VR Devs & Designers: Unite 2016 Insights

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VR Devs & Designers: Unite 2016 Insights
November 20, 2016

The Meta team was at Unite, Unity 3D's annual flagship conference held this year in Los Angeles from 1 Nov - 3 Nov, to collect feedback from developers and designers on the resources and support they wanted and needed. We also had the opportunity to attend several insightful sessions at the conference, and we wanted to share the learnings and insights from those sessions with everyone!

 

The sessions we were able to attend were of varying degrees of technical information, but we've organized them into two sections: "New Tools" and "Best Practices". Feel free to jump around to any section that most interests you, or read everything from the beginning section to the end. Enjoy!

 

New Tools - EditorVR: Develop Directly in VR (coming out in Dec 2016)

Unity’s EditorVR tool will be game-changing for any developer building for VR or AR because it bridges a critical gap between editing a scene — limited to 2D until now — and testing out your VR app in 3D. They featured their in-VR scene editor during the opening keynote at Unite, and dedicated a session on Wednesday to outlining their approach. We found this session very insightful and can’t wait to start working with it.

 

One of the greatest challenges VR developers face is having to switch into play mode in order to see their creations. This often involves taking off headsets and is a huge pain point for anyone who’s building for 3D spaces (think VR, AR, and 360 video). Unity Labs has attempted to solve this with their EditorVR tool, an intuitive interface for editing scenes from within VR:

To be intuitive, the Unity Labs team found they needed a beautiful design, easily identifiable objects and tools, and a clean overall environment that wasn’t overwhelming. To do this, they used techniques such as shading to obscure content and create focus, as well as animation and motion to achieve tactile visual feedback. They also found that UX animation which hinted at underlying functionality helped drive discovery by the user, so they built their tools to have subtle movements that prompt the user to use them a certain way (for example: an editor tool may begin rotating slightly when you hover over it, indicating that you can pick that object up and turn it around). Their architecture philosophy was also focused on clean and intuitive design, and they admitted that their core code was a bit complex and “messy” so they could keep their API straightforward for developers and allot a single responsibility and script for each interface.
 

We see this tool as being a game changer for anyone developing in VR, and we can’t wait to see how this could work for anyone developing in AR for the Meta 2. Beyond that, the approach that Unity is taking to tool interaction is spot on with the what we’ve seen through our work with neuroscience.

 

Best Practices - How to Demo VR at Events, to Press, or with New Users

Andrew Eiche of Owlchemy Labs, makers of Job Simulator, shares his team's observations on what constitutes best practices for demoing VR. While his recommendations are based on their collective experience with demoing various VR headsets, we find that these best practices can (and should be!) applied to demos involving augmented reality (AR) headsets. And while Eiche doesn't reveal anything new in what he calls the "rhythm of giving a good demo", it does provide a very helpful process checklist for thinking about how you can give demos from start to finish.

 

You might be thinking, "Why is it so important to implement demo best practices, let alone provide a great demo experience?". The answer is pretty simple: a good demo leaves a great impression on people, especially if they are new to VR and AR and have never worn a headset. In other words: think of yourself as an ambassador to this new set of technology and experiences. It's easy to think that people won't mind the small details, especially given how easily they'll get lost in virtual worlds and be amazed by stereograms (aka "holograms") that are in front of them. But, the small details do matter, and ultimately mean the difference between distracting  The list below is a high-level recap from the presentation Eiche shared:

 

  • • PC Hardware: Ensure your PC-powered headset, such as the HTC Vive or Oculus, are running on recommended hardware specs. Anything lower than the recommended specs will result in a less-than-stellar VR experience.

 

  • • Demo Space: The demo space needs to be clear and free of cables, clutter, wires, and people. You don't want people tripping on wires or bumping into other people while being immersed in a VR app:
  • • Demo Entry: Hygiene first (and always)! Ensure the headset is wiped down with alcohol-based wipes every time before each person begins their demo (or get a washable cover, similar to a pillow case, from VR Cover and place it over your headset). Hand people the VR headset in several stages, starting with the headset itself. Guide people with placing headset on their heads, starting with the lens part first, then lowering the rest of the headset over the back of their head and helping them tighten the straps. As the demo participant gets accustomed to the headset, hand them the controllers (if needed, like on the HTC Vive) one at a time and allow them to get their bearings.

 

  • • Prioritize the User Experience: If the user at any times starts feeling nauseated, immediately tell him or her to stop moving around and to hand you the controllers. Then, ask them to take off the headset and sit down so that they can recover from their nausea. It's key that you retrieve the controllers from the user first because people tend to want to take the headset off as their first step, even when it's physically impossible for them to do so (both hands are holding controllers)!

 

  • • Demo Exit: At the end of the demo experience, ask the demo participant to first hand you the controllers. Then instruct the user to take off the headset. Guide them out the back of the demo space while ensuring that they watch out for any loose cables and or wires. Users will most likely tell you how awesome the VR experience was, especially if it is their first time being in VR. And as a good ambassador, it's key to listen to all the feedback, both good and bad, users may have.

 

Observations of an Accidental Community Manager

Luke Noonan of RUST LTD. shares his learnings from his role as a community manager for his game studio. While Noonan professes that he accidentally became a community manager out of need, we believe he deserves more credit than he's giving himself! His recommendations and learnings are insightful (and more likely than not intuitive for many of you) for anyone looking for a solid jumping off point for learning how to engage and nurture the community around your product. In of itself, community management is a full-time labor of love and puts you directly in touch with a great group of people who only want to show your products some love and offer candid feedback. 

 

The way Noonan puts it, anyone selling a product is selling it off the basis of an emotional experience — essentially tapping into people's feelings around the reasons why they buy and use a video game or VR / AR headset. Noonan organizes his learnings as such:

 

Discovery and emotional resonance

  • • How to get people care about what you make and taking them to the next step of keeping them engaged?
  • • The product you're selling is an emotional experience, a tool to help people feel a certain way for a certain time
  • • The community member's experience starts before the main game experience and continues after the credits, where they are going online to chat strategy, make gifs, or answer questions on forums.

 

What is "community"?

  • • Community = people + culture
  • • Community: how those people interact with each other
  • • Getting people in the door is half the battle (discovery). You need to give people reason to invest time through culture, which must be built first.
  • • If you have no guidelines for how to behave and work in the community, then things won't be productive and helpful. If you don't have right culture, the you won't be able to grow anything.

 

How to build culture?

  • • Find launch pad to build inertia (NeoGAF, Reddit, YouTube). Start lurking on specific channels if your company is not part of that community (start asking questions, get to know people, know investment and                     rules).
  • • Set standards of behavior. Community includes spectrum of people with noxious views, so need to set                 what can and cannot be talked about. Critique community members without being jerks.
  • • Know super users and content producers to enable and facilitate discussions and answer questions to make community more valuable to what people want to know.
  • • Give people tools first, then allow people to use those tools to help (people ultimately want to help).

 

Next Level Thinking

  • • Start early with planning for replying
  • • Feedback and iteration - lot of value that comes from it

 

Caution

  • • Everybody is human: treat them like a human and respect their time, so people can see that you're human. It's okay to talk openly about failures and what you're trying to do.
  • • Know your limits: it's impossible to be on every social channel (blog, newsletter) because it will diminish company's value

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