“Virtual reality is still a very fresh industry. When we first started no more than a decade ago, we had to use 2D tools and interaction canons for the development of user interface and user experience for VR products, simply because there weren’t any created for VR. However, in the long run this arrangement didn’t work for us”, says Vaidas Gecevicius, Creative Director at Gluk Media.
Indeed, this situation posed a challenge for the VR community as the things that work for 2D may not and usually do not work for products exceeding two dimensions. Thus, the development of tools and instruments as well as some paradigms for UI and UX in VR has been initiated.
“Currently we already have several tools dedicated to the development of VR user interfaces and user experiences available to us, but many of them are still in a prototype mode or beta versions and are under development. And the reason for this is very simple. It takes time to understand what industry really needs and actually what preferences users have in a multidimensional environment”, explains Mr. Gecevicius.
According to him, developing an interface in VR and subsequently a UX for it, is way more complex than doing the same for 2D digital products. Unlike 2D that deals mainly with the movement of a human palm, VR has to take into account the whole human body as well as an environment surrounding it.
“There is no better or more comfortable way to control a digital product rather than by a simple click of a mouse or touching it with a finger. This one simple move allows to take full control of a product and use all of its functions. But when it comes to VR, the situation is absolutely different. Since it involves human body within the multidimensional environment, using a mouse or a finger-touch loses its purpose. Instead, developers must focus on control through human eyes, human arms or even the whole body to enable users enjoy the product. And this where it gets tricky”, says Mr. Gecevicius.
In order to make a 2D digital product attractive to users, developers, namely UX designers, must understand human nature in terms of preferences and comfort. UX designers in VR must additionally deal with human movement and space issues. For instance, developers need to know whether to place a control of the product within a human eyeline or better go for the line where human arms are. Also, they need to know how much movement a human is willing to take to enjoy the product.
“On one hand, since VR allows users to experience more complex and entertaining functionalities, it seems natural to provide them with more movement. On the other hand, by nature, humans tend to limit their movement to the basic needs and do not like to overperform. Thus, combining VR possibilities with human nature pose a great challenge to the UX developer”, Mr. Gecevicius explains.
What is more, VR has two segments: entertainment (mainly games) and training. Developing VR product for entertainment is very different from developing one for the training purposes and user experience is a key issue in both.
“The first and often the only thing a user values in a digital product is its interface. As far as the user is concerned, interface is the product whereas everything else – back-end, programming algorithms, etc. – is just a small and unimportant detail, even though this is where the whole magic happens. For VR products, user interface and user experience are even more crucial since VR products are intended solely for the purpose of user experience either in entertainment or in training and those two experiences are very different by nature. What is more, VR can stimulate both, human physic and human psychic, so a developer needs to know how to combine the two depending on the purpose of the product”, says Mr. Gecevicius.
According to Vaidas, due to VR complexities, UX developers working in this field need to have better understanding of human body, mind and space constraints than those of 2D digital products. Of course, the development of UX differs depending on every product, be it 2D or multidimensional, but the bottom line is that while 2D UX developers are mostly preoccupied with market research and human preferences, UX developers in VR are mostly concerned with human’s nature, both, physiologic and psychologic, within the space constraints.
Though not confirmed, it is very much likely that these complexities of VR UX developers are the reason why more UX developers from 2D digital products are now shifting their interest and professional career towards VR UX. Or maybe it is just because there is a surplus of 2D UX developers in the market and they are looking for opportunities in a more niche-like industries. In any case, it is obvious that with VR industry still in development, UX developers will have more chances for experimenting with user experiences.
Lithuanian innovation centre