For the last few months I have been finding it harder to ignore the hype around Virtual Reality. It seems to have reached a critical mass since something related to it pops up wherever I take a look. I won't be recapping all the positive indicators out there, but the magnitude of the hype indicates an expectation for a considerable financial payoff from the stakeholders invested in this technology, which are numerous and includes tech giants such as Facebook and Google.
This is all very exciting since a decent implementation of Virtual Reality have been long overdue and the recent reviews that are coming in from the people that had a chance to try it out are very promising. What is also great is that initiatives like Google Cardboard is making it very affordable for developers to experiment in this front without a potentially forbidding hardware investment.
In a recent Hack Day at our company, we had one of our developers get the Google Cardboard VR sample scene working on his Android. His experience and enthusiasm encouraged me to take a closer look to try out this technology for myself. But being more experienced in using animation software than writing graphics code I decided to take the path of least resistance - or code -, and use the Unity SDK for Cardboard to bring projects from over Unity.
One primary comment that I have heard that warranted this decision for me was that the necessity to use OpenGL without any higher level abstractions when working with the Android Cardboard SDK. My impression of OpenGL is that it is rather low level to be used for any complex scene work, at least at my skill level, so that was not really an option.
So I went ahead and installed Unity. I haven't installed the Cardboard SDK yet, as a matter of fact I don't have the cardboard itself as well. I am taking some time to learn Unity and so far it has been a rather pleasant experience. The application has numerous similarities with other animation software out there which makes it very approachable. I started off with their official 'Roll a Ball Game' tutorial which in my opinion offers an excellent introduction to the application. I am impressed by the seeming ease of building and deploying a simple game. The steps involved didn't feel redundant or convoluted at all. It seems to be a well thought-out and designed tool that I am happy to have finally tried out.
I am planning to continue with their official tutorials to get a better hang of the tool before jumping into the Cardboard/VR world. I am actually not very interested in game development and looking at VR as a possible avenue for visualization, interaction or presentation. But even then, Unity has a ton to offer to for all those domains and so far I am liking what I see.