A Closer Look at the Challenges of Developing VR Content and Experiences
Virtual reality (VR) is far from a new concept. In fact, the technology and the ideas behind it have been around for decades, with its first use and invention of it coming way back in 1968. Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull were able to create a headset – Sword of Damocles – that was connected to a computer.
Technology has come a long way in the 54 years since the invention was first made, with a number of innovative developments and advancements having taken place. However, a problem does still appear to remain.
VR is yet to truly hit the mainstream market and be made accessible to everyone for a variety of reasons. Some point out that it is still rather expensive, however it is evident that there are still challenges in the development of content and experiences that this technology can offer.
Despite the different forms of entertainment that can utilize VR – gaming, film, TV, etc. – it seems that they all have the same issues when it comes down to the quality of content that they produce.
The main purpose of VR for many is the fact that it is supposed to transport the user into a real-life experience, despite the fact that they are using it somewhere else. The level of immersion is supposed to trick our minds and make us feel we are somewhere we are not, thus creating entirely new experiences.
The way the technology has been built up and hyped, though, has caused a profound challenge and a stumbling block for designers. They continue to try and come up with the best environments and settings in order to live up to the billing, but it still appears to be a step too far at times.
Designers need to try and incorporate visuals that are believable; sounds that can feel as though they are genuinely in the background and not through a headset; as well as satisfying other senses such as touch and smell. Taste is something that is unlikely to be satisfied. With this said, designers need to be able to create lifelike environments that react to real-time movements from users, thus making the task extremely difficult to accomplish.
Music & Sound Effects
Already highlighted above, there are challenges that pose designers from an audio aspect. Music and audio effects play a major role in helping to immerse users into the visuals that are being depicted or experienced, and getting this right has proven tricky.
While it has become simple to get the right type of music and audio nowadays with the availability of stock music that can be obtained and used freely, designers have had more trouble incorporating it correctly and accurately.
They need to try and make sure the sounds used fit perfectly with the imagery used at all times, as this is key to providing the authentic experiences that VR is supposed to offer. If they get this wrong, then the entire experience could be considered wrong and may put off users from using the technology in the future.
Technical & User Experience Challenges
Getting the design of the content is vitally important, but it would be pointless if the technical and user experience side of things was not optimized fully and working as best as it should. There are a range of challenges that could be faced that make creating content difficult.
Technically, VR content needs to be suitable and compatible with different hardware platforms. This makes it a huge challenge as different headsets can use specifications that differ from each other, thus creating an issue for designers and developers. Additionally, performance issues need to be considered, as some designs may cause poor user experiences.
In terms of UX, designers need to ensure it is as easy and simple to enjoy, while they also need to ensure it does not go overboard in certain aspects.
Will VR Designers Ever Overcome the Challenges Posed?
As we all continue to wait for VR to hit the mainstream market and be widely accessible, it is clear that there are still a number of challenges being faced to ensure we are given the best experiences possible.
Time will only tell if designers are able to overcome them, but with technology continually improving and getting better, it should only be a matter of time before the best content is made available.