The importance of Virtual Reality (VR) has increased significantly in recent years. In addition to Google, Facebook and Amazon, many other companies invest in VR on a daily basis. Although intensive research was done in this area as early as the 1990s, technical developments and the associated cost reduction of the hardware and software required have led to the establishment of VR in various industries. To date, the medium has been able to establish itself particularly in the fields of architecture, design, industry, medicine, entertainment, teaching and training.
The growing importance is accompanied by an increase in VR applications. Despite thirty years of research, no clear design process has been established in the creation of these applications. Especially in comparison with other areas of human-machine interaction, such as web and app development, the creation of VR applications is still a great challenge. This is due, among other things, to the lack of standards, for example in operation, but also to the complexity associated with the components of a virtual world. In addition, many people still have little or no experience with VR.
Early prototyping promotes a user-oriented solution and can lead to enormous cost savings, since potential errors can be detected and avoided more quickly. In addition, the representation of the virtual world is one of the most important components of VR applications.
We have set ourselves the task of investigating the use of prototypes in the VR development process more closely.
Various procedures were researched and examined with regard to their development, the possibility of registering interactions and integration into the design process. A distinction was made between analog methods, which can be implemented without technical aids, and virtual methods, which are created directly in the VR environment.
"A VR system is what we call a computer system that consists of suitable hardware and software to realize the idea of a virtual reality." (Dörner, Broll, Grimm & Jung, 2013)
Thus, the focus is on the conception and implementation of a virtual environment, which should appear as real as possible to the user.
Prototypes represent a complete or partial representation of a system or product in the design process (Beaudouin-Lafon & Mackay, 2003).
Prototypes are very flexible in their level of detail and their composition and can be used at any time during the development process.
What are the challenges?
The design of virtual reality projects is highly complex. Conventional 2D concepts can only be applied to 3D projects to a limited extent. In addition, the creation of three-dimensional VR applications on two-dimensional (2D) screens is suboptimal. Especially the design of the virtual environments and the testing of the designs take a lot of time due to this transfer. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, people from many different fields can be involved in the creation of VR applications.
Why is the creation of prototypes relevant?
- Prototyping leads to a fast visualization of ideas, which help to deal more intensively with the problem and to create user-oriented solutions.
- Also the comparison and evaluation of different alternatives should be promoted by the production of prototypes. They support the team in deciding which approaches best fit the requirements.
- When creating different prototypes, you automatically deal with the problem, get to know it better and thus increase the probability of innovation.
- Since many people have little or no experience with VR, the use of prototyping methods at the beginning of the design process is even more important so that everyone can get an idea of the designs in three-dimensional space as early as possible.
Prototypes provide an important opportunity to better understand users through testing. More alternatives always lead to more far-reaching information, since the user may already be able to exclude options and pronounce inclinations (Tohidi, Buxton, Baecker & Sellen, 2006).
- In our research, all probands stated for each method that they had a better idea of the scene after the prototype was created.
With prototypes you can inform team members or customers about the current status and receive feedback. The images promote communication, encourage people to think and participate.
- The creation of prototypes offers a good opportunity to involve the team in the design process so that everyone can contribute their experience and view of things
All previous points serve to support the team in generating and selecting the best possible design alternatives. This is an important basis for completing a product that meets the defined requirements within the specified time slot.
- Prototypes are a cost-effective way to get a better idea of the end product. In the best case all participants can put themselves better into the user's position by prototypes and test whether their ideas appear in three-dimensional space in such a way, as assumed.
- Prototypes enable an early assessment of which technologies are needed and whether technical implementation is possible in the way presented.
Please contact us
Early prototyping has many advantages in the VR design process.
If you have an idea for your VR project, we are happy to support you in the design process and the later development with the current technologies.
We will be happy to advise you first which possibilities we see in your industry and which VR system is best suited for your problem. Once we have set the course, we will jointly record your requirements.
We will then discuss how you can efficiently proceed with prototyping by selecting the right analog or virtual methods to reduce the complexity of your project.
So nothing gets in the way of a successful development of your product.