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A Beginner’s Introduction to Virtual Reality App Development – Part 1

February 28, 2017

Virtual reality apps are more immersive than the regular mobile or web apps. Virtuality app development at the moment is where mobile app development was 10 years back – when smartphones were in the early stages of becoming smart. There are a few VR devices currently available in the market (just like the early stage of the smartphone industry) but the technology is advancing at a fast pace to reach mass production, stability, battery standby time and a development platform which is a good fit for all.


Basic Difference between 2D and 3D App Development

The difference between regular mobile app development and VR app development isn’t necessarily that of virtual and non-virtual; it is between 2D and 3D development. With 2D development, interaction is an assumption that the screen or window can be maximized and moved a certain distance to the left and a certain distance to the right. So if you consider a classic desktop application, you design visual elements based on the height and width of the window that you are working with and you understand that maybe the window will be adjusted by the user from time to time.

In VR and 3D, there are no boundaries like 2D app development. There is no frame where everything fits in. It’s an infinite expanse, just like what we see through our eyes. So this has to be adapted for the coding architecture, which will take a few weeks to get used to. In 2D, you’re just working with x and y-axis. But in 3D, you have the z-axis too, which adds depth. So, things are not only higher or lower than each other, they can be further back.

Playing XOXO game on a whiteboard vs playing a maze – that’s more or less like the difference between VR app development and 2D apps. With 3D, think of design as how it would be in real life. In 3D apps, we can perceive depth. Developers can place objects one behind the other thus making the interaction more hypnotic.


Identifying an engine to build the app is also critical. If you’re learning to develop, then it is better to choose between Unreal or Unity. Over 90% of the VR content available today are built on either of those. Unity is the go-to choice for a lot of them to start developing VR content. It’s less complicated and scaling to Unreal will be easier if you start with Unity 3D. There are tonnes of video tutorial for them both, so play around with simple 3D content like rain, waterfall or a ball bouncing to get a hang of the tools and workspace.

Google provides developers with two virtual reality (VR) platforms: Cardboard, the world’s most popular and accessible mobile VR platform, and Daydream, a new platform for low-latency, immersive, and interactive mobile VR. The Google VR SDKs include everything you need to develop for these platforms, including libraries, API documentation, developer samples, and design guidelines.


Daydream is a platform for high quality, mobile virtual reality. Daydream provides rich, responsive, and immersive experiences with hardware and software built for VR.


Cardboard lets you experience virtual reality in a simple, fun, and affordable way. Cardboard is built for bite-size VR experiences and works with almost any smartphone on Android or iOS.

The Google VR SDK for Unity allows you to easily adapt an existing Unity 3D app for virtual reality or build your own VR experience from scratch. Supports Daydream and Cardboard.
The Google VR SDK for Android lets you build apps that display 3D scenes with binocular rendering, render spatial audio, track and react to head movements, and interact with apps. Supports Daydream and Cardboard.

The Google VR SDK for iOS lets you build VR experiences for native iOS apps in Objective-C. Supports Cardboard.

Unreal Engine 4 natively supports Google VR, allowing you to build mobile VR experiences with both new and existing UE4 projects. Supports Daydream and Cardboard.

There are several products available in the market today to explore the VR space. Though we are in the early stages at the moment, but if you invest in it now, the returns can be much higher. Some of the products you should checkout are Sony PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View.

This article is just a basic intro to devices, engines and the basics of VR. The experience in VR is far beyond letters and words. Watch out our blog space for a series of Virtual Reality App Development.