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24, Jul, 2023

Denys Kliuch

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Oculus App Development: How to Create a VR App

Over the years, the number of VR platforms has increased significantly, with new models released yearly. Despite this, one brand has remained dominant since the early days of VR – Oculus. This brand currently holds a 75% market share of all headsets sold and is the preferred choice for app developers. However, starting app development is more complex than choosing a VR brand. You still have to select a specific headset model, learn the intricacies of developing this type of software, and discover ways to streamline the process. Alternatively, you might opt for VR development services

This article provides comprehensive guidance on all these aspects, giving you everything about Oculus App Development.

How to Develop VR App for Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift was the pioneering headset from the brand, released in 2012, and was the first VR device to gain popularity among the masses. However, in the fast-paced world of technology, 10 years can feel like an eternity, and the Rift is now considered outdated. Several vendors and services have discontinued support for the device, making it a reasonable choice to develop for it only if you already possess a collection of these headsets or want to purchase them at a lower cost.

When developing for the Oculus Rift, there are a few critical factors to consider. 

Firstly, as the headset is wired, users should ideally remain stationary and seated during use. To accommodate movement within the app, teleportation can be implemented via button presses and VR controllers. 

Additionally, it’s important to remember that the Rift has limited specs compared to newer headsets like the Pico Neo. However, by optimizing content and playing to the device’s strengths, VR experiences can still be enjoyable. For example, creating large 3D models that can be viewed from a distance or critical angles can work well with the limited 90-degree FOV.  

It’s also worth noting that different versions of the Rift are available, including a Dev version for testing new functionality and an Enterprise model with added protections for businesses.

How to Develop VR App for Oculus Go

The year 2018 saw the release of Oculus Go, which boasted decent hardware, including memory, refresh rate, and resolution, although not as powerful as its successors, Quest 1 and 2. The Go was the first wireless headset in the Oculus series, and its affordability makes it attractive in today’s market. It is available from third-party sellers for less than $200, with some offering it for as low as $150 or $120. In comparison, Quest 2 is being sold by most vendors for around $300. Even a slight price difference can be significant when purchasing headsets in bulk.

Please keep in mind the following points during development: 

Limited support for Unity 

While Unity is a popular tool for building VR apps, it can be challenging to release to older platforms due to deprecation. For example, the Oculus Integration SDK available for Unity stopped supporting Go in 2020. While you can still use Unity for vr app development, you’ll need to use version 18 of the SDK instead of the current version 35. Unfortunately, this means that you won’t be able to take advantage of the improved tools available in the newer version. 

Compatibility with Gear VR 

Gear VR is a trendy VR headset from Samsung with an interesting connection to Oculus Go – its apps are compatible with the Go headset. This is a crucial point to consider because Gear VR is a smartphone-based headset and is exceptionally accessible to users (anyone with a smartphone can enjoy VR). This means that you can create a cross-platform application that will be accessible on both platforms. However, for the Oculus build, you’ll need to block or remove some features that rely on a phone (camera, push notifications, etc.).

Using hidden mode 

By default, Oculus Go runs at a frame rate of 60 Hz, but developers built it to push the hardware to its limit and achieve 72 Hz. This optional mode makes motions and interactions in your app smoother and increases brightness and color clarity. To enable this mode in your app, configure it early in Oculus Go app development through the OVRDisplay function in Unity. 

How to Develop VR App for Oculus Quest

The Oculus Quest (released in 2019) is currently the most advanced model offered by the company. The Oculus Quest 2 is the premier choice for development and the brand’s flagship product. The differences between the two models primarily lie in their hardware specifications, with the Quest 2 boasting a higher resolution, lighter weight, larger RAM, and faster refresh rate. 

While the Quest 2 is undoubtedly a top contender in the VR world, other premium options are available. For more information, look at our analysis of the best VR headsets for development.

If you want to develop a VR app for Oculus Quest, it’s essential to consider a few key aspects. 

Firstly, graphic optimization ensures your app runs smoothly and efficiently. While it may be tempting to integrate complex 3D content with numerous polygons, shaders, and lighting effects, this can negatively impact performance and even affect frame rate. Oculus representatives suggest increasing texture resolution and reusing assets to optimize while maintaining visual quality. 

Additionally, the wireless nature of Quest headsets poses both convenience and safety concerns. Users can move around freely while using the app but may risk colliding with objects or injuring themselves. To address this, Oculus introduced the Guardian system, which sets up a limited physical area for users and displays a translucent grid within the app to prevent collisions. 

Finally, enterprise apps containing sensitive data and content may have better options than releasing them on the Oculus app store. Instead, consider deploying through Sidequest, a third-party platform allowing custom app installation without going through the official store. This is also helpful for testing builds of your app without the need for certification or approval.

Let’s Develop VR Apps Together

If you’re new to VR development, it can be tough to know where to start. VR interactions are super different from those in PC, mobile, and web experiences, and there are many different input methods to get your head around. To help you get going, we recommend reading through some development guides from Oculus and Unity, which are your go-to tools for now. Just remember that it’ll take a few weeks to get to grips with the basics and a few months to create something professional, so it might not be the best option for companies looking to get a quick app out there. 

If you’re looking for a quicker option than hiring lots of freelancers and negotiating with each one, we suggest partnering with a team experienced in VR development. A good partner will have loads of experience and be able to deliver a top-quality product in no time. 

Our team can develop VR applications for all industries – manufacturing, construction, energy, education, and beyond. Our VR solutions can be used for all sorts of things, like training simulations, customization tools, gaming, collaboration, and heaps more. Plus, we have a team of in-house analysts who are total whizzes regarding Oculus business development, and they’re ready to help you create a strategy that’ll help you meet all your business goals. Whimsy Games had got everything you need to build your app, no matter how tricky or ambitious it might seem. 

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Written by

Denys Kliuch

CEO

I'm a CEO and a Co-Founder of Whimsy Games. Before that, I advanced my expertise in engineering, management, traffic marketing, and analytics working for large game development studios with a $1M+ monthly income. With a clear vision of how game development should work, I run Whimsy Games, being responsible for the marketing and sales of our products and services.

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