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Uncategorized Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality Design: Platforms

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Virtual Reality (VR) technology is growing fast, and a lot can change in the coming future. From a design perspective, this volatility on top of time requirements from research and tests for a given platform could cloud or slow the design process. To speed things up, we can generalize VR platforms into two categories: High End Mobile VR and High Immersion VR.

To demonstrate how this could impact the process, let’s say I’m developing an app where users are taught and shown how the I2C communications protocol works. In the following article, I’ll be going through what criteria I’d consider before committing to a platform category.

Note: I2C is a protocol where components in a circuit can transmit and receive data. Electronics are fun! 🙂

Target Audience

After figuring out what my app is, I’d start with these questions to identify my users.

  1. Who might best enjoy or use this app?
  2. Why would they use it?
  3. How could they best benefit from this app?

Let‘s go through them 1-by-1!

  1. Since I’m teaching a concept that’s pretty common for electrical and embedded software engineers, I think college students majoring in electrical engineering (EE) would be the primary audience.
  2. Students would use the app to learn or review the content. There would be varying levels of detail and complexity so that all levels of EE majors can benefit.
  3. Because every person has different learning habits, the app would cater as many as possible. For example, there would be an audio and visual component to explain and demonstrate the I2C protocol with some degree of interaction for memory reinforcement.

Here’s a persona profile to give you an idea of a typical, target user.

Platform Accessibility by Cost

How accessible by cost is the platform for our target user Cris to use the app?

As a college student, Cris probably doesn’t have a lot of disposable income, given that he does not work on the side. He probably lives close to campus, so he’s pretty mobile a good portion of the day. Since he lives in his early 20s, he’s probably got a lot of energy and passion for projects or other activities.

High End Mobile VR: Cheap, portable, and easily accessible. Generally, users could use their phone for the display, leaving just the head mount to purchase.

High Immersion VR: Cost prohibitive, bulky, and high hardware requirements. VR systems are becoming cheaper, so Cris might make the investments, but $300+ is still pretty steep.

Platform Interactivity

How interactive does this app need to be?

The interactivity primarily serves as a learning and engaging mechanism for students. No complex, high accuracy interactions are really required since users want to learn the information not the interaction.

High End Mobile VR: Simple, physical interfaces with some platforms featuring remotes for additional input.

High Immersion VR: Multiple control inputs and sensors are available but unnecessary given the simplicity of the interactions.

Platform Visuals

How realistic does the app need to look? Can 2D images and videos be used instead of high poly 3D models?

This app would utilize both due to the support of a broad scope of learning mechanics. Images and videos can show real life applications of the protocol, and 3D models can offer dynamic visuals during the experience. Overall, the graphics requirements are pretty low.

High End Mobile VR: Computationally resource constrained, but capable of rendering 2D and 3D mediums.

High Immersion VR: Lots of resources for high quality generation of models and calculations, but unnecessary given the low graphics requirement of the app.

Degree of Interaction

Should the student be more of a participant or a passive viewer within the app? Does the app involve a lot of physical mobility?

I believe people learn the best from practicing; however, sometimes text or audio is good enough. That being said, the app would support both active participation and passive viewing but would not involve much physical mobility.

High End Mobile VR: Capable of both passive and active interactions, but with certain constraints due to limited sensors (3-DOF tracking).

High Immersion VR: Capable of both passive and active interactions with lots of hardware support for any degree of interaction (6-DOF tracking).

Conclusion

We can see from generalizing the platforms into two categories how simple and fast the design process became. I was able to figure out what the app would do for the user, what the user might want to do in the app, and what platform features are necessary or unnecessary for app.

Overall, I gathered that the High End Mobile VR category of platforms would be the best candidate for the app, specifically the Cardboard or the DayDream View. The portability, low cost, and UI simplicity makes it ideal over High Immersion VR platforms, which possesses a lot of hardware resources but would be overkill in this application.

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