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Google Cardboard vs Samsung GearVR Virtual Reality Headsets

The two most accessible platforms for Virtual Reality (VR) content right now are Google Cardboard and Samsung’s GearVR. Both only require a mobile phone to operate.

How do they work?
gearvr_vs_cardboard_lenses

Both use a smartphone as the display, and have lenses that make the small screen fill your entire field of view. The phone sensors are used to detect where you’re looking so that a Virtual Reality app can update the display.

Overall Performance and Compatibility
GearVR provides a high-end experience. The lens are bigger and the headset is specifically designed and tuned for a number of the latest Samsung phones, including Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+. These high end phones provide high resolution, fast updates to head movements, and large screens–overall a very immersive experience.

As opposed to the Gear VR, almost any recent smartphone will work in Google Cardboard. The more high-end smartphones in our opinion yield experiences closer to the Gear VR. An older phone with one of the earlier Cardboard designs will not have as big of screen or respond to head movements as fast which produces a less immersive experience. But no matter the platform, the first time impact using VR is almost always jaw dropping.

Cost
The current Gear VR costs $99, but also requires a new Samsung phone, which range from $600 – $900 off contract. Google Cardboard in single units costs about $20, but can get down to $5 in quantity.

Use Cases

branded_cardboard_virtual_reality

Custom branded cardboard virtual reality viewers

Many companies custom print Cardboard as a giveaway or mailer. Cardboard provides a way for a brand to connect with an exciting new technology, and give a customer a branded takeaway that they can continue to use with many other apps.

virtual_reality_trade_show_gear_vr

Gear VR is best for trade shows or in-person visits. Check out our blog post on how to best use a Gear VR at your next trade show!

Whether Cardboard or Gear VR, companies typically develop a custom app to showcase their products. For example, the New York Times produced an app that contained 360 degree videos, including one from a refugee camp. Star Wars released small videos daily in the days before release of the latest film. Several of our clients like BetterCloud or Probrew have also created Cardboard apps to showcase their experiences. Cardboard apps are usually delivered through the Apple AppStore for iPhones or Google’s Play Store for Android. Samsung has a store for Gear VR, but has so far only allowed very few apps in. This is usually not a problem, as apps can be directly installed on devices rather than going through the Samsung store.

If you have questions about how to utilize Virtual Reality for recruiting or marketing, or would like help producing a custom virtual reality app, please let us know.

ABOUT FOUNDRY 45

Foundry 45 is The Business VR Leader. We create immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for mobile platforms including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, iOS Cardboard Headsets, Android Cardboard Headsets. Foundry 45 helps businesses step into their brand story by using dynamic 360-degree video and VR app creation. Our marketing and recruiting approach captures customer experience desires and emphasize product value. We also partner with existing video production studios, advertising agencies, and other content creators to serve as their VR technical consultants and developer shop.

To learn more about Foundry 45, visit us at www.foundry45.com.

For Immersive VR inquiries, contact Managing Partner:

Dave Beck, dave@foundry45.com.

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Trade Show VR Best Practices

So it looks like you’ve made the right decision to use a Virtual Reality Experience to enhance your upcoming trade show event. Prepare to be the talk of the town! By taking on this new storytelling format, you’ve effectively swallowed the red pill, and through this rabbit hole, you will discover several amazing opportunities not available through other means. But be wary, you may want some help navigating this new virtual world. This post shall be your guiding light.

Swallowed the red pill | Foundry 45

Equipment checklist:

  • 2 phones per Gear VR headset
  • Swivel chair(s)
  • Fast chargers for phones
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Lens cloths
  • Headphones
  • Stickers with your brand to put on headset

Step 1: Do a Dry Run Before the Show

This will work out any unexpected issues, both with the equipment and process. Be sure to tell guests to turn their heads to look all around!

Step 2: Prepare to Teach VR Newbies

Considering the cutting edge nature of the technology you are using, you are almost guaranteed to expose someone to their first VR experience. Hardwire a short instructional bit into your presentation, and be eager to answer any questions you encounter!

dana_putting_on_gearvrBooth Visitor: So I’m gonna be able to see really far away when I look into it, right?

Step 3: During the Show

Nothing will damper your amazing virtual reality experience like a dead phone battery or constant extraneous notifications. Take several measures beforehand to ensure your visitors maximize their immersion.

  • Fully charge all phone batteries prior to the event
  • Put all phones in airplane mode and deactivate Wifi
  • Every time you start app and put in GearVR, turn the volume back up (buttons on side). The volume resets every time the phone is removed.
  • Swap out phones in the headsets to cool down and recharge every hour
  • Remove phones from headset to charge and do not charge via the port on the newer GearVR units (this will allow them to cool off)
  • Make sure the app is at the start screen for new guests. If the previous person did not finish, just point the headset straight up for 5s to reset.

Step 4: Create a safe Virtual Reality zone

Just like The Matrix, when people are “jacked in” to a virtual world, their actual body can still be subject to harm.

Swivel chairs are your friend and your most trusted companion in order to avoid hilarious incidents like that one. You need to have a swivel chair for every VR headset you are running. Also to increase immersion, be generous in granting your visitors enough space for them to turn around freely. Consider roping off the area near each chair.

roped vr

Step 5: Concentration on Sanitation

If your event goes according to plan, your VR headset will come into contact with hundreds of people’s faces. Taking proper measures to guarantee that your equipment is functionally clean between every use is imperative in order to garner a positive response.

lol

We recommend wiping down the face pads with alcohol wipes and the lens with lint-free cloths in between guests.

Step 6: Help out your Marketing Team

Taking pictures and recording videos of people enjoying a VR experience will undoubtedly help your publicity efforts. Showing people that your event was a success rather than telling them will help with online posts and articles concerning your trade show experience. Record quotes from people who really engaged with your VR content, and try to obtain an honest opinion of their experience. Keeping record of these positive interactions increases the likelihood that your company will invest in future virtual reality endeavors.

Step 7: Cardboard Headsets!

Branded cardboard is a great giveaway that will keep your brand top of mind, and also provide access to hundreds of other Cardboard enabled apps in the app stores. If you’ve developed a custom cardboard app, we recommend helping people find and download the app from the store. This can require WiFi depending on your app.

ll See how happy they make people!

Now that you have been fully trained in the art of hosting a Virtual Reality trade show booth, you are ready to reap the rewards of all your hard work and preparation. Following these steps are all you need to do to guarantee that your event will run smoothly. People will receive a solid impression of your product and mission statement through your effective use of a Virtual Reality Experience. By learning all these helpful tips, tricks, and preparatory steps before your trade show event, one could say you have dodged a bullet.

If you’re interested in utilizing VR at your next trade show event, be sure to contact Foundry 45 for VR premiere content!

ABOUT FOUNDRY 45

Foundry 45 is The Business VR Leader. We create immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for mobile platforms including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, iOS Cardboard Headsets, Android Cardboard Headsets. Foundry 45 helps businesses step into their brand story by using dynamic 360-degree video and VR app creation. Our marketing and recruiting approach captures customer experience desires and emphasize product value. We also partner with existing video production studios, advertising agencies, and other content creators to serve as their VR technical consultants and developer shop.

To learn more about Foundry 45, visit us at www.foundry45.com.

For Immersive VR inquiries, contact Managing Partner:

Dave Beck, dave@foundry45.com

Follow Us!

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Virtual Reality for IT Recruiting

A recent Tech Republic article discussed BetterCloud’s use of 360 video to help recruit new staff. Recruiting in tech is a competitive business, so BetterCloud was looking for a unique way to showcase their company and the people inside it. What better than a first person view of a day in the life at the company?

The BetterCloud app (iOS, Android) was created using our VR Forge platform. BetterCloud was able to quickly go from a 360 video to android and iOS apps complete with custom graphics and calls-to-action (learn more, apply now). In the video, prospects get to meet other team members, take a quick tour of the office, and even see what it’s like at one of the work stations.

ABOUT FOUNDRY 45

Foundry 45 is The Business VR Leader. We create immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for mobile platforms including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, iOS Cardboard Headsets, Android Cardboard Headsets. Foundry 45 helps businesses step into their brand story by using dynamic 360-degree video and VR app creation. Our marketing and recruiting approach captures customer experience desires and emphasize product value. We also partner with existing video production studios, advertising agencies, and other content creators to serve as their VR technical consultants and developer shop.

To learn more about Foundry 45, visit us at www.foundry45.com.

For Immersive VR inquiries, contact Managing Partner:

Dave Beck, dave@foundry45.com

Follow Us!

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Implementing 360 Video in Unity for Gear VR and Cardboard

This entry will describe our efforts to get 360 video working in Unity for apps running on Gear VR and Cardboard (both iOS and android). This is more of a work in progress than a full guide, but I hope it helps. Feel free to leave questions or suggestions!

The overall process is:

  1. Start with google cardboard camera or oculus camera demo scene.
  2. Add a sphere with an equirectangular UV mapping and inward facing normals around the camera.
  3. Purchase a plugin to play a movie on that sphere’s texture. (Note: if you just want to run on Gear VR, you can adapt their movie example to play on the inside of a sphere. I’m not sure how to extract their movie playing code to a cardboard android app, though).
  4. Use mp4s or ogg vorbis files that are compatible with the platform. Some resolutions and frame rates don’t work for me.

Movie & Video Plugins for Unity and Android / iOS / Gear VR.

The most success so far has been achieved using the Easy Movie Texture plugin for Unity, currently $45. It works on android (utilizes Android MediaPlayer) and iOS and the developer gives great support. It even supports streaming and playing from the SD card. Note that it doesn’t work in the Editor, so you have to build to see the results.

The best part of this plugin is that it comes with a demo scene including a sphere to play back equirectangular videos. Getting a suitable sphere is a little tricky, since the default sphere in Unity has normals facing outwards rather than in, and doesn’t have the right UV mapping.

I also tried prime31’s iOS video plugin, LiveTexture, which was $75. This one was nice because videos would play inside the Editor, but I had to provide my own sphere and it doesn’t work on android. AND, sounds don’t play. The plugin provides a way to sync an audio track along with the video, but this seems likely to get out of sync. I had trouble with larger format videos being very choppy. A 2048×1024 was unwatchable on iPhone 5S, which is my lower end target for playing back 360 video with cardboard. Anything below 1000px of vertical resolution starts too look poor under a magnified 360 view.

Another one that’s also $75, but free to try, is Mobile Movie Texture. This one requires ogg vorbis files, and also doesn’t play video at the same time. It does support android and iOS.

One other plugin I tried plays back a sequence of images: Universal Video Texture ($20). This also doesn’t sync audio, but has the potential for extreme hi-def playback at the cost of extreme app size–not ideal for a mobile app. I believe a lot of the compression in an mp4 or ogg vorbis file is due to the compression algorithm knowing that a certain pixel doesn’t change from one frame to the next.

A final plugin that was recently pulled from the store by the developer (too much work to maintain maybe?) was Video Texture Pro 2. Here’s an interesting forum post by its author about video support in Unity.

I just came across a forum post on reddit talking about SPlugins Movie Texture for Mobile ($30) that may also work on android and iOS with sound, but haven’t tried it yet.

360 Equirectangular Sphere for VR Movie Playback in Unity

If you’d like a sphere to use with LiveTexture or one of the image sequence players, check out the roundscreen.obj (has holes at poles) here or an inside facing normals sphere with 32×16 vertices I made in blender. I’m not sure how the number of vertices impacts the resulting quality vs performance. Lower poly spheres seem to look very bad near the poles. Here are the instructions I followed to create the UV wrapped sphere if you’d like to try out much higher vertex counts. If you find a sphere with the normals facing out rather than in, you can run this reverse normals script on the object.

(With LiveTexture, I also had some strange wrapping issues with non-powers-of-2 video resolutions (ie, not 1024,2048, etc). I got around those by commenting out the line including “updateMaterialUVScaleForTexture” in the plugin code.)

In addition to reversing the normals, you may also need to mirror the UV map–ie, it might playback flipped. The Easy Movie Texture plugin flips the UV y coordinates (on iPhone only?) by iterating through all the UVs and reversing the y:

vec2UVs[i] = new Vector2(vec2UVs[i].x, 1.0f -vec2UVs[i].y);

Video Resolution, File Location, Frame Rate and Other Considerations for VR on iOS and Android

I was able to play 4096×2048 mp4s on Android, however files with a 50 fps frame rate stalled repeatedly on a Galaxy Note 4, whereas 25 fps files played perfectly (Using Easy Movie Texture plugin). Reducing the bitrate in half or the resolution had no effect on playability, only the frame rate mattered. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what frame rate I see given that the Unity app is running at one frame rate and the video at another.

One tip for experimenting with different files is to play off the SD card on android. This way you don’t have to import the videos into Unity. Placing an mp4 into the Streaming Assets folder in a Unity project causes unity to try to import it to a ogg vorbis file, which can take hours for videos over a few minutes, and is completely unnecessary since the plugin plays the original mp4. You can also make the extension a bogus name like .mp42 to prevent unity from converting the video. This worked for me on Android, but not iOS.

To play a file from the SD card, simply give the Str File Name variable in Easy Movie Texture the following full path:

file:///storage/extSdCard/myvideo.mp4

Note that the path to the sdcard may be different on different phones. The above is only for the Galaxy Note 4. You can find out your path with the following command:

adb shell 'echo ${SECONDARY_STORAGE%%:*}'

Note on iOS, be sure to run one of the patches depending on your version of Unity inside the EasyMovieTexture folder: Unity5_Patch_IOS or Unity463_Patch_IOS.

Another big restriction on iOS, at least on an iPhone 5s is that the max file size is 1920×1080. So for 2×1 equirectangular movies, this is 1920×960, almost half the size of the android. I believe the iPhone 6 can play larger files, but have not tested yet.

Open Questions

  • What is the limit of playback fps and resolution on both iOS and Android? I know Gear VR supports 4096×2048 at 60fps, but is this possible from within Unity?

Looking to create custom, native VR Apps without having to learn any of the above or touch a single line of code? Our VR Forge system might be just what you need to get going quickly and profitably. Take a look to see if it’s right for you!

ABOUT FOUNDRY 45

Foundry 45 is The Business VR Leader. We create immersive Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for mobile platforms including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, iOS Cardboard Headsets, Android Cardboard Headsets. Foundry 45 helps businesses step into their brand story by using dynamic 360-degree video and VR app creation. Our marketing and recruiting approach captures customer experience desires and emphasize product value. We also partner with existing video production studios, advertising agencies, and other content creators to serve as their VR technical consultants and developer shop.

To learn more about Foundry 45, visit us at www.foundry45.com.

For Immersive VR inquiries, contact Managing Partner:

Dave Beck, dave@foundry45.com

Follow Us!

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