviceID application, if you open it up on a phone, it will give you the specific device ID. Write it down. Do this for all phones you’ll be running your Gear VR app on.
Create Oculus Signature Files Using Your Device IDs
Go to the Oculus Signature File page — https://dashboard.oculus.com/tools/osig-generator/. They’ll have instructions there for creating what are known as Oculus Signature Files. Basically what you are doing is entering the Device IDs and creating distinct .osig files you’ll be uploading to our platform in the next step.
In the Packaging Section of your Console, Upload your .osig Files
You’ll need to upload the .osig files created in the last step to our platform. To do so, you’ll go the Package section of your InstaVR Console, and expand the “Platform” section. There, you’ll be able to upload all of the .osig files you’ve created.
Press Blue “Make Package for Gear VR” Button
You only have to press this once, regardless of how many Gear VR packages you’ll be making. Depending on how large and how many files you’re making, it may take several minutes to package. Please note, we also have an Enterprise option if you want to do long-form Gear VR apps that can be loaded locally on a phone using SD storage. Because our Pro max app size is 2 GB, this would be the option you would want for long-form VR, such as VR for Training videos.
5. Distribute a Gear VR App
Distributing a Gear VR app is relatively straightforward. As discussed earlier, you’ll only be able to distribute apps to the phones you’ve created .osig files for. One alternative is to publish to the Oculus Store, but for that you need to be an approved Oculus Developer. Otherwise, for sideloaded/inhouse Gear VR apps, below are the steps.
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. If you’re just creating a single Gear VR app for a single Samsung phone, you can open your InstaVR Console on that specific phone and download the package from the Download section.
If setting up multiple Gear VR headsets, you’ll likely want to download the .apk files to your desktop on your laptop and distribute.
Distribute Your Gear VR Apps
One of the more popular approaches to distribution is uploading the finished .apk files to a cloud storage system such as Google Drive or Dropbox, then sharing the link. You’ll need to make sure your .apk files are distributed to the correct phones that their Device IDs/.osig files were procured from. As mentioned previously, unlike with standard .apk files, only the specific phones will be able to run your Gear VR apps.
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 app is ready to be experienced. The process is actually relatively simple and straightforward once you’ve done it once. And the ability to upload multiple .osig files and package multiple .apks at a time will save you time.
We’re big fans of Gear VRs and am sure your audience will appreciate experiencing your VR app on such an immersive, mobile platform.
6. Analyzing and Improving Your Gear VR App
After you’ve published and distributed your Gear VR apps, you can use our analysis tools to figure out where users are looking, what Navigation Links/Hotspots they’re interacting with, etc. Your users will have to be connected to the Internet, and you’ll have to package with “Basic Heatmap” turned on and Google Analytics identifiers added to the Navigation Links/Hotspots.
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 while using your Gear VR app. 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.