Not so long ago, Virtual Reality (VR) was considered by many to be a futuristic concept. While various examples of this technology have been introduced to the landscape over the years, it’s only recently that experts have begun creating viable solutions ready for mass adoption.
Today, companies from almost every industry are discovering the benefits of bringing immersive technologies into their operations. In the last couple of years, countless leading brands have adopted VR to assist with collaboration, training, and product development practices. As a result, platforms have begun to emerge to provide innovators with new ways of creating their own VR experiences.
Unity, one of the world’s market-leading development platforms, is among the better-known solutions built to enable the creation of 3D, immersive content. Here’s how professionals can get started with Unity 3D tools for VR development.
What are the Tools Unity Can Provide for VR Development?
Unity is an end-to-end development platform built to help creators develop rich interactive experiences with 2D and 3D content. The powerful underlying engine and editor system within the Unity ecosystem have supported endless companies in designing stunning games, apps, and entertainment experiences for multiple digital platforms.
While Unity is best known for its contributions to the gaming landscape, it’s far from just a tool for those invested in VR entertainment. Developers are currently using Unity in the Architectural, Automotive, Engineering, Education, and Enterprise space too.
For VR development, Unity offers a range of innovative tools, including:
- Universal Render Pipeline: The URP (Universal Render Pipeline) allows all creators to express their vision while ensuring a high level of extensibility and customisation options.
- XR Interaction Toolkit: The XR Interaction toolkit package from Unity is a component-based, high-level interaction system for creating AR and VR experiences. It provides users a framework for building UI and 3D interactions from cross-platform XR controller inputs, input events, visual feedback, haptics, and more.
- Visual scripting: With Visual Scripting tools in Unity, developers can access scripting logic with drag-and-drop visual graphs rather than writing code manually. This also supports efficient collaboration between artists, programmers, and designers for rapid iteration and prototyping in the VR space.
- DOTS: Unity’s high-performance Data-Oriented Technology Stack, known as DOTS, allows users to take full advantage of various multicore processors. Studios and developers can use this technology to build greater performance capabilities in their VR content.
- Plastic SCM: The Plastic SCM is a version control and source code management solution created to improve collaboration and scalability for developers building in VR. It provides optimised workflows for programmers and artists, as well as enhanced speed for those working with larger binaries and files.
- Unity Asset Store: The Unity Asset store helps developers save money and time by offering access to pre-made assets from other creators. The solution can help to minimise sub-contracting requirements for companies and accelerate development processes.
Unity can also work hand-in-hand with developers in the VR space, offering access to engineers and specialists to prototype new services, products, and solutions.
How Developers Can Get Started with Unity 3D
Unity is one of the most accessible tools for budding developers in the VR world for several reasons. The solution offers exceptional platform support for some of the most commonly utilised tools in the XR world, including Meta Quest, SteamVR, and Playstation VR. The URP system from Unity allows for smooth graphic production at 90hz, and the vendor’s real-time development platform can easily scale to suit the needs of virtually any project.
To start developing with Unity, professionals will need to:
- Get to know the Unity platform: The Unity Learn ecosystem offers a range of educational resources to teach users how to leverage the features available for VR development. There are also community forums and social groups available for extra guidance.
- Choose supported platforms: Unity software can work on a range of supported platforms, including the Meta Quest landscape. Unity developers can also create content for headsets supporting OpenXR technology.
- Configure projects for XR: Unity offers step-by-step instructions on how to configure projects within the platform for XR capabilities. Users will need to install the right plugins for the type of software they want to create and leverage the Universal Render Pipeline.
Developers can also choose from various Unity software packages suited to VR development. For instance, Unity Pro supports the development of high-quality content at rapid speeds, with priority customer service, success advisors, and multi-platform publishing. There’s also a dedicated Unity Gaming Services package for developers interested in building projects for the entertainment landscape.
Help Available for Unity Developers
In November 2022, Unity also announced a new “Create with VR” grant program, which aims to reduce the VR learning gap by increasing access to the hardware and software required for developing VR content. As a result, the company is ensuring it has a part to play in the future growth of the VR space as one of the core platforms for immersive content creation.
To help developers get started with VR development, Unity also has a variety of educational resources and learning tools available. There’s a 6-week course users can access on VR development, which provides users with ample opportunities to practice their skills and discover the functionalities offered by the Unity platform.
The company also recommends people getting started with VR development leverage some of the other free educational pathways they offer, such as Unity Essentials and the Junior Programmer course. These are available to access directly on the Unity platform.
VR developers can also benefit from access to:
- A free copy of Unity Personal to experiment with the included tools
- Full access to Unity Community User Groups, where they can find other professionals to work with. There’s also a Unity XR Discussion forum and Unity Answers forum too.
- Comprehensive Facebook and Reddit groups, brimming with developers who already have experience using the Unity ecosystem.