How Much Does It Cost To Build A VR App?

Virtual Reality (VR) is increasingly being used by businesses to serve their customers and to  improve their business operations.

Consequently, VR apps are growing in demand thanks to the value they can offer companies and to their customers. As an entrepreneur or an IT leader in an enterprise level business, you are likely wondering how much does it cost to build a VR app. This is what I will explain in this article.

Contents

A brief introduction to Virtual Reality
Virtual reality use cases
The global market for VR
What features should your VR app have?
What does this cost estimate cover?
The variables for estimating the cost of a VR app development
The SDLC model: A factor for the cost estimation
The development team: A key estimation factor
Estimating a software development project to create a VR app
Planning to launch a VR app?

A brief introduction to Virtual Reality

We typically refer to Virtual Reality (VR) in two different ways. One is a simulated environment, which might have certain specific use. The other reference is to the computer technology that creates such an artificial environment.

VR presents this artificial environment to users in a manner that they accept it as the reality as long as they are experiencing it. The technology uses sights and sounds to create this effect, and it has various use cases, e.g., training, gaming, etc. Read more about VR in “Virtual Reality”.

Virtual reality use cases

There are several prominent VR use cases e.g.:

  • Businesses enable their customers to try a product virtually before they buy it. Lowe’s Home Improvement customers are already experiencing this in the US, and you can read about it in “Top 5 virtual reality business use cases”.
  • We all know that VR is very popular in the gaming industry, however, game developers can also use the technology to make the game easier for new audiences. New players often find controllers hard to use, and VR makes this easier for them.
  • VR can help promote tourism since potential travelers can virtually experience their destination beforehand.
  • Businesses can use VR to improve their employee productivity by imparting better training for jobs that require hands-on training. Simulation is easier with VR, and many businesses are already using it for their training programs. Read “Why Walmart and other F500 companies are using virtual reality to train the next generation of American workers” to learn more about it.
  • Businesses can show additional optional features to their customers, who can try them on with the help of VR. This can help increase sales for businesses.
  • Mainstream consumer entertainment will benefit significantly from VR and the immersive experience the technology offers. Read “3 big virtual reality trends to watch in 2019” for more insights into this.

The global market for VR

The following statistics explain how the market for VR is growing at a healthy rate:

  • The retail and marketing VR market is expected to clock $0.805 billion in 2020, however, it will be a $1.79 billion market in 2022, according to a Statista report.
  • That’s just one segment, and the overall market for VR will likely grow up to $44.7 billion in 2024. Read “$7 Bn virtual reality market – global forecast to 2024” for more information.
  • MarketsandMarkets estimates that the global VR market will grow from $7.9 billion in 2018 to an impressive $53.6 billion in 2025, which translates to a whopping 37.6% CAGR!

What features should your VR app have?

You will likely use a VR app to address a specific business requirement, therefore, you will have functional features in the app. Apart from that, the app should have the following VR-specific features:

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  • The app should offer stereoscopic 3D experience, by supporting 360 3D and 180 3D.
  • It should support various media types, e.g., 4K video, 8K video, etc.
  • The app needs to support multiple platforms, e.g., iOS, Android, Samsung Gear VR, HTC VIVE, Oculus Rift, etc.
  • You will likely use the VR app in conjunction with your other apps, e.g., Autodesk for engineering use cases, therefore, the VR app should be compatible with such apps.
  • The app should be compatible with professional VR cameras, e.g., Insta360 PRO, iZugar Z2XL180, etc.
  • Users should be able to use it offline.
  • The app should provide analytics, e.g., it should have built-in Heatmaps for analyzing users’ eye tracking data.

You can read more about these desired VR features here.

What does this cost estimate cover?

I will now briefly explain what this cost estimation exercise covers, which are as follows:

  • It will cover the estimate for the generic VR app features that I have mentioned above.
  • This exercise will elaborate on the variables that come into play vis-à-vis estimating a software development project to build a VR app.

Let’s also understand what this exercise doesn’t cover, and these are as follows:

  • You are building a VR app for a specific business use case with the associated functionalities. This estimate doesn’t cover that.
  • You need to plug the cost estimation variables into your environment. For e.g., you need to supply the labor rates in your geography so that you can get the development manpower cost from the person-months estimate. This exercise doesn’t cover that.

The variables for estimating the cost of a VR app development

The variables for estimating the cost of a VR app development are as follows:

  • Manpower: This refers to the development effort, and I will express it in person-months. I will also show the distribution of person-months across various roles, e.g., project manager, architect, developer, etc.
  • IT infrastructure: I will explain how you can find the pricing plan of a reputed managed cloud services provider, subsequently, you need to select the service tier for your requirements.
  • Tools: This refers to software development kits (SDKs), application programming interfaces (APIs), test automation frameworks, and project management tools. I will recommend the appropriate tools, and you will need to choose the pricing plan you need.
  • Administrative costs: This could be the cost of hiring developers, communication costs, travel costs, etc. You need to estimate them considering factors like the local labor market, geography, etc.

Do you need help to arrive at a detailed cost estimate from the above-mentioned variables? We at DevTeam.Space can help.

The SDLC model: A factor for the cost estimation

Before I delve into the estimation process, let’s understand the SDLC model this project will likely use. Businesses use VR for their strategic projects, whether to let customers “try on” products before they buy, or to improve productivity through improved training.

Such strategic projects typically have well-defined requirements, moreover, these projects have high visibility in the organization. Risk mitigation in such a high-stakes project requires thorough reviews after key milestones.

Projects like this should use the Waterfall SDLC model since this model stresses on requirements baselining and reviews after each phase. You can read more about this model in “What is software development life cycle and what you plan for?”.

In this exercise, I will estimate the person-months for the following phases of the Waterfall model:

  • Requirements gathering and analysis;
  • Design;
  • Development;
  • Testing;
  • Deployment;

Note: The maintenance phase will have post-deployment and warranty support, moreover, it may have longer-term maintenance. Businesses typically award separate annuity contracts for long-term maintenance, therefore, in this guide, I will cover post-deployment and warranty support only.

The development team: A key estimation factor

You will likely have the following roles in your development team:

  • A project manager (PM);
  • A software architect;
  • Business analysts;
  • UI designers;
  • VR developers;
  • Web developers;
  • Android and iOS developers, assuming you will target at least these two prominent mobile platforms;
  • Testers;
  • DevOps engineers.

I will show you the distribution of the person-months across these roles.

Estimating a software development project to create a VR app

I will now take you through the estimation, which is as follows:

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1. Manpower estimation

The manpower estimation at the phase-level of granularity, accounting for the above-mentioned generic VR app features, is as follows:

(A) Requirements gathering and analysis

The effort estimate for this phase is 4 person-months, with the following distribution by roles:

  • PM: 25%;
  • Architect: 25%;
  • Business analysts: 50%.

(B) Design:

An estimated 22-33 person-months are needed for this phase, and the distribution by roles is as follows:

  • PM: 9%;
  • Architect: 9%;
  • Business analysts: 18%;
  • UI design lead: 9%;
  • VR development lead: 9%;
  • Web development lead: 9%;
  • Android development lead: 9%;
  • iOS development lead: 9%;
  • Test lead: 12%;
  • DevOps lead: 7%.

(C) Development:

The effort estimate for this phase is 60-72 months with the following role-wise distribution:

  • PM: 8%;
  • Architect: 8%;
  • UI designers: 16%;
  • VR developers: 20%;
  • Web developers: 16%;
  • Android developers: 16%;
  • iOS developers: 16%.

(D) Testing:

This phase requires an estimated 24-36 person-months, and the distribution by roles is as follows:

  • PM: 5%;
  • Architect: 5%;
  • Developers and UI designers: 35%;
  • Testers: 50%;
  • DevOps engineers: 5%.

(E) Deployment:

Much of the work in this phase can actually happen at the time of design and development since the DevOps engineers would need to set up the deployment processes and environments. This would help them to expedite the deployment when the time comes.

The effort estimate for this phase is 6 person-months, and the distribution by roles is as follows:

  • PM: 5%;
  • Architect: 10%;
  • DevOps engineers: 85%.

(F) Maintenance:

The effort estimate for the deployment support and warranty period assumes that this phase has a 3-months duration. The estimated effort is 30 person-months with the following distribution by roles:

  • PM: 5%;
  • Architect: 5%;
  • Designers and developers: 45%;
  • Testers: 35%;
  • DevOps engineers: 10%.

2. IT infrastructure cost estimation

I assume you would buy managed cloud services to meet your IT infrastructure needs, therefore, I recommend AWS. Its cloud capabilities are excellent, and you can get the following managed services:

  • If you only need Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), you can sign-up for AWS Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk is the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering from AWS, and it addresses aspects like cloud infrastructure, networking, databases, operating system, middleware, and runtime environment. Consider this for the VR web app development since you can use the AWS DevOps services, moreover, you can easily integrate 3rd party APIs.
  • For the mobile app, you can use AWS Amplify, i.e., the mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS) offering from AWS, which makes it easier to develop scalable and performant mobile apps.

AWS pricing plans are available on its website, and you only need to select an appropriate tier.

3. Tools cost estimation

I recommend the following tools for this project:

(A) Amazon Sumerian as the VR solution

Amazon Sumerian is the reputed VR/AR solution from Amazon, and you can use it easily on AWS cloud platforms. It has several advantages, e.g.:

  • Developers find it easy to create VR apps with it.
  • Sumerian works with all popular VR platforms like Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, etc.
  • It also supports both iOS and Android.

You can find its pricing plan on its website.

(B) Experitest test automation aids

You will need to test your web and mobile apps against different browsers and mobile devices, moreover, you need to contend with different versions of browsers and devices. You also need robust test reports and analytics.

I recommend test automation aids from Experitest, and you should consider the following solutions:

You can view the pricing plans of the Experitest solutions on its website.

(C) Wrike for project management

The PM should use a robust tool for managing this project, and I recommend Wrike for this. You can find its pricing plan on its website.

(D) Other tools

You will use IDEs like Eclipse, Android Studio, and Xcode for developing the web, Android and iOS apps respectively, and these are free. You might need a Java license, and you can find more information about it here.

4. Administrative cost estimation

You need to typically account for the following administrative costs:

Planning to launch a VR app?

In this guide I have explained how you can estimate a software development project to create a VR app, however, you also need to plan how you approach this project. Such high-stakes projects are typically complex, and you should consider taking help from a reputed software development company. Read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” before you choose one.

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Aran Davies

Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer
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.
Aran Davies