//How to Make Better Virtual Reality Apps

How to Make Better Virtual Reality Apps

Making a first virtual reality app is a huge accomplishment. We’ve written about the value of creating a compelling Proof of Concept VR app before. Then comes the next step — improving your subsequent VR applications.

Just like with 360-degree cameras, there is a bit of a learning curve with VR app creation. Though InstaVR provides an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface, there still is an art to making great VR. You’ll hopefully learn from your first app, iterate, and improve.

To help you accomplish that, we’ve outlined four major things you can do after creating your first app, to make a better second, third, fourth and beyond app. Don’t be discouraged if your first app isn’t perfect. They rarely are. Like with sports, you’ll get better with practice.

If you’re interesting in live training to help you improve your app making skills, be sure to attend our weekly Wednesday morning trainings. You’ll receive an invite after signing up for a Free InstaVR account. Thanks for reading and good luck with your Virtual Reality app building!

Create a Main Menu

First VR apps are often linear. A user views a scene, moves onto a next scene, then a next scene, etc. Most of the best advanced VR apps have a main menu though, where the user can choose the scene or VR experience they’d like to go to.

The importance of a custom menu was discussed earlier this week in our client interview with Kevin & Lauren of Refresh VR. They do a custom designed menu for each client, and consider it an integral part of the VR experience. We agree with them!

A main menu gives the VR user some agency over the experience. Not every user will want to view the same scenes, in the same order. Unless the narrative of the VR story requires certain scenes be viewed in an exact order, there’s no reason to force users to go linearly through your virtual reality.

What makes a great menu?

Great Graphics (aka “Icon” in InstaVR) — made using a program like Photoshop.

Clear Explanation of Link Destinations — define where the link will take the user, either built into the graphic itself or added in InstaVR using the navigation link Label feature. The shorter and clearer, the better.

Legibility — You want to choose a background 360-degree image for the menu that allows the menu options to be easily read.

Best examples built w/ InstaVR
American Girl Store 
St. Thomas Aquinas College (built by Refresh VR)

Add Interactivity via Hotspots

Hotspots are an important part of many VR experiences. Those new to VR may not be aware of what they are though. They’re 2D images, videos, or audio that overlay on the 360/3D media, adding additional value. This could be a close up image or an audio explanation or an entertaining video that plays. The options with Hotspots are endless.

We see many first apps not contain any Hotspots. Why? Likely because the builders are new to Hotspots or don’t see the value in them.

The value in Hotspots, besides being educational or entertaining, is in the interactivity. It keeps the user engaged, and gives them an active mission to do within a scene. As we’ve discussed in articles on VR for Training, interactivity leads to better recall.

Creating Hotspots is easy. For images or video, you can use your phone or DLSR camera to take 2D images/video footage. For audio, you can record .mp3 using a microphone or even an app on your phone.

Then for your third or fourth app, you can start experimenting with our more advanced Hotspot features, such as time-based appearance or auto-play.

Best examples built w/ InstaVR
Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick 360 Gallery
Texas Ambulance Bus (from Texas State University)

Experiment with Voice-over or Additional Audio

As mentioned in the Hotspot section above, you can add .mp3 files to augment your Hotspots. Did you know you can also add .mp3 files to your 360 images or videos? This can either take the place of or complement (in certain instances) the ambisonic audio captured by a 360 camera.

What do clients typically add .mp3 voiceover or audio for to a VR scene? Here are a few examples… Instructions on what to do within a scene. Describing what is going on in a scene. To set the mood for the VR experience. Or to create an effect, such as an off-screen jump scare.

Many first-time VR app builders will use the audio that comes from their 360 camera only. This makes sense, as it is the most natural audio to accompany a scene and takes the least amount of work. Adding additional audio though makes for a more professional and polished VR experience.

Best examples built w/ InstaVR
Hello Kitty (Puroland)

Los Angeles Police Department (from Galago Vision)

Review Analytics to See Where Users Drop Out

This year, we added extremely detailed analytics within the InstaVR dashboard. You can see all interactions with your VR app, including time stamps. This gives you insight not only into how long users viewed a VR experience, but what scene they stopped viewing at.

Why is this important?

It gives you a lot of good info on how users interact with your VR experiences. For example, if most users drop off at the one minute mark, regardless of scene selection, you can assume they don’t want to have a headset on for longer than that amount of time.

On your 2nd/3rd/4th apps, you can make sure to limit the total VR experience time to that one minute or so. You can also make sure to front load all of your best material, to see if you can extend out viewing past the minute mark.

By viewing the drop-off info in Analytics, you can also see the specific scene where users dropped out. If one scene in particular over-indexes for lost viewers, you can assume that scene is too graphic or boring or doesn’t make sense, etc. You’ll have to do a little interpretation to understand why that scene leads users to take off the headset. You can even do A/B testing — creating two apps, one with the scene and one without it — to confirm it’s that scene and not something else (ie time in headset before that scene is reached) causing you to lose viewers.

For your first app, your main goal is generally just to complete the thing and get it distributed. But with Analytics, you have a wealth of information to draw from to improve subsequent apps. The important thing to do is USE the data provided by analytics, as opposed to collecting it without taking action.

2019-08-28T20:30:43+00:00 August 28th, 2019|General|