Our client: 360Cities, the world’s largest repository of 360-degree panoramic images. Äventyret developed the concept, while our dev partner Prototyp wrote the code. The result was 360Stories, an app that lets photographers add voice-over narration to their immersive panoramas. We learned a lot from the process; read on for some of our take aways.
At its core, 360Stories is a panorama-based storytelling app. You use it to download and play stories showing immersive panoramas accompanied by voice narration and ambient sounds. But the app’s real distinguishing feature is that anyone can build these stories, because 360Stories supports an open XML markup language called RPL. Just as a web browser renders pages built with HTML markup, 360Stories renders stories built with RPL markup. You can download ready-made stories from 360Cities, or you can make your own and upload them to the app.
One thing we know from previous projects developing content for immersive environments (starting with a project for Second Life back in 2007) is that you don’t want to convey information via walls of text. Reading text in a virtual environment is tedious and inefficient. Instead, it’s much better to let the user focus on exploring the environment while listening to a soundtrack of relevant information.
One challenge when developing an app for a prototype of an “Innovator Edition” of a consumer product is that you’re building something for a moving target, in terms of both software and hardware. We experienced this with the beta of the Oculus software development kit (SDK). For making games, many developers are rightly choosing to use the Unity 3D rendering engine on top of the Oculus SDK, because it provides a mature, additional layer of abstraction, shielding developers from an SDK still in flux.