How To Distribute VR & AR Experiences

So you are planning to have an amazing VR or AR experience. How do you get it into the hands of your employees and customers? In this article we are going to explain how to distribute VR and AR experiences.

Know your Audience

When we discuss new projects with our clients, one of the first things we ask is who is this content for? How do you want to use it? And who will be responsible for looking after this?

Often the experiences we build are for specific trade shows or events, with us supplying the headsets with the software preloaded onto the headset or device. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality devices can be purchased or rented. This is a decision you can take depending on how long you want them for.

If this is the route for you, we have lots more tips and useful information in our Virtual Reality for Tradeshows and Exhibitions article.

However if you want to reach a wider audience then read on.

Distributing VR experiences online

If you want the widest possible audience then publishing online to one of the application stores is the best solution. They can also be used for limited distributions as well, which we will touch on later.

You might be familiar with the App Store or Google Play for mobile apps. Well, immersive content is very similar. Which store to sell on will depend on which devices you are supporting. We often build VR / AR content that run on multiple devices, so publishing on multiple stores is not uncommon.

Google Cardboard content can run on most modern smartphones in conjunction with an inexpensive headset. These are great for BYOD occasions and you can even post a branded foldable headset to a client. Just publish your app on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and give your customer a weblink.

Oculus Home virtual reality store

Another popular destination is the Oculus Store. This is the default way to distribute content on a range of devices such as the Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, the forthcoming Oculus Quest and the Samsung Gear VR. Users of these devices can browse the store whilst they are in virtual reality or via a web browser.

However if you want to create an experience for the HTC Vive or Vive Pro, then you’ll want to publish on Steam. Steam is the world’s largest online distribution platform for games – so your audience will be the predominantly gamers but they have a wide and varied VR content for Vive and Oculus on there.

Note that app stores have an approval process which you’ll need to plan into your release schedule.

Distributing AR content

The majority of Augmented Reality apps run on the billions of AR capable mobile phones out there. Much like any other mobile app, it can probably be sold or distributed for free on app stores.

The challenge can be to get audiences to download the content in the first place. For enterprise this isn’t so much an issue. Yet, it can be problematic for locational based AR experiences like in museums and attractions. This is because internet connectivity may not be ideal and you want this to be a frictionless experience as possible.

Luckily almost everyone has Facebook and/or Snapchat installed on their phone. So it is now possible to access branded AR content directly via the camera function in this app. See our article on the types of great augmented reality experiences you can publish via Facebook using their Spark AR platform.

Facebook Spark AR

VR/AR for enterprise

Often our clients want virtual reality and augmented reality content for their employees (for training purposes), specific customers (e.g. for a sales demonstration) or a group of users (e.g. patients or students). In which case they may not want everyone to be able to access the content and these users are often situated globally. Importantly, most public app stores have guidelines that can deny content that doesn’t have sufficient value for the majority of their customers.

Hololens mixed reality Enterprise

For virtual reality systems that run on a PC laptop or desktop – like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, it can be as simple as downloading the application file straight from a website.

Increasing the market is moving to mobile and stand-alone headsets. On these devices the manufacturers tend to insist content is distributed via their own channels. Fortunately Apple’s Appstore, Google, Oculus and Steam all provide ways for enterprises to distribute apps privately to specific groups of users. The other advantage of distributing on the application stores is that is simple to push updates.

Maximising ROI through longtail

Not everyone has a headset (yet). If you’ve invested in creating immersive content, then it is worth considering how to make the experience more accessible.

Adapting content so it can be viewed online in a browser is a great way of maximising your R.O.I.
The simplest way to do this is to record the users experience as a first-person perspective video that can be shared on YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook – all of which support 360 video formats.

360 video for vr

If you need interactivity, it is possible to adapt the application to run directly in a browser either as a mouse based experience or using WebVR. However, there are limitations with this approach, so it’s best to plan for this in advance.

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