When you look at existing Virtual Reality business applications, you will quickly notice that not all VR-applications are the same. Sometimes the content is static, sometimes it’s animated. Sometimes it’s only possible to look around and sometimes you can interact with everything in the virtual world. In this article I would therefore like to introduce you to the most common types of VR content. By describing the advantages and disadvantages, I want to help you with finding the right solution for your purpose.
At first, I would like to distinguish between the two most common types of VR applications that you come across:

Environment from linked 360° media

  • 360° photos and videos that you can take with a camera in the real world or create virtually from a 3D model
  • Easy to create, as you can easily photograph or film existing real or virtual environments
  • You determine the perspective. For multiple views, multiple shots can be created and linked together.
  • Compatible with all popular smartphones, VR glasses and web browsers
  • Animations can be inserted in as videos
  • Usually offers Intuitive navigation between locations using gaze control

Virtual real-time environment

  • You can create a virtual world from 3D models on your computer or scan them using point cloud scanners or photogrammetry.
  • Complex in production, because 3D models have to be created separately or CAD files for VR glasses have to be optimized.
  • The user chooses the perspective and can move freely in the virtual world
  • Usually requires a powerful computer and suitable VR glasses. Mobile image quality is often insufficient (blurred, flickering, etc.).
  • Animations can react interactively to the user because they are calculated live.
  • Usually more complex navigation via the controller of the VR-glasses

Are 360° media also “3D”?

Yes, 360° media can be as 3D as virtual real-time environments typically are. Instead of a normal 360° shot, the camera takes two slightly offset shots simultaneously. One shot is for the left eye and the other for the right. This is called a stereoscopic image. This requires a special camera with additional lenses. Most cameras on the market are currently designed for monoscopic images in where no optical depth can be seen.

If you create 360° s based on an existing 3D model (e.g. CAD file) it is possible to create a stereoscopic panorama which looks as plastic as the original.

“Photographing” CAD files and 3D models – Why?

If the 3D data is already available, why should you even consider the additional effort of taking virtual photographs of the models when you could also display them directly as virtual real-time content?
An important point is that most CAD files cannot be viewed directly with VR glasses. Typically, they contain every single screw and rod, just like the chassis in the picture. This can easily become too much information for even powerful PCs to display in real time. For this reason, you need to have the files simplified by a 3D modeler before you can use them. This task is sometimes so complex that it is faster to use the CAD model just as a template and create a new model from scratch.
Another advantage of the prepared content is, that you can save the views of the CAD and 3D models in a very high optical quality. Especially if you want to demonstrate your content not only on a powerful PC, you usually have to visibly reduce the optical quality of the real-time content.
360° environment of a 3D model that can be played on all smartphones and VR glasses
Real-time variant of the same environment, reduced so that it can be played on many smartphones and VR glasses

So what’s better?

There is no general answer to this question. Which content type is more suitable for you and your application depends on your goal and your target audience:
The linked 360° environments are usually very suitable if the users have no experience with virtual reality or video games. This is especially true if the user will operate the application independently and without any personal introduction. Since the linked 360° content runs on every smartphone and computer, users usually already have everything they need to view it on a normal screen. VR glasses that work together with a smartphone or standalone headset are also much cheaper than the PC alternatives. Walking in this virtual environment is easy to understand and does not require a controller. If you would like to experience your product, building or existing CAD model in virtual reality, you can easily photograph them. Animated environments, however, must be inserted as videos which are only interactive to a limited extent and easily increase the file size. To complete the presentation, it is also possible to easily add info windows, annotation, real-time effects and sounds to the environment. Thanks to out-of-the-box software solutions, no programming is necessary to create such presentations.
Virtual real-time environments have the great advantage that they are even more interactive for the user. The hand controllers can be used to throw objects and pull levers that can trigger anything. With many vr-headsets, the user can also move virtually by walking in the real world. If he wants to walk further than the real room allows, he can also teleport or move artificially via the hand controllers. This variant allows you to experience the virtual world even more than is possible with 360° environments. However, the implementation of such a detailed environment must be developed as an individual solution. For users who had no contact points with virtual reality or video games, interacting with the virtual world without a personal instruction can be a complex task with frustration potential. In our experience, such eye-catching applications are therefore best suited for presentations and trade fair stands where users can be personally looked after. For this purpose, the required hardware also does not present a problem because it is provided by you.

Have you decided on a type?

Then get right on it! Not sure yet? Then contact for a personal consulting!