Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality/Mixed Reality Testing
These new technologies are becoming more mainstream all the time. With major players such as Facebook, Google and Sony investing aggressively into VR/AR technology.
Currently the industry is segmented between VR, augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). VR is a fully immersive, completely virtual experience that mimics reality, while AR layers virtual elements with the real world. MR, which is similar to AR, merges real and virtual environments, which creates an experience where physical and digital objects can co-exist and interact in real-time.
We’re constantly reading about new technologies that continue to appear such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or mobile solutions such as Google Daydream or Samsung Gear VR. These technologies have a large number of possible use-cases such as applications for the automotive industry, healthcare, tourism, real-estate and education. A top player in the MR market is the Microsoft Hololens device and it has been highlighted for its use in the aforementioned use-cases.
The main market for VR is gaming, yet as mentioned previously, other markets have potential – for both consumer and business applications. Some of the more widely used VR/AR content is related to travel. Other sectors include shopping/retail, sports, movies, and training, especially for specialised skills such as surgeons or pilots. Even though high-end VR systems are still expensive, the uptake does not seem to be slowing.
This is exciting news for content developers who may be looking to expand into this growing market. All signs are currently pointing to growing demand for VR/AR content. The entry requirements are becoming more affordable all the time. However, before any company invests money and time into VR/AR, any company should determine what the possible advantages are for incorporating VR and/or AR into their business. The technology brings with it additional complexities and costs for development and production. Where web, desktop and traditional mobile have a large number of tools and techniques related to testing, there are few, if any, tools made for VR testing. Any company should be aware that jumping on the VR trend could mean being the first in an emerging sector, yet it could also be disastrous if VR/AR has been poorly planned, doesn’t make sense to users, or has a large number of issues which could results in irritating and frustrating users. Before making a commitment to moving your business into the VR space, a company should consider the following variables for development and testing.
This requires users to purchase a virtual reality headset such as an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, or Playstation VR, a high-end PC or games console such as a Playstation. This can have advantages as a PC or console is more mature and predictable and has support for most of the widely known development languages. It also introduces less variables in terms of OS and connectivity since it is always hardwired and a power source is usually stable. On the other hand, it also introduces a number of other variables such as the ability to connect a large number of devices like VR motion controllers, webcams, and headsets to name a few. The point testers have to remember is: VR and AR introduces us to a whole new dimension of devices to test and more parts altogether. For example – You will need to test that the VR application appears correctly in the headset, but also are there other controllers connected such as Oculus Touch that the user can use to interact with the virtual environment? Developers also have to ensure that the VR experience is fluid throughout to ensure a smooth user experience and does not introduce any screen artifacts or ‘judder’ which can be frustrating for users of VR headsets.
A number of VR platforms exist, such as Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream. A user simply has to use his existing smartphone and slide the phone into the headset to experience an immersive VR experience through a VR enhanced mobile app or site. Mobile VR is more accessible to the vast majority of users but the features and functions are more basic. For a tester stand-point, there are less components involved which simplifies matter significantly. Yet, mobile VR testing does deliver complexity in other ways. The large number of providers and phone platforms along with battery and power instability as well as other disruptions such as phone calls or text messages can interrupt a VR experience and reduce immersion. To approach these scenarios, testers must ensure that they perform testing in a real world environment and not to rely of simulated testing. Although it is possible to emulate a non-VR mobile app on a PC for testing purposes, it is not yet possible to do so with a mobile VR headset or any other viewer-enabled app. Testing must be performed on the actual devices and viewers, which means that you will not be able to test every possible scenario. Because of this, the time and expense of testing a mobile VR app can be a barrier when developing a mobile or desktop VR/AR app.
Due to the additional complexities involved in testing a VR/AR app, testers have to take into consideration more than just ensuring that the main features of the app are tested. The tester must ensure that they play the game (or interact with the experience), since without the full experience it’s hard to accurately test for real-life issues such as motion-sickness. For example – head tracking in VR headsets is important. When you move your head in a VR experience, various gyroscopes and accelerometers in the device engage and register your head movement. The view in the headset is adjusted accordingly to the position of your head in VR space. Any error in the tracking can cause what is called ‘judder’. This can cause a feeling of nausea and dizziness for the user which can kill your VR app and undo all the development work that has been spent.
There are currently no set standards for VR technology across all platforms. It is a very new and emerging technology and it is evolving rapidly. Todays preferred platform may not be the preferred one tomorrow so content providers much exercise caution when planning to include VR/AR into their content portfolio. There are big players in the VR and AR space. Google and Facebook are committed to the technology, along with other companies such as Microsoft and Sony. Only time will tell how these companies approach their audiences. Google appear to be targeting the mobile sector, whilst Facebook are invested in the gaming sector given its Oculus investment and Microsoft appear to be targeting business users and non-gamers.
As companies are focused on delivering high quality VR/AR content and standardizing the software development process for Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), there is a need to externalise the testing process by utilizing the services of an external company who are experts in software testing. Rapid QA have many years of experience testing different kinds of applications on mobile and desktop devices. We are taking this knowledge, along with the most experienced testers in the industry and coupling this with new techniques pioneered for VR and AR hardware and software to provide a VR/AR software testing service to assist content providers to deliver market-ready VR/AR content to their audience.
Rapid QA is dedicated to offering the highest levels of customer service and are keen to work with you to identify services that will help your business. If you are interested in any of the listed services or require any further information, please feel free to get in touch.