When deciding what sort of application to create in Virtual Reality, the normal rules of development that have worked in the mobile space simply do not translate well. Well designed mobile apps focus on creating a social experience that users will spread through their various connections whether they be friends or family. This offers a relatively surefire method of achieving the critical mass necessary for any product to succeed. Unfortunately this method relies heavily on the end-users social group having the ability to try and eventually buy your product.
Take a quick poll of all your Facebook connections and think about how many of them actually own any sort of VR device. The answer is likely to be not many and this answer is heavily biased since we are some of the few people who do own these devices already. That is why it is imperative that until VR is able to claim the blanket ubiquity that mobile devices have that we turn to the idea of the interest graph instead.
By developing with interest graphs in mind rather than social graphs, you expand your market to include communities that do not necessarily depend on geographical proximity. There are millions of people who are interested in skydiving and yet the majority of your social connections have never tried it. Creating a Virtual Reality experience that targets groups of people whose only commonality is their love for adrenaline or superpowers allows you to venture beyond the comfort of a social graph. That’s not to say that making it harder for your users to share their experience is inherently bad in VR, but is instead meant as a nod towards those whom the current market consists of.
One of the least understood concepts in VR development is the idea of the narrative. We are finally moving beyond the traditional schema that has defined storytelling. The Listener-Teller paradigm, the idea that there is a static observer that experiences content, has been a constant for as long as humans have had social interaction. VR brings with it a new dynamic that has not been fully realized, and that is the idea of the listener contributing to the experience itself. No longer can a linear story stand the myriad ways a person’s curiosity might manifest itself. Instead it is up to the creators of content to populate their world with many branching paths of interaction and discovery in order to succeed. Existing principles of narrative are ripe to be re-written and new companies are being started all around the world with the sole purpose of further refining this enigma of a medium.
The most innovative experience curators are taking cues from the gaming industry, where obvious parallels lie. Games have established that the story, while a necessary component, should for the most part serve an ancillary role to the actual gameplay itself. A filmmakers task then becomes to strike the perfect balance between finding clever ways to direct the user’s attention and letting the user direct their focus wherever they see fit.
All this is not to say that traditional content will not have a place in Virtual Reality. Far from it. The most the consumer facing side of VR right now is mostly concentrated in 360 videos and other translations of traditional storytelling. A transitionary period is to be expected and is useful in exposing the medium to more of the general populace. Crafting the perfect narrative is an elusive task, and not one for which there are clear guidelines.
The age of consumer virtual reality is finally upon us. With mainstream adoption finally around the corner, there has never been a more exciting time to get into development. As with any new medium Virtual Reality presents a wide array of challenges and design paradigms whose solutions are not always obvious. In fact, these solutions are constantly being iterated upon and improved as the technology matures. One of the biggest challenges companies who are investing in VR today are facing is that standard design practices and use cases have not been sufficiently mapped out. Rather than continue to watch developers re-invent the wheel or search for solutions that are already in the public domain we decided to act. We want to make sure that every developer has access to the latest in research, technology solutions, and development resources as he/she continues builds the next generation of content. Locomotion, photogrammetry, and user interfaces continue to be a big pain point for many and it is our hope that by providing information to those who seek it, we will help bring about innovation at a faster rate. We have been hard at work these last few months to help bring you tutorials that are in line with the trends we see developing in the industry. Our website is designed in a modular format to make sure you can find the content you need without having to read through pages of extraneous content. In the coming weeks we will continue to add content as fast as we can produce it to meet the growing demand coming from new developers in the medium that we have come to call home.
The LeadingOnes Team