Technological solutions exist to make the most of our most crucial resource: time. Time-saving tools have been evolving along with history: from ropes in the Paleolithic period and windmills in the 7th century to the World Wide Web in 1990, technology has been successfully speeding up routines and driving quicker results for centuries. Now with the growth of immersive technologies, we are launching into a new era of life-transforming tools for VR and AR.
VR CMS, plugins, and 3rd party platforms already help VR studios streamline the development process. It’s crucial to choose the right tools, a decision that depends on the challenges faced. There is always some point when these challenges limit our ability to compete, but fortunately, it’s possible to prevent this by learning from those who have faced the same issues previously.
Challenges to Solve
iVariant studio has been creating VR projects for business since 2011. They specialize in enterprise training, marketing tours, and educational interactive projects. In 2018, they completely changed their whole development process. They realized that client edits were taking up too much time, not resulting in any additional revenue but stealing up to two hours a day. These hours included communication with the client, making and approving tiny edits, and updating and sharing the edited project. The tasks were simple, but they still took time which could have been better spent on developing other projects and growing the business.
Needless to say, this process left considerable revenue on the table. Additionally, the process demotivated the team, who tired of endless tiny edits, and sometimes led to miscommunication with clients who felt too dependant on the studio.
“We wanted to find an easy solution that would allow us to focus on developing while giving clients the ability to experiment within the project, making small edits, and seeing the results immediately on their side. At that moment we didn’t even think it was possible,” says Semen Lukanov, the CTO of iVariant.
iVariant heard about the Varwin platform, which is similar in use to WordPress but for VR projects. The team decided to give it a try and tested it on a Gazprom Neft VR training course that was under development at the time. Gazprom Neft is a global oil corporation with constantly changing processes and training rules, so Varwin seemed to be a perfect fit with its ability to easily manage VR content without coding.
If Gazprom Neft needed to change the interaction logic at a training (for example, if an employee needed to push a different button managing heavy machinery or go to a new company location), HR employees and other non-programmers could do it easily thanks to the Blockly drag-and-drop interface used in the Varwin platform.
Thanks to the same Blockly integration, developers could also reuse objects with a predefined interaction logic, saving even more time.
The iVariant team assigned to this project consisted of eight people: a project manager, programmers (those who write algorithms and place objects inside the VR locations) and 3D modelers. Due to the complexity of the project, the client was also actively involved through an assigned project director and administrator, a business representative (a functional client who translated requirements), and an oil production technician (for technology consulting).
Typically, that’s where things break down: having too many people involved in one project complicates the demos, experiments, and approvals. “Lots of patience and hours were put on the altar of effective project communication during the last 7 years,” admits Semen Lukanov.
Luckily, Varwin’s ability to see project iterations in real-time on both sides made client communication go much more smoothly. The iVariant team could immediately show the designed location and then go through part of the training together with the company experts. This was all possible while staying in different locations and with no headsets required thanks to the desktop player.
After iVariant integrated Varwin RMS into their processes, developers began to have considerably more free time.
“We saved about 40% of our time after integrating Varwin RMS into our processes. This is at least 3 hours a day and 800 hours a year, which is a tremendous outcome! Now there is no need to create a new training course from scratch: some elements and scenarios already exist on the Varwin platform. But the best feature is the drag-and-drop editor for clients. Each time they need to change the color of a button or the number of valves, they can do it themselves in minutes,” says Semen Lukanov.
Another benefit of manageable VR projects is flexibility. In this use case, if an employee is struggling with one particular task the supervisor can modify the program instantly so they can drill this task over and over again without restarting the program.
Additionally, the client was also excited about the ability to update projects independently. “It is important to be able to scale the VR learning system at different company production sites,” says Anton Beshodarny, Head of Strategic Technical Programs at Gazprom Neft.
“Through a combination of experience and Varwin’s useful software, we are now keeping routine and pattern tasks to a minimum. Though it was hard to switch from a proven classic model to a new, somewhat untested tool, it was worth it! We also use Unity, but Varwin is like a new high-speed car for VR. People didn’t stop riding bikes with the invention of the car, but now they have a way to get places more quickly when they need to.”, – concludes Semen Lukanov.