In previous installments of our book review series, we dived into living legend Tony Parisi's primer for learning how to develop on the Oculus, Gear, and Cardboard VR platforms and our very own Kharis O'Connell's book on user experience (UX) design in AR. We're excited to bring you our latest installment: a book that thoroughly explores how VR technology works, how and why people get sick from using VR, and most importantly, how to design interactions and create content based on human-centered design.
The VR Book: Human-Centered Design for Virtual Reality
By Jason Jerald, PhD
599 pages. ACM Books and Morgan & Claypool Publishers. List price: $63.99 USD.
While the Meta team is passionate about AR, a good many of us also tinker around with VR – after all, both VR and AR are on the same continuum of reality:
The continuum first defined by Milgram and Kishino in 1992.
And thanks to the OpenVR SDK, we've been porting over our VR content into the Meta 2 (definitely consider developing for both VR and AR if you haven't already). As part of our VR development journey, we turned to Jason Jerald's The VR Book, a handy go-to reference and set of best practices. With his 20 years of experience working with VR, it's clear as day that Jerald not only knows what he's talking about, but has organized the subject matter in a way that's digestable and accessible to newcomers and experts, and everyone in between (the book is even organized neatly based on your level of familiarity with VR!).
For newbies to VR, Jerald does a thorough job of walking you through the basics of VR: its history, the hardware and science behind how VR works, and why it has negative health side effects, e.g., motion sickness. While it's nice to wrap your head around the concepts (essentially understanding the "how does VR work and why does it work the way it does?"), Jerald takes it to the next level by showing you how to apply those concepts to VR apps and experiences.
For those who have been developing and designing VR apps for a while, you most likely will find the middle section (Part 4: Content Creation) of the book helpful, with pointers and tips like ensuring you get the lighting just right or maximizing the field of view so that users truly feel like they are "inside" the experience. Jerald presents enough information for you to thoroughly understand what you need to do if you get stuck or need clarification. However, if you're looking for deeper dives and explanations on certain concepts or practices, you're going to need to turn to YouTube, Google, or the Unity and Unreal forums.
Aside from its slightly dated nature (the book was published on 3 August 2015), The VR Book is a practical and authoritative book on designing VR experiences that really keep the end-user in mind. A lot of new books on VR development and design have been published since 2015, and VR technology has advanced significantly in the past two years, but The VR Book so far stands the test of time as a good foundation and resource for anyone looking to get into VR development or sharpening their skills. We highly recommend getting a copy (it's a good long-term investment, and you can get it off of Amazon for about $10 USD cheaper than its list price) for yourself and your team.