Most XR companies aren’t afraid of some healthy competition. Hopefully, the virtual tours field can take a little more pressure, as German solution VRdirect plans an impending expansion to the US and UK. We got our hands on a demo and talked to Managing Director Dr. Rolf Illenberger to learn more.
VRdirect is a platform for authoring and distributing VR content, specifically virtual tours and educational content using physical locations. The platform is essentially composed of Studio, their authoring tool, and distribution/viewing solutions.
Depending on what hardware the viewer has access to, content created using the VRdirect Studio is viewed via a mobile app, a web player, or streamed to a VR headset. The company does offer production services, but the whole idea is that the content is easy enough for non-VR specialists in industry to create their own content in-house.
“The software itself is supposed to be as easy as PowerPoint,” said Illenberger. “The final idea is that the client is enabled to create this kind of experience themselves.”
This is an important selling point for the VRdirect platform, but it is also a philosophy that Illenberger believes is required to increase XR adoption in industry. Right now, training and virtual tour experiences like those created in the VRdirect Studio often require a production company. This adds expense for companies that want to use XR for more than one project.
“VR is going to become a standard in enterprise,” said Illenberger. “All of these enterprise clients are now at the point where they understand that they will need a standardized solution.”
Specifically, their platform is a boon in industries like real estate and hospitality. There is also potential in education and virtual tourism. In a future where more people have access to 3D cameras or when mobile phones can create 3D content, Illenberger sees more consumer markets opening up.
VRdirect Is Crossing the Rhine
Speaking of markets opening up, VRdirect is “actively expanding” to the US and UK in a move that should include opening new offices, as well as making an appearance at the Augmented World Expo in November. Right now, the company has offices exclusively in Germany.
Not that that’s a bad place to have offices. VRdirect is in good company with the likes of Spree and Holoride. The company also has some big-name partners including Oculus, Microsoft, and Telekom. They’ve also been swinging some clients with brand recognition this side of the Rhine, including Whole Foods, Nestle, and PwC.
All of that said, the company is aware that they aren’t entering a market vacuum when it comes to training and virtual tours.
“Obviously, there are other big players in the market,” said Illenberger. “We don’t want to compete with something like Matterport.”
To better understand where exactly VRdirect fits into the market, we spent some time in the Studio to create a virtual tour of our own.
Building a Virtual Tour With VRdirect
VRdirect Studio uses a simple drag-and-drop interface for 3D images and videos. A set of interaction buttons are already included, but what exactly they do can be set by the user. These buttons can trigger animations and scene augmentations, or transitions between scenes. Transitioning between scenes is really where VRdirect shines.
“The problem with other features is that they come from the 2D and linear world… the VR world is cross-referencing between scenes all the time,” said Illenberger. “The storyboarding tool was really the starting point of the software development.”
When users add a scene, which is as easy as clicking a button labeled “add scene,” these scenes appear as icons below the preview window. Click on one scene and then another to link them. Scenes can be linked with one-directional arrows, or linked with circular arrows allowing the viewer to travel back and forth.
Photos can be used as scenes laid out flat to create a navigable floor plan for a self-guided virtual tour. However, 3D videos used as scenes with more complex storyboarding could be used to create multiple “storylines” for training videos. If viewers choose one action instead of another in one scene, it can change their trajectory within the production.
Overall, the tool is incredibly user-friendly. In the event that a user gets lost, a linked “how-to” video explains the whole platform in under a minute.
Room in the Market?
So, where does VRdirect land in terms of the virtual tours market already available in the US and the UK?
For a lot of use cases, VRdirect isn’t necessarily better than other established industry players like VRtuoso. And it can’t do real-time interaction like Avatour, or AR content like Scope AR. And, for more advanced and complex experiences, larger companies probably would be better off going through a full production studio.
However, there’s definitely a sweet spot for companies looking to create nuanced training scenarios and intricate experiences on their own.
“We’re really in the business of creating more complex projects and making them really easy,” said Illenberger.
We’re Ready for VRdirect. Are You?
The XR training and virtual tours market already has some contenders. However, VRdirect brings some interesting innovation to the field and definitely fills a need with its unique and versatile storyboarding solution. We look forward to seeing them at AWE and beyond.