There are a few factors to consider before deciding the destination hardware. There are several different devices like your mobile phone + Google Cardboard, Google DayDream, GearVR, Oculus Rift CV1 and HTC Vive for which you can develop a VR/AR app. Here are the five things you might want to take into account when coming to a decision.
#1 Type of audience
There are some applications that you want the mainstream audience to use (e.x. games, social, etc.) and there are some applications that are developed for a niche audience (e.x. science, construction, etc.). Based on your answer to this, you will get an overall idea about what device your user base will possess.
#2 Affordability for target audience
Google Cardboard costs about $15 while Google DayDream costs a 100$, but it is compatible only with a select few phones like Google Pixel, Galaxy S8, Moto Z. There is also Gear VR from Samsung that costs 129$, and that’s compatible only with the latest Samsung hardware. And then, there are HMD (head mounted display) devices powered by a monster PC — Oculus Rift (399$) and HTC Vive (799$).
After selecting the right audience, you will have to consider which device they might be able to afford.
#3 Ease of use
The next factor to consider is the ease of use for your VR/AR application. For example, if it’s a social app or a simple game, you might want the user to interact with the application anywhere and anytime, in their couch or during their commute. For such ideas, it’s probably a good idea to focus on mobile devices. On the other hand, if ease of use is not a major factor, e.x. fully immersive shooting game, it’s good to consider all the options. Remember, Oculus and Vive uses a powerful PC, and with all the wiring, sensors and set-up procedures, it’s not the easiest experience. (Note: Standalone headsets are coming from Google and Facebook later in 2017, and there are manufacturers making backpack PC for these VR HMDs).
#4 Level of interaction
Next, imagine the type of interaction that the user will have with your application. For Google Cardboard, the only way to interact is either by eye-gaze or by user click (there’s only one button on Cardboard). GearVR and Daydream have controllers that provide an extra level of interaction with a few more buttons and swipe-pads. For the devices mentioned above, there are only 3 degrees of freedom interaction (only rotational axes — head movement). Oculus and Vive have hand controllers that provide a lot more interactions and also facilitate gesture recognition and 6 degrees of freedom (translation and rotation — can move around the room with the help of sensors).
Based on the level of interaction and required DOF, decide the best option.
#5 Graphics — Immersion
Better graphics lead to better immersion. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive uses a PC which is required to have good a GPU. So naturally, these devices are desirable for applications that demand a high level of graphics. For applications that don’t require that level of graphics and computation in the background, the other options like Cardboard/Daydream/GearVR might sound like a better choice.
These are some main factors that one can consider when deciding the target device when developing a VR/AR application. Most VR developers use Unity or Unreal engine to develop their applications, and while it’s pretty straightforward to deploy the application on several platforms with some minor tweaks, it’s always a good idea to have the target audience persona and the target device in mind, when starting to develop a VR application.
Drop a comment below if you think I have missed some factors to consider. All suggestions welcome.