The surge of new virtual reality technologies is advancing so fast it’s difficult to grasp all the emerging innovations in this sphere. Most people still know only basic things about VR headsets and some popular VR implementations. We’ve all probably seen 360 videos on Facebook and Youtube. Yet when it comes to incorporating this tech into a specific business model, you might feel a bit lost. In this article, we’d like to draw a clear line between 3D VR and 360 video, explain their applications and possibilities.

BI Intelligence predicts that smartphone-powered VR headsets such as Samsung Gear VR and standalone devices such as the Oculus Rift will get more traction for the first time in 2016. Recent Statista research indicates that the total number of active virtual reality users is forecast to reach 171 million by 2018. The most prominent impact will be in such industries as gaming, entertainment, interactive media, wellness and tourism. To join this wave, it is essential to embrace the VR tech and understand how we may benefit from it.

Number of active virtual reality users worldwide from 2014 to 2018

Projected growth of VR users

 Projected share of global virtual reality software revenue in 2018

Projected share of global virtual reality software revenue in 2018

Difference between 3D and 360 VR development

The production of a 360 video involves the typical work of a filmmaker. First you need to shoot it with a special camera like Samsung Gear 360, GoPro Omni, Nokia Ozo, to name a few. These cameras have similar functionality with slight variation in quality of the video. After the filming is finished, the video then has to be stitched together to form a single Spherical 360 video. This is often done automatically or with the help of a specific software like VideoStitch or Autopano Video.

When it comes to 3D VR creation – the process looks very similar to 3D game development. It requires the standard toolset used in Triple-A game production. Virtual reality software development starts with choosing an engine. For a more realistic graphically advanced environment we’d recommend Unreal Engine. If you need to make a simpler more schematic experience, it’s better to go with Unity. As for the art side, there is a variety of tools including 3ds Max, Zbrush, Substance Painter, Substance Designer, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator etc. An artist uses them to craft the textures, assets and the whole environment. All in all, it’s a process that involves a team of people with many roles.

So in 360 video you have live action video production and in VR you create a digital environment.

3D virtual reality is interactive

The most dramatic difference between these 2 technologies is that 3D VR allows a user to interact with the environment. You can move around, explore the virtual spaceand even change it. Also, you are not limited to a predefined timeline as you can access the assets and events in any sequence. Your decision to interact with a certain element will change your experience making it more dynamic and nonlinear. And this is what makes VR tech so engaging and attractive to a user.

In 360 video, you are just consuming the content, you can’t take part in what is happening because you are limited to a filmmaker’s perspective. Your experience of the events is always the same, as you can’t change their sequence.

Access through different devices

Virtual reality is only possible with VR headsets, whether these are mobile devices like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR or more advanced HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. You can achieve really high quality of content with Oculus and HTC Vive. The latter will even allow you to move around the room. Whereas Cardboard will considerably diminish quality of the picture. It’s worth noting that with every new version the functionality and graphical capabilities of the headsets improve. So sooner than later, the limits we have now will be gone.

As for 360 video, it may be accessed both through a VR headset and any other device with a regular 2D screen.

Fantazy is your only limit in 3D VR

360 video allows you to capture the entire scene around the camera. You may play it in a VR headset and it will feel impressive but what you see is the real footage of a real world and your experience is limited to that video. In comparison, 3D VR is designed and developed to move you to the imaginary places and deliver the experience that cannot be created with regular video footage. For example, you can recreate extreme conditions such as a fire and provide a training for firefighters, which would be very dangerous or even impossible to do in reality. You may create any reality you can imagine, so 3D VR practically has no limits.

Let’s admit, both technologies are great. They may help you achieve incredible things when used for the objectives they serve the best. Although developing 3D VR is more costly, it may have much bigger return on investment. So it’s worth considering the ROI of each option. VR works really well in gaming, advertisement, real estate, insurance, hospitality, education. By and large, it’s the technology that is just taking off the ground, and we’re about to see more of it in the future. If you think it will improve your client’s interaction with your business, don’t lag behind and adopt it now.

3D VR and 360 video compared