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Udacity VR

Designing and Developing a mobile VR application for Udacity's VR Developer Nanodegree

Udacity VR is a mobile VR experience for iOS and Android which takes potential and existing students through a mono or stereoscopic VR tour of environments they will create when they go through the Udacity VR Nanodegree. I was responsible for the design and development of this VR application, which was published to the Android and iOS stores along with the launch of the nanodegree.

Here's a demo and design deconstruction

This video is an excerpt from the VR design course I created/taught at Udacity.

Creating a VR application when not everyone has a VR headset

Early in the development of this application, I identified two starkly different user groups.  The first group being Udacity students, who would be asked to use the application with their provided google cardboard.  The second group were people who were potential Udacity customers, and critically, they would most likely NOT have a mobile VR HMD.  Several accommodations were made for each user group, and ultimately the app follows two parallel, but separate flows, focusing on subtly teaching the interaction schema to the brand-new-to-vr group.

Photospheres for Hinting

The application immediately shows a photosphere on launch.  The purpose of this photosphere is to help users understand immediately that this is an application where they will be physically moving their phone to look around space.

A very first first time experience

After the photosphere splash screen, users are informed about the VR nanodegree and what they can expect from it if they sign up.  Once they reach the end of that short card-based flow, they are provided with an opportunity to order a cardboard viewer if they do not have one, along with a call to action to begin the experience.  The experience is in landscape, and a superfluous load state was added to hint at the desired landscape orientation. The entire flow is designed to ease users into understanding that they can use their phone as a viewport into a digital space. For many users, this will be their first exposure to ANY vr content.

Default to mono!

After the intro, the application defaults to mono viewing mode.  The justification for starting a VR app in monoscopic viewing mode is simply that a user with pre-existing knowledge of cardboard VR knows to hit the icon to switch to stereo, and is good to go.  Totally new-to-vr users on the other hand could easily be confused by the stereo viewing mode, and the affordance for ‘reverting to mono’ in the Google cardboard SDK isn’t immediately intuitive as a starting state due to it being a ‘back’ button.

The Process

The process for creating this application was pretty much a standard product design process, beginning with brainstorming and ideation, followed by identifying personas and user flows.  From there a whole lot of coordination with internal stakeholders, and external artists.  Once I’d completed building the experience, I conducted several rounds of user testing and iteration to arrive at the final product.  

I will be expanding more on the process behind creating this application once I’ve gotten clearance from Udacity to share certain (awesome) artifacts of the internal processes. Stay tuned!
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