Best Practices for AR/VR Performance Optimization

Best Practices for AR/VR Performance Optimization

The casual observer may think that augmented and virtual reality are about as straightforward as they get. Create a 3D environment, slap on some goggles, and enjoy your game. Is it really so? Of course not. First of all, AR and VR don’t always fall under mere entertainment. From archaeology and architecture to healthcare and education, they can improve every segment of our lives.

The two closely related technologies also come with certain challenges. Did you know that virtual reality sickness (a type of motion sickness) is very much a thing? A poor frame rate can lead to seizures. Obviously, no one wants that. Hence the need for constant improvement and evolution of AR and VR best practices.

AR and VR performance optimization is fast becoming a driving force behind cutting-edge software and hardware development. But before we dive into the deeper end, let’s cover some of the basics.

The definitions

On one hand, augmented reality (AR) offers an interactive experience combining elements of the real and the virtual world. Computer-generated 3D content is “pasted” onto the framework of reality. The more seamlessly the two intertwine, the more successful the illusion will be.  

The content isn’t always limited to the visual realm. It can also include auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory modalities. Pokemon Go is a famous example of AR. Complex previews of urban planning are another. AR is also often called mixed reality, extended reality, or computer-mediated reality.  

Virtual Reality (VR), on the other hand, is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment. It offers a fully immersive experience. VR relies on pose tracking, 3D near-eye displays, elaborate headsets, and multi-projected environments. The technology has its use in medical and military training, immersive video games, virtual meetings, etc.

The most common issues with AR and VR performance optimization

As we have already mentioned, poorly rendered graphics and a low frame rate can cause dizziness or even seizures. When it comes to games, a confusing layout can make it next to impossible to enjoy the experience. Poor camera control is another problem that will put off most users.

Lack of precision can be particularly problematic in the medical field. Even if AR or VR are only used as a learning tool, they still need to be as accurate as possible. The more these technologies grow, the more there is a need to ensure comfort and safety for all involved. This is where AR and VR best practices come into play, regardless of whether you’re relying on Unity or Unreal – or another platform altogether.

AR best practices

Augmented and virtual reality share a lot of common traits. However, the overlap is not complete, and certain best practices are unique to each. That’s why we’ll cover them separately.

Define your goals

What do you want to achieve? What’s your ultimate goal? You need to ask these questions before beginning your project. Ensure that AR is right for it. There’s no point in embarking on this journey if it’s not fully tied to clear business and user objectives. Don’t use mixed reality just because it’s fashionable. Make it work for you.

Consider hardware

The app or game you are designing will have its technical requirements. In order to avoid frustration among the users, make it available exclusively on devices capable of running it. Sounds like a no-brainer, but many companies forget to do this.

Design with safety in mind

You don’t want the app users to get hurt. Set clear expectations about the space required for optimal AR experience. For example, consider if the software belongs in a public or private environment. Take into account physical constraints, and, whatever you do, don’t make users walk backwards. It can cause disorientation or even be dangerous in public spaces.

Make it convincing

The whole point of augmented reality is that it’s supposed to blend into the real world. The objects must look realistic, and the illusions must be convincing. It makes for a smoother experience.

Enable easy onboarding

Each program, app, AR, or VR experience has a learning curve. Make sure yours isn’t too steep. If you offer easy onboarding, give clear instructions, and guide the user through audio and visual cues – you’ll be on the right track.

VR best practices

Just like AR or, indeed, any other technology, VR comes with a unique set of challenges and ways to overcome them.  

Don’t ignore the limitations

VR is more immersive than a conventional 3D environment but can’t emulate some of its more traditional components. This becomes particularly obvious in gaming. For example, the third-person view simply doesn’t work in VR. The same goes for combo-based combat mechanics. Let’s not forget very cinematic experiences and long cutscenes. They are simply too static for VR. Be aware of these and other limitations when working on a project.  

Make it interactive

A highly detailed environment is great, but if something looks interactive, make sure that it really is.  

Keep the frame rate high

A consistently low frame rate or even a sudden drop can trigger motion sickness. Ideally, it should stay above 60 fps at all times.  

Give the user clear instructions  

The app user needs to know what’s going on and where they need to go next at all times. It’s up to you to guide them. Basically, if you need the user to pay attention to something, make sure it’s bright, loud, and possibly blinks. In addition, you can rely on positional audio to give more hints.  

Consider locomotion mechanics  

When it comes to movement in VR, there are two options – smooth locomotion and teleportation. You don’t have to pick just one but make sure you choose carefully based on the mechanics of your app or game.

Test, test, test

Last but not least, there is one practice that applies to both AR and VR development – constant and thorough testing. Don’t underestimate its importance, especially if you’re taking a multiplatform approach. It helps mitigate errors and create a seamless environment. The more convincing the illusion is, the more successful your project is likely to be. People are seeking immersive experiences, and a user-centered approach is the only way to get it right.