15 October 2019Comments are off for this post.

8 benefits of heavy equipment training in virtual reality

In the past, we talked about the benefits of immersive technology for STEM education and e-commerce. Yet there is another area where virtual and augmented realities can be used just as effectively - heavy equipment training for machine operators.

Thanks to the R&D project we've been working on, we learned how virtual reality can enhance traditional heavy equipment training. Through research, testing and interviews with training experts, we now understand what kind of benefits VR can bring to the companies that face the difficult task of preparing machine operators for work.

Take a look at our list of the 8 most crucial benefits immersive tech can add to the heavy equipment training:

 

1. BOOST MACHINE OPERATORS' SKILLS

Main benefit of heavy equipment training in virtual reality is the opportunity to support machine operators’ professional growth. In most countries, the only legal requirement for heavy equipment operator is to pass the official exam and hold a proper licence. The licence however is not always the best indicator of the operator’s manual skills.

In the environment where even a tiny mistake might prove extremely costly, it's in the best interest of the company to invest in machine operators' manual skill growth. That’s why VR training simulator is such a great solution. Studies show that VR training systems are just as effective as the traditional ones. Furthermore, over 80% of users find the VR training to be the best learning method.

Considering the fact that VR training is cheaper and safer than the traditional one, it is no surprise that more and more companies are investing in training programs based on Virtual Reality.

 

2. APPLY COMPANY'S INTERNAL STANDARDS & PROCEDURES

A licence to operate heavy equipment indicates that an operator has a certain level of skills to handle one particular machine. However, working in a corporate environment requires a bit more. Every company has its own set of internal standards and procedures, specific to their unique working conditions.

The problem is, those standards and procedures are often taught in an ineffective, theoretical way, often ending up with poor results of such training. However, thanks to VR training, employees can learn about internal standards and procedures in a realistic environment. This spike of engagement level leads to the sharp increase in employees’ comprehension of internal regulations and procedures.

 

3. DECREASE RISKS TO SAFETY

One of the starkest advantages of VR training over the traditional one is the complete lack of risks to safety. For companies with presence of heavy machinery, safety is usually the highest priority. And it's not only about safety during work - it's just as important to ensure safe environment during training sessions.

It is crucial to not only reduce the number of accidents but also near-misses. A near miss is an incident in which no property was damaged and no personal injury was sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage or injury easily could have occurred.

Reducing safety risks requires analysis to identify the defects in the system and processes. That’s another advantage of VR training systems as the training in virtual reality helps to gather data of gaps in operators’ skills.

Eventually, lowering the number of accidents leads to financial gains - not only through the decrease of compensation costs for injured employees, but also by lowering the potential costs of damaged equipment and property.

 

4. RECREATE HIGH RISK SCENARIOS IN A RISK-FREE ENVIRONMENT

The traditional training for heavy equipment covers standard scenarios and use cases of the machines. Unfortunately - unusual, high-risk scenarios are never covered through these traditional courses. It would be too dangerous to put the operators through such training in real life. That’s why most of those scenarios are covered only through theoretical seminars.

VR training creates a great opportunity to cover all possible scenarios - even the most risky ones. Thanks to virtual reality, it doesn’t matter if the scenario involves gas pipes or risky terrain. Operators can learn how to behave in extreme situations in a completely safe environment. Acquiring such skills can prove crucial when such risky situations happen in real life.

 

5. SCREEN & ASSESS THE PERFORMANCE OF STAFF WITH EASE

Creating efficient training programs is inseparable from systematic screening of employees’ skills. To effectively train employees, a company needs to analyze what are the gaps in their skill growth.

With VR training simulator, a company can observe and monitor employees’ skill progress in an effective, risk-free environment. The valuable data gathered through this process can help spotting the gaps in their professional development. This can lead to the improvement of the training processes throughout the company.

Screening and assessing staff’s performance in the traditional way is also vulnerable to human factor and bias of the trainers. It's hard to unify and standardize the traditional screening method throughout the whole company, across different branches and different trainers. That’s another advantage of VR training courses. They eliminate human factor and potential bias. The performance of all employees is assessed the same way, with standardized rating system. It’s also a great tool to make these screenings consistent throughout the company, no matter of its size.

 

6. REALISTIC & ENGAGING HEAVY EQUIPMENT TRAINING

When it comes to occupational safety and health (OSH) training courses, lack of engagement from trainees’ side leads to low levels of apprehension of health and safety regulations. Most of the employees look at these issues as an annoying and unnecessary formality. They don’t pay attention to the content of these courses and they want to go through it as fast as possible.

Part of the problem comes from the form of the traditional OSH training. Most companies deal with this issue by giving their employees lengthy books of rules they need to get familiar with. This form of training obviously creates space for low engagement of the trainees.

VR training is probably the single most effective way to increase engagement and focus of employees on the training material. The nature of VR doesn’t allow its users to do anything else simultaneously. Trainees have to give their full attention to the course, dramatically increasing comprehension levels. Thanks to the realistic and practical nature of VR training, it takes trainees through real life scenarios, which makes the whole training much more interesting and memorable.

 

7. COST-EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVE

Traditional machine operators’ training comes with a long list of direct and indirect costs. First group of costs is connected with the machines used during the training process. It’s not only the cost of purchasing the machines, but also the ongoing costs of fuel and maintenance.

The second group of costs is related to the human factor - trainers and trainees. Trainers wages take a huge portion of training program costs. Most of the machines require 1:1 ratio of trainers to trainees, which makes it an extremely labor-consuming process. Additionally, companies lose money on lost productivity of its trainees, as these highly qualified professionals could’ve been doing proper work instead of training new employees. Add costs like the cost of insurance programs and the cost of traditional training raises dramatically.

There’s no ‘free’ alternative to the traditional training. However, virtual training can lower mentioned costs significantly. The costs of simulators and VR programs are nothing compared to the cost of real machines. While traditional training programs usually require 1:1 ratio of trainers to trainees, VR training allows simultaneous training of many employees by just one trainer. Fuel costs are also dramatically cut, as VR simulators only require electricity. Also, all of the smaller costs like costs of potential injuries and accidents are virtually eliminated as VR training is risk-free. Additionally, with VR simulator a company can move its experienced professionals from training positions to the real work.

 

8. READY-TO-USE SOLUTION

Apart from the cost reduction, higher engagement rates and risk-free environment, VR training process has one particular advantage - it is convenient to apply. Convenience of VR training process can be seen in many ways. First of all, there is a convenience of infrastructure requirements. Training on real machines requires a lot of space, and is often held outdoors which makes it sensitive to weather conditions. On the contrary, VR training can be held even in a tiny room inside of a small office.

And because of its risk-free nature, the trainer doesn’t have to be a highly-skilled machine operator. It can be an HR specialist, as his or her role is not to train the new employees. He/she is there just to explain the process, while the training itself is fully automatized. Additionally, VR training sessions are not influenced by weather nor the machines’ availability.

 

SUMMARY

In conclusion, virtual reality is a great tool to improve heavy equipment training. As industries with strong heavy equipment presence are becoming extremely competitive, a lot of companies are turning to new technologies to gain business advantage over their competition. We believe that virtual reality is one of the best technologies that can truly contribute to the success of the digital transformation. It's a cheap, risk-free and convenient solution, which can completely transform the world of heavy equipment training.

We created the ultimate VR training simulator
Check how we are transforming the world of heavy equipment training!

14 January 2019Comments are off for this post.

The Top 5 EdTech Trends 2019 – AI, AR, VR and more!

I started 2018 with the article Introducing the Top 8 EdTech Trends for 2018.

The article featured EdTech experts from different backgrounds and highlighted the top trends from the world of educational technology.  

Fast-forward 12 months and now I’m excited to present the EdTech trends again for 2019! 🎉

This time I reached twice as many experts and asked them two key questions:

  1. Which Edtech trend/s are you looking forward to in 2019?
  2. What were your biggest challenge/s in 2018?

I’ll reveal the survey results later in the article. So stay tuned!

I’ve skipped the funding part this time as it pretty much remains the same as last year. You may read the 2018 article if you want an overview on EdTech's valuation. 

Let’s dive in then!

What are the EdTech Trends for 2019?

1. Making EdTech more accessible

Continuing from 2018, one trend which stands out again is to make learning technology more accessible to more people.

“Schools and teachers should be given exploration and innovation budgets.”  Says Kristian Lundquist from Gro Play. This will see teachers getting more involved in EdTech product design and development.

Becky Sage from Interactive Scientific believes efficacy is the most important trend in EdTech right now.

“The metric of success is whether we are delivering an education ecosystem that gives learners the opportunities to thrive in 21st-century careers solving 21st-century challenges." - Becky Sage

becky-sage

Becky Sage, CEO, Interactive Scientific

 

Lowering the cost of EdTech can help penetrate the developing world says Juan Manuel Pico from Education Soul.

“EdTech needs to address the needs of millions of students. Governments can help to implement different solutions as long as the cost per child is below $3. Today the average retail price per child is around $30.”

Mervi Pänkäläinen from Mightifier is concerned with the low adoption of EdTech licenses.

30% of the EdTech licenses are never used and over 97% of licenses are never used intensively in US K-12 districts. This is highly alarming and will push EdTech developers to focus on UX and pedagogical value for teachers.

Also, Märt Aro from Nordic EdTech Forum "N8" agrees that we should focus on making EdTech accessible to more people globally.

"I am convinced that we have all the means and knowledge available to significantly increase the quality of learning experience and provide access to education to everybody globally." - Märt Aro, Nordic EdTech Forum

Build a Successful EdTech Product

2.  Augmented Reality

According to AR insider, there will be almost 1.5 billion AR-compatible smartphones by the end of 2020 and 3.4 billion by 2023. No wonder the adoption of AR in educational apps is growing every year.

Let’s find out what the experts have to say about ARinEdu!

"In 2019, teachers expect EdTech solutions that augment the reality of the classroom where the physical and digital realms can be seamlessly merged and a more holistic, multidisciplinary approach can be taken." - Pouria Kay, CEO, Grib

team grib

With Grib's AR app anyone can create 3D models and hone their creativity.

 

Anshul Dhawan, Founder, Equally

Augmented reality is poised to be the next frontier of computing with big players like Apple, Google, Microsoft, putting their weight behind the development of this technology.

anshul-dhawan_Equally

Anshul Dhavan, founder Equally demonstrating the DaVinci AR app

 

Milena, Product Owner, Learn Teach Explore

“I believe that 2019 will be the year when teachers focus on meaningful EdTech solutions that allow for the creation of new tasks which were previously inconceivable. Augmenting the classroom with immersive technologies and collaboration tools is a top priority for 2019 for Shapes 3D Geometry Apps.”

3. Virtual Reality

Another immersive technology which is gaining more and more momentum in Education is VR. Perhaps the most important value learners get from VR is empathy. And with VR going cordless - it may speed up immersion in learning.

Barbara Anna Zielonka a renowned English teacher from Norway and top 10 Global Teacher Prize Finalist hopes there will be more apps that will offer social VR experiences to students.

“I have been using Google expeditions as a teaching tool, but I am looking for more social VR platforms that could be used in teaching.“ - Barbara Anna Zielonka

According to Paola Paulino from XR Pioneer, in 2019, 5G + standalone headsets are going to level up the VR industry to new accessible heights.

Discover 6 Companies That Master the Use of VR & AR in STEM education

Hege Tollerud from Oslo EdTech Cluster believes VR will become more accessible as the prices of the equipment will drop in 2019!

hege_oslo edtech

Hege is working to build a more coherent Nordic EdTech community. Photo Credit: Gorm K Gaare/Oslo Innovation Week

 

Margherita Berti from University of Arizona says:

“In 2019 virtual reality will become increasingly accessible with affordable, yet sophisticated, viewing devices. Higher education institutions will begin to implement virtual reality inside the classroom.”


Building an educational app? Find out how Setapp can help you deliver an exceptional EdTech Product.


Lukasz Jaruzal from edujobs believes there will be an increase in the use of AR and VR apps in the educational sector

"2019 seems to me to be a year of bringing reality into learning" - Lukasz Jaruzal, CEO, edujobs

4. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence in education will continue to mature in 2019.

“AI can help fill needs gaps in learning and teaching and allow schools and teachers to do more than ever before.” - Bernard Marr on Forbes.

Check out the full article by Bernard: How is AI used in education - Real-world examples of today and a peek into the future.

Jaime Donally, founder of ARVRinEDU and a renowned EdTech consultant is excited about the progression of immersive technologies that improve the user experience with artificial intelligence.

“The newer resources are continuing to move students from users to collaborators and content creators.”

At the same time Mika Kasanen from School Day Finland says:

“Analytics & AI will play a significant role in the early identification of both positive and negative issues at schools. At the end of the day, it's all about giving students and teachers a voice and a channel for their well-being."

Transparency and social impact of AI aided learning platforms are important to ensure the quality of education. That's according to Meri Sestola from Metka.

 5. Standardization in EdTech

Making EdTech standardized was a key trend last year. This year the trend continues.

Jannie Jeppesen from Swedish EdTech Industry says:

“EdTech is developing fast with many new interesting services being launched. Our main challenge is building powerful, interoperable digital ecosystems where developing standards, information, and structured data can be processed on a larger scale.“

jannie swedish edtech industry

Niclas Mein from EdTech South East Sweden adds:

“I'm hoping for a more systematic approach to EdTech solution development and deployment. A move away from solutions that solve 'everything', to capable solutions that integrate with other solutions.”

Neil O'Toole from the organization EDvisor Finland has developed a quality assurance framework that prepares companies for the Kokoa Standard. Finnish pedagogy provides sound methods to integrate technology with everyday classroom practice, something EDvisor Finland views as critical to the future of EdTech.

Other trends to look out for in 2019

STEM

Both Sari Hurme-Mehtälä from Kide Science Olli from Kokoa Standard believes companies focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) will be in the spotlight in 2019.

Olli vallo kokoa

"I visited China at the end of 2018 and saw the insane fuzz around STEM education." - Olli Vallo, Kokoa Standard

Extended reality in MOOCs

Antti Lähtevänoja from ZOAN expects schools to adopt extended reality technologies. Especially with MOOCs.

However, he points out that research in this area is vital. Every new device or technology used in schools must have proven results in improving learning or teaching.

I’m excited to see the progression of immersive technology improving the user experience with artificial intelligence. The newer resources are continuing to move students from users to collaborators and content creators. - Antti Lähtevänoja, ZOAN

Offline Solutions

Another aspect to focus in 2019 are offline solutions. Fast-reliable internet is still out of reach of millions of learners around the world. So building EdTech product which doesn’t need internet connection all the time will be key.

Svenia Busson, founder of Paris based EdTech accelerator LearnSpace agrees that offline solutions are the way to go at least in the near future. She adds "I am quite confident Edtech in 2019 will evolve more and more around evidence-based products and active learning."

Survey Results!

As promised here's the survey result from mini-research. In total, I got 40 respondents for the first question and 38 for the second.

1. Which Edtech trend/s are you looking forward to in 2019?

 

edtech trends 2019

 

2. What were your biggest challenge/s in 2018?

 

biggest edtech challenges 2018

Final thoughts

As you can see 2019 is looking bright for artificial intelligence and immersive technologies. Both educators and entrepreneurs regard these two technologies very highly!

On the other hand, the biggest challenge for educators in 2018 was funding, followed by technology and user experience of the educational products.

It seems those who succeed in balancing “Ed” and “Tech” will definitely make a positive impact in 2019.

Building an educational app? From UX to Design to development, Setapp can help you deliver an exceptional EdTech Product.


So how do you see the above trends unfolding in 2019? Let us know in the comments below!

In the end, I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to this article. Without you all, it wouldn't have been possible. I enjoyed every minute of it and can't wait to do it all again in 2020!

I am a placeholder image
The Ultimate Guide to Build a Successful EdTech Product
It covers 10+ different topics, including UX, law & latest tech, that will show you how to build a successful educational app.

10 October 2018Comments are off for this post.

6 Companies That Master the Use of VR & AR in STEM education

There are still a lot of false assumptions and stereotypes about virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR). Do you still feel like it’s just a silly new thing used only by gamers? Or maybe you just can’t see how it can be used outside of the entertainment industry?

You are not alone. A lot of people seem to put these new technologies in a box of just more fun gadgets that no one takes seriously. So, we will try to show you a different side of immersive reality. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check out our article about non-game apps developed in Unity.

But contrary to such popular assumptions, project by project and app by app, it is constantly being proven that VR & AR can be incredibly powerful tools in education too. And guess which field of education is on everyone’s mind right now? STEM!

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and these are undoubtedly the most crucial skill areas in today’s economy. Governments, businesses and education experts try really hard to come up with innovative ways to teach STEM subjects. But how can VR & AR help them?

Why use VR & AR in STEM education?

How exactly does immersive technology add value and create new possibilities in STEM education? VR and AR provide several benefits that apply to any field of education, but there are certainly some that apply particularly to STEM:

  • VR & AR help to accommodate a risk-free environment in school classes. A lot of traditional experiments in STEM involve potential risks. Fire, electricity or corrosive substances make the teacher limit the extent of experiments or even skip them altogether. With the help of immersive technology, teachers can show all of these great things in a safe environment.
  • Use of VR & AR enormously cuts costs. The costs of developing immersive reality are nothing compared to building a professional laboratory. In this way high quality STEM education is not limited to affluent areas and wealthy educational institutions.
  • Cutting costs leads to one of the most important issues in education now - democratization of education. VR & AR can provide quality access and opportunities to a huge mass of students, that would be impossible to reach otherwise.
  • STEM education, especially biology and medical research, happen to get involved with ethical dilemmas. Animal testing or patients rights are one of the examples of how traditional education can be morally questionable. With VR & AR students can get involved with a lot of experiments in a cruelty-free and ethical environment.
  • A lot of STEM scenarios are just impossible to show in  traditional education. There’s no way to take students on a trip to Mars or put them inside a blood cell. With VR & AR impossible is nothing!
  • Immersive technology can change STEM perception. For a lot of students math, physics or biology are boring and difficult to understand. With immersive technology we can change the image of those subjects so that they become much more attractive to our kids.

How does it look in practice?

This is all theory. But how exactly does it look in the real world? To answer this question we’ve gathered some great examples  to show the enormous potential immersive technology has when it comes to teaching STEM subjects.

1. Labster

The Copenhagen based Labster VR app is a perfect example of how immersive reality can really change STEM education. The Danes launched their lab simulation software 5 years ago and now in partnership with Daydream by Google, they have created a tool used by a dozen universities across the globe.

With help from experts at Arizona State University, Labster created a truly useful product, which meets the needs of the education industry. But how exactly does Labster VR work? The app provides an incredible virtual reality laboratory experience. It covers the subjects of cell and molecular biology, ecology and physiology.

The Labster VR app lets students perform experiments and practice their skills in a fun and risk-free learning environment. Because of the ability to alter time, students feel more comfortable to try new things without any risks. As a result, they learn from their mistakes.

And it works! Research shows that students using Labster are learning over 100% more. Above all, it’s not only an additional flashy new gadget anymore. Arizona State University became the first university to provide full course credits to students using VR simulations!

2. Shapes

A whole new way of learning Geometry! That’s how Shapes promotes its great app for elementary and middle school geometry teachers. Even though the app is four years old, this year Shapes launched its new version that brings those geometric objects to life.

Now Shapes allows kids to augment 3D objects directly onto virtual spaces like tabletops or the floor. The app received AppAwards in 2014 as the best educational app, decided unanimously both by juries and users - and we totally get why!

But what is Shapes really about? Children can play with three-dimensional geometric objects, using simple gestures to zoom and rotate shapes in any direction. By doing this, Shapes improves kids’ spatial imagination and makes them familiar with geometry terminology. Don’t you wish you had such a geometry tool when you were in school?


If you like what Setapp did for Shapes then drop us a line! We’ll be happy to hear and help you create your 3D product.


3. zSpace

zSpace is an accomplished company from California. They provide over 800 school districts, tech centers, med schools and universities around the world with a VR & AR experience.

With Unity engine, they create apps such as ‘Curie’s Elements’ – a wholesome experience in which students can explore a periodic table with Bohr and atomic models for each element. Whats more, students can also build elements by adding protons, neutrons, and electrons. This way, chemistry class is anything but boring!

But this great company didn’t stop at creating incredibly useful software, now they also provide students with  great hardware too! As Amanda Austin, Marketing Director of zSpace, shared with us:

This year, we unveiled the world’s first extended reality (XR) laptop, allowing students to lift images from the screen using a stylus and examine them in detail, gaining a deeper understanding of concepts by physically manipulating virtual simulations, from energy and motion to molecules and organisms.

Risk-free learning environment is often pointed out as the most important characteristic of immersive education apps for STEM. zSpace is no exception. One of the greatest powers of this app is that it allows students to make – and most importantly – correct their mistakes. They can manipulate many variables and they don’t have to worry about the costs or cleaning up after the experiments. Saving time and money at the same time!

4. MEL Science

What made a few highly accomplished science geeks turn their attention to creating educational apps? They started to raise their own children and realized that the existing level of education is very poor. That’s how MEL Science started. As Vassili Philippov , MEL Science funder, told us:

We need to find better, more efficient ways to teach. So, what doesn’t work today? Memorizing does not work! “Kids, memorize this fact.” “Class, memorize this formula." This just doesn’t work. Sure, the class memorizes the fact short-term. But what happens once they have taken the test? They replace the facts they just studied in their short-term memory with new facts they need to learn for their next test. Yes, they memorize. But they do not retain.

 

What’s their answer to this problem? In science principles are based mostly on what happens at a micro-level. The most interesting things in chemistry happen at the molecular level. Most modern biology is about what happens inside a cell. That’s when Virtual Reality becomes incredibly useful.

MEL Science provides tools for kids to actually see molecules interacting all around them. MEL Chemistry VR lessons are aligned with the school chemistry curriculum, covering all of its main topics. Atoms in gases or electron affinity? MEL Science covers it all.

5. Explore Interactive

The combination of tabletop card games and augmented reality technology is how Explore Interactive builds its highly educational app. Through Explore! kids can play with various challenging and involving educational games and tasks. Gamification of learning combined with augmented reality enormously changes how children take their first steps in STEM education.

The Explore! Kit is suitable for kids between 8 and 12 years old - that’s exactly when you need to unleash a kids’ imagination! With the Explore! application your surroundings fade away as you experience the world of science, technology, engineering, and math through the window of a ground-breaking augmented reality technology.

6. Virtuali-Tee

Virtuali-Tee is an incredible, award winning classroom tool, created by Curiscope, a start-up from Brighton, UK. What’s special about Virtuali-Tee is that it’s actually...a t-shirt. But it’s not an ordinary t-shirt. Virtuali-Tee, when worn and viewed through a connected app, displays a life-like view of the internal organs. Kids can explore human anatomy through their tablets, smartphones or a VR headset.

Virtuali-Tee allows kids to learn about Digestive, Respiratory, Skeletal, Renal and Circulatory Systems. The VR/AR experience catches kids’ attention in a way that’s just simply impossible when traditional tools are used. Real-life context helps children to understand and remember human anatomy much quicker.

One of the app’s founders Ed Barton has been placed in Forbes’ 30 Under 30. That shows what a huge success Virtuali-Tee is. And we are not surprised, just take a look at how kids react to it:

Key Takeaways

As you can see, virtual and augmented realities are taking the education world by storm. The advancements in technology, such as Unity engine, allow developers to come up with highly innovative ways to bring education to a whole new level.

While a few years ago VR & AR were treated as just another toy for gamers, now no one can have any doubt that they’re incredibly powerful tools for a whole range of purposes. In today’s world of constant stimulation of all our senses, kids need something extra to actually focus on things that are crucial for their education. That’s where immersive reality really does the job.


How can Setapp help?

Our great developing team has a lot of experience when it comes to educational apps. We are proud developers of Shapes, the app that changes how geometry is being taught.

Choosing an experienced team of developers is crucial for the success of your project. If you are thinking about creating educational product that will involve AR, VR, but also mobile and web development, we are ready to help you out. Our experts will not only develop your product, but they will actually help you from the day one to truly discover and define the scope of your project. Just leave us a message, we’ll be happy to hear about your idea!

Check why you should build app with Setapp

11 July 2018Comments are off for this post.

Building business 3D apps using Unity – is it worth it?

Although we at Setapp have been using Unity for developing non-game apps for some time now, there’s still a lot of dispute online (& offline) on whether Unity is a good-fit for non-game development. Some advocate it, while others find using it for non-game development quite bizarre.

Before handing out my verdict on the ‘Unity for non-game paradox’, here’s a short intro to Unity for those who aren’t familiar with the technology.

So What’s Unity then?

In Unity’s own words...

Unity is a platform for creating beautiful and engaging 2D, 3D, VR, and AR games and apps. A powerful graphics engine and full-featured editor enable you to realize your creative vision fast, and deliver your content to virtually any media or device. (source: Unity)

Let me break that down for you...

Unity is a cross-platform (single code-base for multiple platforms) game engine developed by Unity Technologies in 2005. That’s right 13 years on the market. It’s primarily used to create 2D, 3D, VR and AR games, apps and experiences. It’s free to use for beginners, but once you pass a certain threshold (in revenue), you’re not allowed to use the personal plan. The paid plans start at $25/month.

I won’t bore you with more theory. You can read more on Unity’s official website including its various features and uses.

Now let’s get back to the argument: Unity for non-game development.

So after digging into various forums online and asking our 3D developers here at Setapp, I can assure you that Unity is definitely a viable platform for non-game applications. But there’s a catch!

Unity is great if you’re developing a 3D app.

Unity thrives in 3D environments. So, if your app requires 3D physics and calculations like in a simulation for example, then Unity is a good choice. Unity is also great for creating AR and VR apps and experiences!

Shapes AR geometry learning app

Shapes by Learn Teach Explore, an app to teach geometry to primary and middle school students is built using Unity.

 

In fact, Unity is being successfully used a lot recently to build immersive experiences in industries such as education, architecture and industrial training. In a separate blog post, I've shared some worth-mentioning non-game projects developed in Unity. Check them out!

So where is Unity not a good fit?

If you’d like to achieve a more native feel to your app, then it's better to use app-focused technologies and development platform such as Microsoft Xamarin and React Native.

Now I'm not saying Unity wouldn’t do the job but it’s better to leave Unity aside here.

Why?

Unity's UI system is aimed at simpler interfaces found in games and media-centered applications. Some more sophisticated widgets and components that are present in native frameworks may be missing, and you'll need to write your own. For instance, integrating iOS's HealthKit app with Unity can be cumbersome.

Although, some native features are integrated with Unity however it's not always the case.

Apart from that, you shouldn’t use Unity for native 2D apps because of the following reasons:

  • The whole engine is built into the application. Meaning, the build size (size of the output application file) is larger compared to the native apps.
  • The battery usage is crazy! It’ll drain the battery like a game, even if you make some basic UI components.
  • A UI-heavy application would suffer in terms of performance and resources. When you’re going for a UI heavy app, then you should consider going for a native app.

Having said that, Unity is evolving and recent releases have resolved some of the issues associated with non-game development.

Summary

If you’d like to have a multimedia-rich, interactive app, then go with Unity or other similar platforms. If you're looking to achieve a more native feel for your app, then go for native oriented platforms.

With demand for VR and AR applications at an all-time high, Unity should be your go-to platform. Whereas, if you’re developing a Native 2D app - stay away from Unity, at least for now.


I hope this article gave you a general idea of the potential of Unity as a non-game development platform. If you'd like to discover some great non-game apps developed in Unity, then check out my blog post: AR, VR and more – 6 Non-game apps developed in Unity.

Let us know in the comments below if you've any questions on Unity or 3D app development. Our experienced 3D app team will be happy to answer them!

non games apps unity

 

5 October 2017Comments are off for this post.

Getting started with VR/AR – Part 1: The key differences

Both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have grown into a billion-dollar industry over the last couple of years. According to Digi-Capital, the VR/AR market is expected to grow by more than $100 billion dollars by 2021. It's important to understand that AR is NOT a competitor with VR, but a different kind of technology with very different use cases.

In this article, we will look at the fundamental difference between the two technologies and the various options currently available on the market.

Introduction to VR

Virtual Reality (VR) came a long way in the last century. A decade ago, VR machines were out of reach for ordinary people as their prices were very high. They could cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, this technology was reserved for institutions such as NASA.

Modern VR started with the Kickstarter campaign of developer-centric Oculus DK1 and the prototypes made by Valve in 2012. It was not until 2016 when the first consumer-focused VR devices were released. This summer we saw major cuts in VR hardware prices. Now you can buy a VR headset that suits your budget and needs. From Google cardboard ($15) to HTC Vive ($799) - the possibilities are endless.

Nowadays people use VR hardware primarily as a gaming platform and for watching 360 videos but its potential is much wider. With VR you can simulate dangerous or unavailable environments which are otherwise hard and expensive to reach and maintain. NASA, for example, uses VR for staff trainings. During simulation sessions the astronauts learn how to fix instruments of the International Space Station in space.

VR is an ideal place to create, draw, build and sculpt. It lets you be a spectator or fully immerse in the environment. VR can put you in ‘life-like’ situations helping you learn faster.

Multiple levels of VR

There’s something for everyone in VR. However, the technology itself is quite fragmented so choosing the right option can be tricky. To make it easier for you I’ve broken down the modern VR tech into three categories.

Cardboard compatible (Entry-Level VR)

In VR various technologies can transport you to different virtual places. But the key difference is what you can do there. Some experiences don’t need any controllers like Google Cardboard. It’s an entry-level VR headset which encourages interest and development in VR applications.

google cardboard

The best part of headsets like the Google cardboard is that they work with most regular smartphones. Its affordable price makes Google cardboard a hot favourite in industries like education, advertising or media.

Pros

  • Works on most modern smartphones.
  • Affordable (Google cardboard starts from $15 and there are a lot of compatible ones which you can often get for free).
  • The most popular VR device used in schools.

Cons

  • It’s not a top-notch device and lacks some key features.
  • Not stable in terms of looking around.
  • It doesn’t have any controllers.
  • In most experiences you’re just a spectator (you can view photos, videos or 3D objects).

High-quality smartphone based (Mid-Level VR)

VR headsets with interaction such as Google Daydream or Samsung Gear VR (powered by Oculus) provide you with add-ons that you will not get if you use the basic VR headsets, for example:

  1. You have a controller
  2. The Virtual world is much more superior
  3. Due to low latency and high precision of motion tracking the virtual world is very stable.
Samsung gear VR setapp

Testing Samsung Gear VR at PGA 2016

 

What is missing is the ‘positional tracking’. This means you can’t move around the scene physically. However, the fix is coming with the future mobile standalone headsets as Google announced and Oculus reportedly will.

Pros

  • You can interact with objects using a controller and move them around.
  • Lots of content is already available.
  • Relatively low prices - Samsung VR is available for $129 & Google Daydream for $79.

Cons

  • Only works on high-end smartphones like Galaxy S6 or higher, Google Pixel.
  • No positional tracking (so far).

PC Based (High-end VR)

These are the very top of the line VR experiences you can get your hands on. High-end VR systems like HTC Vive, Playstation VR, etc. have full tracking capabilities. You feel as if your real hands were embodied in the experience.

Oculus VR a Setapp

Michał Wroblewski, our head of VR with Oculus Rift

 

Unlike Mobile based VR, they’re wired and have to be connected to a PC or a console at all times.

Pros:

  • Full positional tracking. You can walk around, pick up stuff, throw it or stretch it, etc.  Within the play area the possibilities are (literally) endless.
  • Most immersive experiences trick your mind. You feel as if you were actually there (The Lab, Job Simulator, Robo Recall or Tilt Brush).
  • Highest possible quality of virtual worlds you can design.

Cons

  • Expensive. Both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift cost over $600. Additionally, it requires a high-end PC to run (which is also expensive).
  • Development costs are higher as the interactions need much more fidelity.
  • A cord (which attaches a headset to a PC/console).

Introduction to AR

Augmented Reality or AR for short is expected to outshine VR in terms of revenue with a market value of $83 billion by 2021. Mobile AR being the primary factor to its imminent success since it’s much easier and cheaper for a consumer to adopt than VR.

AR augments YOUR existing reality with useful information. It uses your current location and learns about your current environment. Unlike VR, it doesn’t transfer you to another, ‘virtual’ place. AR lets you scan surfaces, understand objects or play and interact with virtual elements.

For example, with the new IKEA Place app, you can preview how a new sofa or a piece of furniture looks like in your living room on your smartphone.

Smartphone-based AR

The AR on iOS can track face, find predefined images, rectangular shapes like a sheet of paper, process voice etc. Its possibilities are defined by two technologies: ARKit and Machine Learning (Core ML).

As per Apple's development guidelines Apps can use Apple's augmented reality (AR) technology, ARKit, to deliver immersive, engaging experiences that seamlessly blend realistic virtual objects with the real world. In AR apps, the device's camera presents a live, onscreen view of the physical world. Three-dimensional virtual objects are superimposed over this view, creating the illusion that they actually exist. The user can reorient their device to explore the objects from different angles and, if appropriate for the experience, interact with them using gestures and movement.

A similar system to ARKit is also available on some Android devices. It’s called ARCore.

Finnish startup 3DBear uses AR in its online learning application to make learning a fun experience. Kids can contribute to their school and community. Among many other things, they can create ideas for interior design, plan and produce a 3D model of their room.

3D Bear AR app

Download 3D Bear AR app for iOS and Android

 

There are hundreds of millions of iOS devices compatible with ARKit technology (iPhone 6S or later). Android platform will also add another 100 million this year. It’s a huge immediate market and a viable consumer/business market for AR apps.

Headset based AR

One of the AR headsets which is already available is Microsoft's HoloLens. In my opinion, it has the best mix of AR traits: mobility, space awareness, hand gestures and voice recognition. The current generation of headsets has a pretty low field of view (FOV) which is a significant drawback. Based on its high price and target it’s mainly focused on business/enterprise rather than consumers.

Microsoft calls it Mixed Reality (MR) because of its deeper integration with the surrounding world and being able to place virtual objects in between real ones. Keep in mind that you can see MR labels on devices that are basically VR.

There are some other AR/MR headsets like Meta 2, Daqri, ODG or upcoming (and still unknown) Magic Leap glasses.

Summing up.

It's exciting times for the VR/AR enthusiasts as you are spoilt for choice! There is an enormous variety of VR/AR devices available to you right now. Areas like education, media, healthcare, retailing, etc. are already noticing a broad adoption of immersive experiences (VR and AR).

I’m looking forward to how the rest of this year will unfold. There are some exciting products planned from both Google and Oculus which without a doubt will add another layer to the immersive reality experience.

The best way to understand the difference between VR and AR is by experiencing the different technologies by yourself. If you would like to experience and fully understand AR or VR, just drop me a line, and I’ll be happy to arrange a demo for you at Setapp’s HQ in Poznan, Poland.

 

Overflight VR setapp

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OUR OFFICES

PL: Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

ISR: 220 Hertzel Street, 7630003 Israel

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.

VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

OUR OFFICE

Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.

VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

 COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.
VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

OUR OFFICES

POL: Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

ISR: 220 Hertzel Street, 7630003 Israel

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.
VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

OUR OFFICES

PL: Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

ISR: 220 Hertzel Street, 7630003 Israel

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.

VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

OUR OFFICE

Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.

VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

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