Build Apps for Virtual Reality Devices

When somebody starts to talk about virtual reality, people usually imagine some distant future when we all will live in a kind of artificial world. Most of the time, people relate this world to the science fiction. In fact, virtual reality is much closer than we think.


A few years ago, several virtual reality companies have started developing devices – VR-headsets – which will help each person turn his mobile phone into a virtual reality gadget, so that it could open a VR technologies to a public use. At the same time, if VR hardware capabilities are wide, the presence of mobile apps that support VR on the market is very limited.


If you look at the mobile applications on the AppStore and Google Play, you won’t find many apps that support VR-headsets and VR-technologies. So it's time to start developing VR apps right now. In this article, we will try to cover the main features of virtual reality app development and give examples of the most successful VR-products on the market.


Virtual Reality App Development


To develop an app for virtual reality devices, we need firstly to examine UI/UX characteristics of these devices, because the way user interacts with them differs from the way he usually interacts with non-VR gadgets.


The most important thing to understand here is that UI of the VR application will be different from that, which we used to see in other standard apps. Because of the VR headset construction, the user won’t have an opportunity to interact with the smartphone physically – he will not be able to scroll or click on the buttons on a screen.


One way of UI design implementation, in this case, could be a head or gestures tracking, establishing the usage of additional support devices the user will hold in his hands to do in-app movements. Some functionality will also be assumed by mechanical buttons of VR device.


Along with UI design, VR apps developers have to implement some basic issues associated with VR-application and VR-device compatibility, namely:


  • Generate stereo picture correctly;

  • Compensate barrel distortion;

  • Provide stable tracking;

  • Guarantee stable performance.


Stereo Picture


When the user puts a VR-headset on, he actually goes “blind". His eyes is a smartphone screen now (which is set into a VR-headset). In this case, the smartphone's display constitues a two equal screens (parts), in each of which the same image with a specific frame setting is placed. This helps to achieve a stereo effect – it is a direct analogy to real eyes when image that comes from one channel (left eye) blends with the second one (from the right eye) and we see the picture as a whole. The main developers and designers task is to build an image in the way user could believe it is a real one.


Barrel Distortion


Barrel distortion is an effect that appears when display light goes through VR-device lenses. In VR headset smartphone and lens are located close to the user's eyes. Lenses, in turn, create a small structural distortion when projecting the image on the user's eyes. To remove these distortions developers need to adjust the image on the screen so, that being refracted in the lens, it would bring us a correct picture.


Stable Tracking


VR-app has to track head position and according to it change image on the smartphone screen. The application can obtain information about smartphone position from the variety of sensors (gyroscope, accelerometer, etc). Based on the obtained data, app calculates general position vector. As a result,  VR-application "understands" what exactly user should see at the moment and adjusts the image on the display.


Stable Performance


Last but not the least. Usually, while chasing a “great picture” virtual reality developers forget that whole magic of VR lays not in the field of super effects, but in the arrangement of the scenes on the screen. When developing mobile applications for VR devices, preference should be given to the establishment of the smooth app operation, rather than special effects.


If the application doesn’t run at 60 fps, it may cause animation cropping and lagging. The picture on the screen may freeze or even not respond to the user's head turns at all. Well, nobody will get into the virtual reality twice, if he sees it is not quite virtual due to persistent bugs. Therefore smooth operation issue is always a key.


Talking about tools that can help build app for VR, developers use such services as:


  • Universal VR

  • Immerse Framework, etc.


Now let's look at the main examples of the VR-applications that are present on mobile markets today.


Best Applications For Virtual Reality


Google Street View. It’s a well-known application that was adapted for VR-devices. Now you can actually plunge yourself in the history of new countries or to go through the most picturesque places of the planet.


Google Street View has all changes to be used as educational VR-application. Walking through the city is much better than just looking at pictures on the website or a book.


VR One Cinema. When was the last time you were at the cinema watching 3D movie? This app turns your smartphone into a real 3D movie theater. Now you can watch all favorite movies in virtual reality without leaving a house.


Titans of Space. It is an educational type of VR-app. This app brings the user into space and makes it possible to take a small tour to the different planets. This trip gives students an understanding of how huge space and planets are.


InMind VR. Very interesting and useful medical app for educational purposes. It gives us an opportunity to travel to the human brain. With the help of this app students can learn more information about our brain and even find the cause of the particular brain disease.


Roller Coaster VR. Here, app teleports user to a real roller coaster. The big advantage of this app is that it keeps user's belief in the virtual reality. The better simulated virtual reality is, the more user will be convinced to think that this is a real world.


From the other hand, mismatches in VR-physics lead user to believe that he has been cheated and he begins to lose any interest in the virtual reality devices. Applications such as Roller Coaster VR designed to solve this problem and maximize user engagement in VR.




Today we’ve tried to consider the main principles of the virtual reality applications development and give an understanding of the industry's most successful projects. So here are the most important ideas we want to highlight:


  • VR application is the user's eyes. Therefore, it must incorporate all the features of the “real man” eyes.

  • UI design of the virtual reality apps is not the same as in other typical applications. Selecting needed UI concept is something that should be done before the start of the development.

  • For proper transmission of images from smartphone display to user’s eyes developers of VR applications must take into account design of a particular VR-device in which the phone will be placed in and the characteristics of the smartphone (on which application will run).

  • Always try to ensure the smoothest application operation possible. If you need to remove some elements from the application to make it operate smoother, it is better to do this than to get a 30 fps rate after all.

That's probably all the main points that should be considered in the development of mobile applications for VR. If you still have any questions to which you haven’t found answers here, please contact us and our managers will give you a free consultation about all other aspects of VR mobile app development and its pricing. Archer Software has years of experience in apps development industry. We develop great and profitable solutions for business companies and startups. Hiring a team of professionals is the only way you may be sure you’ll get a high-quality custom software.