Businesses need to improve their market share, and at the same time, they also need to improve their operational efficiency. If you are a senior business leader, you are likely exploring technologies that enable you to do both. As I have explained in “VR vs Augmented Reality: which one is best for your business idea?”, virtual reality (VR) is such a technology.
VR has use cases that can directly benefit your customers, moreover, you can improve the productivity in your organization using it. However, you need to use the right tools for developing virtual reality apps. In this guide, I describe 10 great tools for VR development. Read on!
An overview of VR, its use cases, and the growing market for it
“Virtual Reality” refers to a promising technology, furthermore, the term also refers to the immersive environment it creates. With the help of computer software and hardware, VR enables users to experience a 3D environment.
Users temporarily suspend their contact with the real world when they use a VR headset, and the virtual environment responds to their actions. You can read more about VR in “How much does it cost to build a VR app?”.
VR has many consumer-facing use cases, e.g.:
- It can help to create engaging games.
- With VR, media and entertainment companies can create more engaging content.
- Marketers can make their ads more interesting with the help of VR.
- Businesses can use VR to let their customers virtually try their products.
You can also use VR in various ways to improve operational efficiency in your organization, e.g.:
- VR-based training modules can help to train employees engaged in complex jobs, e.g., healthcare VR simulators can help to train doctors. I have explained this in “How to build a VR simulator for your healthcare business”.
- Enterprises can use VR to improve the prototyping process of complex products, moreover, the technology can usher in the safer design of workplace layouts in the manufacturing industry. Read “Application of virtual reality in manufacturing” to learn more about this.
- Organizations can use VR to manage meetings better since remote teams can participate more effectively using VR collaboration tools. I have explained this earlier in “Using VR chatrooms to manage your remote employees”.
Given the promise of VR, it’s no surprise that the global market for this technology is experiencing rapid growth. A MarketsandMarkets research report pegs the global market for VR at $44.7 billion by 2024.
Top 10 VR development tools
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VR can offer plenty of value for your business, however, virtual reality app development can be tricky. Robust virtual reality tools assume importance here, and I will explain the top 10 such tools.
Unity is famous for game development, however, it helps you to build VR solutions for many other sectors too. E.g., you can create VR solutions for automotive, transportation, manufacturing, media & entertainment, engineering, construction, etc. with Unity.
You can get a valuable set of tools when you use Unity, e.g.:
- A powerful editor to create VR assets;
- Artist and designer tools;
- CAD tools;
- Collaboration tools.
Read more about them in “Unity 2019: performance by default, high-fidelity real-time graphics, and artist tools”. Unity works with all popular VR platforms like Oculus, Sony, etc.
Unity offers a portal to learn its products where a VR developer can access courses like “Getting started with Unity”, and many more. The Unity support & services portal will enable you to access its detailed documentation as well as get the help you need.
2. Amazon Sumerian
Amazon Sumerian is the VR engine from AWS, and you don’t need 3D graphics or VR programming skills to use it. Sumerian works with all popular VR platforms like Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro, Google Daydream, and Lenovo Mirage, moreover, it works with Android and iOS mobile devices too.
Amazon Sumerian supports various VR use cases like employee education, training simulation, field services productivity, retail & sales, and virtual concierge. It has powerful features, e.g.:
- Sumerian editor;
- Sumerian hosts;
- Asset management;
- An ability to script the logic in the scenes you create.
Read more about these features in “Amazon Sumerian features”.
You can access extensive learning resources that will help you to use Sumerian, and you can read “Getting started with Amazon Sumerian” for this. The Amazon Sumerian FAQ page has plenty of valuable information that’s useful for any virtual reality developer. Check out the Amazon Sumerian pricing page for its pricing plans.
3. Google VR for everyone
Google, the technology giant offers a wide range of VR development tools, and you can use them to create immersive VR experience for your stakeholders. You can access these tools on the Google VR developer portal.
You can use these tools to develop VR apps for multiple platforms, e.g., Unity, Unreal, Android, iOS, and web. To access the guides to develop VR apps for each of these platforms, first navigate to “Choose your development environment” on the Google VR developer portal.
You can then access the individual guides. E.g., you can read “Quickstart for Google VR SDK for Unity with Android” if you are planning to develop a VR app for Unity with Android. On the other hand, read “Quickstart for Google VR SDK for Android” if you are building a VR app for Daydream and Cardboard.
The Google VR developer platform has software development kits (SDKs) for all VR platforms it supports, e.g., Unity, Android, iOS, etc. You can navigate to the download page on the Google VR developer portal to access them. You can read “Google VR API reference” to understand the Google VR APIs, which covers all SDKs that the Google VR development platform offers.
4. Unreal Engine 4 (UE4)
Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) offers a powerful set of VR development tools. With UE4, you can build VR apps that will work on a variety of VR platforms, e.g., Oculus, Sony, Samsung Gear VR, Android, iOS, Google VR, etc.
The UE4 platform has many features, e.g.:
- It offers access to its C++ source code and Python scripts, therefore, any VR developer in your team can study the engine in detail and learn how to use it.
- UE4 has a multiplayer framework, real-time rendering of visuals, and a flexible editor.
- With the Blueprint visual scripting tool offered by UE4, you can create prototypes quickly.
- It’s easy to add animation, sequence, audio, simulation, effects, etc.
You can read more on the UE4 features page. UE4 is extensible, and it has a rich ecosystem.
Read How We Helped a Marketing Company to Build a Back-Office Custom Ads Dashboard
Well-known to game developers, CRYENGINE is a robust choice for a VR development tool. You can build virtual reality apps with it that will work with popular VR platforms like Oculus Rift, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, etc.
CRYENGINE offers various features, e.g.:
- You can incorporate excellent visuals in your app.
- Creating a VR app is easy with CRYENGINE since it offers sandbox and other relevant tools.
- You can easily create characters.
- There are built-in audio solutions.
- You can build real-time visualization and interaction with CRYENGINE, which provides an immersive experience to your stakeholders.
Read the “Features” page on the CRYENGINE website to learn more.
CRYENGINE offers excellent documentation, moreover, you can get its entire source code. Read the CRYENGINE V manual for more information. There are also useful tutorials for CRYENGINE, and you can access them on the Tutorials page on its website.
Blender is an open-source 3D creation suite, and it’s free. At the time of writing, Blender 2.80 is its latest release. The Blender Foundation, an independent organization for public benefit governs the development of Blender.
Blender offers the following features and capabilities:
- You can create your 3D pipeline with modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, composing, and motion tracking.
- Blender supports video editing and game creation.
- If you have an experienced VR developer in your team, then he/she can use its API for Python scripting to customize the application. This allows you to create specialized tools.
Read “Free software never looked this awesome” to learn more about the features of Blender.
7. 3ds Max
3ds Max is a popular 3D modeling and rendering software from Autodesk, and you can use it for design visualization, game creation, etc. 3ds Max offers a wide range of features, e.g.:
- You can create professional-quality 3D animations with it.
- 3ds Max offers an efficient and flexible toolset to produce high-quality 3D models.
- There are various options to create textures and effects, and you can read about them on the features page on the 3ds Max website.
- You get an impressive array of 3D rendering, UI, workflow, pipeline, 3D animation, and other capabilities with 3ds Max.
3ds Max offers excellent documentation and tutorials. To access them, you need to visit the support & learning page on its website. You can access video tutorials, troubleshooting guides, and many more helpful resources to effectively use 3ds Max.
8. SketchUp Studio
SketchUp Studio is a powerful 3D modeling tool focused on the construction industry and architecture, and you can use it for virtual reality app development. It’s useful for use cases like architecture, commercial interior design, landscape architecture, residential construction, 3D printing, and urban planning.
You can get its powerful desktop tool with easy-to-use UI, and designing your building in 3D will be easier with it. The tool allows you to use compelling graphics, moreover, SketchUp Studio offers construction industry-specific features. You can build both VR and Augmented Reality (AR) apps using this tool.
There are learning resources and tutorials that will help you to learn SketchUp Studio, and you can access them on the SketchUp Help page of its website. You can find its pricing plans on the plans and pricing page on its website.
Maya is yet another tool for VR development from Autodesk. With Maya, you can create 3D animations, motion graphics, and VFX software.
Maya is a powerful software that offers tools for dynamics, effects, 3D animation, 3D rendering, 3D shading, 3D modeling, pipeline integration, motion graphics, etc. Visit the features page on its website to read more about what Maya offers.
The support & learning page on its website offers excellent resources for learning this product suite. You can also download software and access troubleshooting guides on this webpage.
10. Oculus Medium
Oculus, the well-known provider of VR platforms like Oculus Rift S, Oculus Quest, and Oculus Go also offers a powerful VR development tool, named Medium. It’s a comprehensive tool, which allows you to create 3D assets.
You can sculpt, model, and paint the VR assets you create. Even if you are a beginner, with Oculus Medium you can quickly create an immersive environment.
Planning to launch a VR solution for your business?
The 10 great tools for VR development I have described above can help, however, developing a VR solution can be complex. You need to hire highly competent VR developers, and this can be hard. Our guide “How to hire VR developers – the ultimate checklist” can help you with this, however, you also need end-to-end management support for this project.
I recommend that you engage a reputed software development company for such projects. It can be hard to find such a development partner. However, you can read our guide “How to find the best software development company?”, which can help you with the required due diligence.
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I love all things blockchain and related to app development. What time I have when I am not busy writing for the DevTeam.Space blog of over 350 articles, I spend sitting around wondering what the future will look like 50 years from now.
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