The Comprehensive Guide to Getting Started in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
A curated collection of augmented reality and virtual reality resources.
This starter guide to AR and VR provides a general overview of the technology, platforms, and resources available for someone getting started in the industry, whether they’re a developer, designer, educator, or admirer.
For the sake of this guide, and to avoid a taxonomy rabbit hole, the term “Mixed Reality” is being left out and either bundled into Augmented Reality (re: hololens and magic leap headsets) or Virtual Reality (re: windows headsets).
The guide is updated from time-to-time, so if you feel I’ve missed an important resource that newcomers should be familiar with, please reach out to me on Twitter or message me in the Awesome XR discord community.
Table of Contents
VR Headsets 👓
VR headsets can be separated into two types: stationary VR (3DoF) and walkable VR (6DoF). If you’re in the market for a headset, your main considerations will be available space, budget, and ease of setup; you can see what headset is best for you at chooseyourhmd.com. For a more detailed list of VR headsets in the market, be sure to check out the VR Fund’s industry landscape brief.
3 Degrees of Freedom (3DoF)
3 Degrees of Freedom (3DoF) headsets involves stationary (seated or standing) experiences that measure the rotational movements along the X (roll), Y (pitch), and Z (yaw) axes.
- Google Daydream ($99.99 + phone; wireless)
- Samsung GearVR ($99.99 + phone; wireless)
- Oculus Go ($199.99; wireless)
6 Degrees of Freedom (6DoF) headsets allow for walkable experiences around a physical space. In addition to the 3 degrees of freedom tracked for rotational movements, 6DoF also measures translation across the X (surge // forward, backwards), Y (sway // left, right), and Z (heave // up, down) axes.
AR Headsets 👓
The majority of AR experiences are currently consumed via mobile devices (ARKit on iOS, ARCore on Android), but AR headsets are available for purchase in the enterprise and consumer markets. For a more detailed list of AR headsets, be sure to check out the VR Fund’s industry landscape brief.
Design✒️ and Development 💻
Frameworks, tools, and programs to get you started with AR / VR design and development.
- Unity3D (robust game engine with cross-platform support for AR / VR development)
- Unreal (robust game engine with cross-platform support for AR / VR development)
- CryEngine (robust game engine with support for VR development)
- Lumberyard (game engine with support for VR development)
- InstaVR (web-based tool for creating 360° photo and video experiences)
- Tour Creator (web-based tool for creating 360° photo tours)
- Wonda VR (web-based tool for creating and distributing VR experiences via the browser)
- Roundme (web-based tool for creating 360° photo tours)
- Amazon Sumerian (development framework for building VR experiences on the web; maintained by Amazon)
- A-Frame (development framework for building VR experiences on the web; maintained by Mozilla)
- React 360 (development framework for building VR experiences on the web; maintained by Facebook)
- ARCore (development SDK for building AR applications on Android)
- ARKit (development SDK for building AR applications on iOS)
- Vuforia (development SDK for building cross-platform AR applications)
- Wikitude (development SDK for building cross-platform AR applications)
- Spark AR (facebook’s tool for creating AR experiences and camera filters)
- Lens Studio (snapchat’s tool for creating AR experiences and camera filters)
- 6D.ai (advanced AR development platform built on top of ARCore and ARKit SDKs)
- Torch (iOS app for rapidly developing AR applications)
- 8th Wall (tool for developing and distributing web-based AR experiences)
3D Modeling and Animation Tools
- Virtual Reality Subreddit
- Women in VR Facebook Group
- Virtual Reality Facebook Group
- AR / VR Women and Allies
- Oculus Rift Subreddit
- HTC Vive Subreddit
- Steam VR Facebook Group
- Oculus Rift Facebook Group
- XR Artists
- VR Jobs Board
- The VR Job Hub (weekly article release of the latest AR/VR jobs)
- Virtual Reality Job Board
This is by no means a comprehensive list, as there are a lot of journalists and writers tirelessly working to cover every angle of the industry.
Publications & Blogs
- Virtual Reality by Steven LaValle (free online PDF)
- The VR Book by Jason Jerald, PhD
- A Guide to the Technologies, Applications, and Human Factors for AR and VR by Steve Aukstakalnis
- Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality by Jaron Lanier
- Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do by Jeremy Bailenson
- Marketing New Realities: An Introduction to VR & AR Marketing, Branding, & Communications by Cathy Hackl and Samantha Wolfe
- Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution by Jeremy Bailenson and Jim Blascovich
- Future Presence: How Virtual Reality Is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life by Peter Rubin
- Augmented Human: How Technology Is Shaping the New Reality by Helen Papagiannis
- The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality by Blake J. Harris
- Convergence: How The World Will Be Painted With Data by Charlie Fink
- What is Virtual Reality by Brenda Laurel
- Applying Human Centered Design to Emerging Technologies by IDEO
- VR Interface Design by Mike Agler
- The Future of Virtual Reality by Chris Milk
- Immersive Design by Matt Sundstrom
- How WebVR Is Going To Bring VR To The Masses by Owen Williams
- VR / AR Prototyping For Everyone by Pavel Laptev
- UX Pointers For VR Design by Timoni West
Industry Research 📃
If you’re interested in learning about the leading research efforts in virtual reality, the brief list below is a great starting point to seeing what the industry is up to.
Industry Terms & Definitions 📚
This is a brief (non-comprehensive) list of commonly used terms and acronyms you will hear and see across the web.
VR (Virtual Reality)
Virtual Reality are computer generated environments with an intent to replace the real world environment (that you exist in) with a simulated environment.
AR (Augmented Reality)
Augmented reality, like virtual reality, are also computer generated environments but with an intent to enhance the perception of the real world environment, rather than replacing it.
XR (Cross Reality)
Cross Reality is used as a catch-all phrase (hence the “X”) to encompass immersive technologies that blend the digital and physical worlds, like virtual reality and augmented reality.
360° video uses an omnidirectional camera to capture video from all angles; each video frame is then stitched together to create an single immersive 360° video that can be viewed.
HMD (Head Mounted Display)
A head mounted display (HMD) is simply a wearable device placed on your head that has a display for one or both eyes.
Inside Out Positional Tracking
Inside-Out positional tracking places the tracking sensors onto the VR headset itself rather than mounting them separately in a environment, as seen with current headsets like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift where the sensors are placed at a safe distance from the user.
CV (Computer Vision)
Computer vision is the process of computers mimicking human vision to understand and predict visual input. Computer vision is used in a host of applications such as identifying scanned text in documents, object recognition in autonomous vehicles, and swapping faces with your dog on Snapchat.
HCI (Human Computer Interaction)
Human Computer Interaction is a field of study looking at the interactions between a person, a computer, and the interfaces required to facilitate this relationship such as a GUI (graphical user interface) or VUI (voice user interface).
Lightfield technology is a type of camera capture where the angular information of light is obtained and from this information, we replicate environments in a virtual space by computing the captured light ray angles.
Foveated rendering is a graphics rendering technique that uses an eye tracker combined with a VR headset to show a high-quality image in the center (foveal) area of vision and a low-quality image in the periphery vision, improving the computational cost of rendering graphics.
IPD (Interpupillary Distance)
Interpupillary distance is simply the distance between the pupils of your eyes. This measurement is used by the HMD to optimize the screen in front of the user’s eyes for the best viewing experience.