Topics Covered: 1. Why Create Mobile VR Apps? 2. What Industries are Mobile VR Apps Best Suited For? 3. What is the Basic Process for iOS/Android/Google Cardboard App Creation with InstaVR? 4. Special Considerations Unique to Mobile VR Apps 5. Client Examples
1. Why Create Mobile VR Apps?
This past year saw the public release of major VR platforms including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Google Daydream. Not surprisingly, these headset-based systems have garnered a lot of press, and have seen significant marketing pushes from their parent companies. There’s no denying the immersive qualities of these platforms are impressive, and many very high quality games and VR experiences have been authored specifically for them. However, as a producer of VR, it’s important to recognize and appreciate that the core mobile VR platforms — iOS, Android, and Google Cardboard — are the most accessible, widely distributed, and practical platforms for distribution of your apps.
First, a few numbers to consider: there are over 1.4 billion Android devices in use today, over 700 million Apple phones in use, and over 10 million Google Cardboards shipped to date. These numbers dwarf the sales for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift last year (approximately 500,000 units each). Vive and Rift are doing some things to remedy this — lowering prices, decoupling from necessary high-end computers — but for the forseeable future, iOS/Android/Google Cardboard will give you the largest audience by a wide margin. And with Google Cardboards able to be purchased in bulk for under $10 each, and often under $5 each, it’s a great branding opportunity for your organization.
Another major consideration is app distribution. Though you need a Developer account with Apple and Google to publish to iTunes and Google Play, obtaining that developer account is much easier than acquiring one to publish to the Oculus Store, and many marketing agencies already have Apple/Google Developer accounts. Google is also severely limiting content on the Google Daydream store, as they seek to curate only extremely high quality content from top tier partners. So if you’re not already tied at the hip to Google, you won’t be able to publish to Daydream at this time. (this may change in the future, but is still the case as of mid-March 2017).
Another consideration: 360 VR on iOS and Android don’t require a headset. If you need to demonstrate something quickly, you might not have immediate access to a headset, but you are likely to have your phone or iPad. With iOS/Android, thanks to the gyroscopic function on most major phones, you can still give a compelling presentation of your 360 experience. In fact, at tradeshows, I often like to show potential clients my VR creations on the large sized iPad, as they can get a sense for the results of the platform without having to take the time to put on a headset. As a bonus, I can show multiple people the VR at the same time.
One final advantage of mobile VR is the ability to incorporate the InstaVR SDK into your existing app. This is an added cost above & beyond our Pro offering, but for some clients that have popular existing apps, the ability to incorporate VR as a piece of your overall application has a lot of value.
Publishing to iOS, Android, and Google Cardboard is simple and quick on the InstaVR platform. There’s absolutely no reason not to publish to these widely available platforms. And if you’re looking to create your first ever mobile application, you can have one up and running in a matter of minutes!
InstaVR publishes to many platforms. It’s difficult to understate the value of publishing to iOS/Android/Google Cardboard, even if they’re not as hyped as the other platforms.
2. What Industries are Mobile VR Apps Best Suited For?
Mobile VR apps are applicable for almost every company looking to get into virtual reality. If you’re going to publish for Gear VR or HTC Vive, there generally isn’t a reason to not also publish to iOS and Android as well (one notable exception: you’re creating a very long, high resolution app that will exceed 2 GBs if packaged). However, that doesn’t mean that some industries aren’t better suited for mobile VR apps than others.
Below I go through some of the no-brainer use cases and industries where publishing to iTunes/Android/Google Cardboard is most effective:
- Real Estate – If you’re a Buyer’s agent, it might make sense to have a Gear VR or two in the office to show potential buyer’s current houses for sale in immersive 360. However, if you’re a Seller’s agent, you’re going to want to get as many eyeballs as possible on the homes you’re listing. And for that reason, you’re going to want to package to iOS/Android/Google Cardboard, and preferably submit to the App Stores to facilitate discovery of your listings. The chances of high end home buyers having a Google Cardboard is reasonably good, considering 10 million have been sold, and the New York Times gave away 1.3 million headsets to their affluent readership. Even non-Google Cardboard owners will be impressed, as an InstaVR-created home tour demos fantastically on a gyroscope-enabled phone or table.
- Education – We’re very bullish on VR in the classroom — see our blog article on that topic here. Most classrooms are budget-constrained though, and purchasing high end hardware like Oculous Rifts and HTC Vives is out of the question. Plus, only one student at a time can use those systems. But Google Cardboard is particularly popular in classrooms, and Google is making a big push to make them more accessible. Authoring virtual reality on the InstaVR platform is simple for students and teachers alike. So mobile VR is the perfect distribution method for your VR experiences.
- Trade Shows/Large Events/Marketing – As mentioned earlier, branded Google Cardboards are a great promotional tool. I have a small collection of them from all the trade shows I went to last year. Creating an event-specific iOS or Android app to promote along with your Google Cardboard is a great use of InstaVR.
- Apps for Purchase – One of the easiest ways to monetize VR is to sell it through the iTunes or Google Play stores. We’ve had clients publish everything from entertainment apps (ie a Zombie VR experience released near Halloween) to cool outdoor tours (ie a virtual walk through nature near Sydney, Australia). While you may be able to demand more money by publishing to the Oculus Store, you’re going to have a bigger addressable audience through iTunes and Google Play.
By publishing real estate tours to iOS/Android/Google Cardboard, a seller’s agent allows the most possible viewers to virtually walk through the homes you are trying to sell.
3. What is the Basic Process of VR App Creation with InstaVR?
The actual mechanics of creating a Mobile VR app for iOS/Android/Cardboard are simple using InstaVR. There’s a great video on that process embedded on the bottom of this page and we have a written step-by-step guide here.
Below is a quick refresher, with special focus on the packaging section:
- Upload your panoramic 360 VR images and videos. Images should be in a standard panoramic format (ie .jpg, .png, .tiff) and videos should be .mp4s. You can also use computer generated VR from software companies like Autodesk, VRay, Lumion, etc. You’ll want to make sure that video length isn’t too long, as the overall app package can’t exceed 2 GBs.
- Author using Navigation Links & Hotspots. If you’d like to give your mobile VR app some interactivity, you can overlay on the panoramic images or video Navigation links (to go from scene-to-scene) or Hotspots (to augment with flat images, videos, audio narration, or text). One of the cool things about Mobile VR is that because it is on a mobile phone, you can add a “Call-to-Action” hotspot that pulls up a phone number using an API. It’s a great way to end your VR experience — the user can literally call you.
- Brand your app. Just like with any standard mobile app, you can use our Console to create an app icon, a splash image or video that loads prior to your 360 VR experience, and a home screen so your user can choose dual-view or standard (in case they don’t have a headset). If your user would prefer to navigate using finger swipe, they can also turn off the “Gyro” function at the home screen level. You also have the option to include multiple VR experiences on a single app — that’s the “Home With Multiple Tours” selection in the Screens section.
- Publish. We’ll cover this in more depth below. But for now, it’s important to recognize that you can publish either Inhouse iOS and Android apps, or if you’re an InstaVR Pro customer, publish to the iTunes and Google Play Stores.
The InstaVR platform is completely drag-and-drop with no specialized knowledge needed. You can create, publish, and experience a VR app in minutes.
4. Special Considerations Unique to Mobile VR Apps
Though the app creation process is relatively simple on the InstaVR platform, with no coding required, you do have to make some important decisions when authoring & publishing your Mobile VR app. I try to cover the major options below that are specifically pertinent to iOS/Android/Google Cardboard.
As mentioned above, Mobile VR gives users the unique opportunity to make a phone call at the conclusion of the VR experience. Your Mobile VR app becomes a direct response opportunity.
Also mentioned above, but worth repeating, is the option to create a single Mobile VR app with multiple experiences for users to choose from. It’s as as simple as selecting the VR experience from the menu and popping the phone into your headset.
With our Free version, you can create an Inhouse Android APK file. That can be downloaded to a phone and shared easily. With our Paid version, you can create an APK file that can be submitted to the Google Play Store. Of note, if your app is over 100 MB, InstaVR will generate a second .obb file that will also be uploaded to Google Play also. For complete information on submitting to the Google Play Store, please read our step-by-step tutorial.
One of the unique benefits of publishing to Android is the ability to create a QR code that users can scan to download your app. This is perfect for distribution at events like conferences, trade shows, and sales presentations.
The iOS app packaging process, like Android, allows you to choose between Inhouse and iTunes Store (Pro customers only). For the latter, you’ll need an Apple Developer account. If this is your first time publishing to the iTunes Store, our Customer Support team is accessible via Live Chat 24/7, Monday through Friday (US time) to assist you. Please also note the ability to lower video resolution to 1920 x 1080 – this is recommended for iOS given the current phone limitations on that platform.
5. Client Examples
Once you’ve created your VR experience, you’re going to want to publish it to the appropriate platforms.
Here are some examples of clients that have created VR video and then published them to either the iTunes or Google Play Stores. Hope you enjoy them!
Tokyo VR – A nice, soothing application that takes you on a tour of scenic locations in Tokyo. Note the added audio to the application, which helps it transcend typical 360 VR video apps.
Google Play link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.candlify.tokyovr&hl=en
VR Angkor Wat Lite – A 360 scenic walk through beautiful and historic Angkor Wat.
Google Play link – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.virtualtraveler.angkorwatlite&hl=en
iTunes link – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/virtual-traveler-vr-angkor-wat-lite/id1202086406?mt=8
Quinnipiac University VR – Tour the campus of this quintessential New England college, including the ice rink where their highly ranked hockey team plays.
Google Play link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tsbiinc.quinnipiac&hl=en
InstaVR allows you to create engaging, entertaining, memorable VR apps. You can easily distribute them widely through one-click publishing to iOS and Android. There’s no easier way to create and distribute immersive 360 experiences than with InstaVR.