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Business, Design, How to, Technical, VR, Your Business + Virtual Reality
In the early days of television, it would be fair to say there was a ‘breaking in period’. It took broadcasters some time to get to grips with the new medium. In fairness, they and their listeners were used to news, information and entertainment primarily being delivered to their ears via a radio and therefore, with little appreciation for the context of a visual medium, the earliest shows consisted of little more than a camera being pointed at a radio presenter. Similarly, VR is the new and compelling game in town with the power to entertain, to communicate and to tell visual stories in an entirely different, multi-dimensional way. Creating strong content for this new medium inherently comes with the same challenges – how to effectively use all the various tools that VR offers in the right way and at the right time, to create the most engaging and immersive experiences possible while still giving users plenty of information. Long held design habits, honed through work within multiple different formats can be tough to shake and so, based on the findings from over a thousand hours of user testing we’ve carried out, we’ve put together a few things to consider that we think will help when trying to use text, audio and video in VR without interrupting the immersion.

Show, Don’t Tell
Although, as we will touch on later, VR isn’t a visual only platform, it is visual-first. In the same way that filming a radio broadcaster doesn’t fulfill the potential of television or recording a Cirque Du Soleil show wouldn’t make for good radio, using more than minimal text with a VR experience is a distraction. Why would people want to read inside a VR experience? Beyond a few words within a menu or used as concise pointers for navigation, blocks of floating text can be disorienting and unnecessarily cover portions of a design. Not only that, the sensory conflict that can take place, when people view hovering text can cause feelings of nausea. While the desire to add a text-based commentary might understandably be to provide further detail on a specific product or to highlight a designer’s thought process, in the context of VR, there are better ways of providing a narrative which can add to an experience rather than detracting from it. Save text for good menu design, or to help users orient themselves within VR. Unity has some great examples of solid menu design, and many of them involve text that enters the space after a few seconds where the viewer can orient themselves without interruption, before seeing text in the context of what to do next, and which doesn’t block design elements


VR text displayed without interrupting the visuals of a VR game

By contrast, this menu is incongruous with the surroundings and blocks the scene.


VR room with a text menu overlaid, blocking some of the VR design  


Immersive Audio
Offering short pieces of audio commentary at strategic points within a VR experience can be a great way to share key information in a non-distracting way. We’ve recently rolled out a new Audio Hotspots feature which allows designers to add audio files of up to two minutes to specific parts of their designs. For example, the below render of an exterior at nighttime was done by one of our partner studios and they’ve embedded audio to explain some of the design decisions, as well as add some ambient sound to the scene. You can view it here: https://www.yulio.com/Vi36c3a0FB  

a nighttime backyard scene with vr audio hotspot icons

Triggered when a viewer gazes at the hotspot, these commentaries can be used to describe design choices, offer answers to questions, or provide information about products used in the design, all without interrupting the immersion of a VR experience. As an example of this in practice, an interior designer might choose to place a hotspot over an area a client had questions about on the last iteration, or where they requested changes, and call attention to exactly how they addressed their concerns. For those designers who typically present to a stakeholder who will later be sharing the design with other stakeholders, audio hotspots also let the designer maintain the control and consistency of the conversation. Beyond strategically placed commentaries, ambient background noise relevant to a visual is anecdotally believed to considerably increase the immersive quality of a VR experience. Whether it be the sound of kids playing when viewing the design of proposed new community development or office background noise within a new building design, audio is able to add an additional layer of reality into the experience.

 


Video in VR
Another way of creatively sharing information in a way that suits the immersive context of VR is through video. By adding video clips strategically within a design, triggered in the same ‘gaze-to-go’ technique as audio and navigation hotspots, creatives can offer viewers the ability to take a deeper dive into a specific element. Whether it be a retail application where viewers might gaze at a piece of furniture and view a short video clip of it being created in a workshop with specific details of the materials used, etc, or a real estate application where a new home buyer might gaze at a window in an, as yet, unbuilt home and launch a clip of the real-life surrounding area, when used creatively, video can add depth to a story being told in a way that perfectly fits the VR environment.  




To find out more about Yulio’s new audio hotspots, available immediately to all Yulio Enterprise clients, visit our knowledge base.  Or to create your custom Enterprise plan, reach us at hello@yulio.com.
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Business, Design, Technical, VR, Your Business + Virtual Reality

Today, Yulio is bringing audio annotation to our VR hotspots technology. Hotspots are the Yulio method of linking scenes in your VR designs and have always been part of our simple gaze to go navigation. Starting today, customers on our Enterprise level plan can add audio files of up to two minutes to attach to their designs. Check out some samples in our Showcase. Designers can use audio to describe design choices, offer answers to questions, or provide information about products used in the design, all without interrupting the immersion of your VR experience.


Screencap of the Yulio Audio VR  Hotspots editor  




Some of the best use cases for audio in A&D VR are about imparting information while maintaining immersion:

Consistent presentations, even when you’re not there.
For those designers who typically present to a stakeholder who will later be sharing the design with other stakeholders, audio hotspots let the designer maintain control of the conversation. Presenting design choices and thought process with audio hotspots makes them part of the VR design presentation and ensures the information will be consistent as the design is viewed by multiple stakeholders.

Give unambiguous feedback and reduce meeting time
Designers constantly need to respond to client feedback. Audio hotspots allow you to do so within the next iteration of the design and give greater context to your comments. Place a hotspot over an area a client had questions about, or where they requested changes, and call attention to exactly how you addressed their concerns.


The evolution of product information
Audio VR hotspots let a user gaze at an object in the design, like a specific chair choice in an office, and hear about its features and benefits at the same time they are checking out its aesthetics, rather than refer to product information outside the design. Aside from the obvious applications in retail, the A&D designers can also talk about material choices and offer recommendations in context.

Increase the Ambience
There’s some research that says adding appropriate ambient noise to VR increases the level of immersion far more than some visual tweaks. It helps block the real world a little bit, draw focus to the design and brings life to the design, when used in the right ways. Consider a ceiling or sky audio hotspot in a park with the sound of children playing, general office noises in workplaces or water sounds near fountains and pools. Just like image searches, sounds can be found online or from a service like PacDV or SoundJay. Yulio has pursued audio hotspots because, while we have seen instances of text used in VR, our user testing has demonstrated how distracting it can be. When viewers enter a virtual world and are confronted with large blocks of text to read, it’s distracting in a few ways:

  • It physically covers a portion of the design
  • It’s disorienting to have text floating in space
  • It represents a poor use of VR – why send them into a VRE to read?


  VR room with a text menu overlaid, blocking some of the VR design



They turn off when a user looks away to avoid interrupting the design experience. We’re currently supporting multiple audio formats, including mp3, .wav, m4a, ogg, wma and acc file types, along with many more. Just upload your audio files to Yulio and add them to your scene in the hotspot editor.




Screen shot of office VR image with Yulio vr hotspots editor  



You can still adjust the depth of the hotspot in the scene to make it appear closer or further away in 3D space.


Generating audio files
If you’re looking for help generating audio files, there are a few options available. For quick conversation style comments between you and your client, use a native recorder app available in windows or on most smartphones. Speak slowly and eliminate ambient noise, and the file will carry your ideas clearly. If you’re just too shy to record yourself or want a more detached sound, there are plenty of good Text To Speech (TTS) options, like NaturalSpeech.com. The results can be a bit robotic, but they get the job done. It’s a matter of personal preference, but we find the female voice options a little more natural sounding. For a higher end recording, worthwhile on product info you use all the time, or on a major presentation or portfolio asset, professional voice artists can be hired through agencies all over North America – a quick Google search brings up dozens of options.


Get Started
Audio VR hotspots are available immediately to all Yulio Enterprise clients. To learn more and begin using them, visit our knowledge base.  Or to create your custom Enterprise plan, reach us at hello@yulio.com.
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