How to Distribute Your VR & AR Experiences

In the early stages of any VR or AR project, think about how you will distribute your content to users. Unlike traditional websites or computer applications, which can run on a variety of equipment without a problem, sharing VR or AR content with users will likely depend heavily on the particular set of hardware and software available to your audience.
Apps like Unity and Unreal give you the flexibility to export to many different platforms, while other development environments like XCode may enable you to create content only for a specific platform. Make sure you understand the market you are trying to reach before deciding how to build your app.
Virtual Reality Desktop Headphones
You can develop standalone desktop headset applications (useful if only creating projects that can be distributed internally), but most desktop-mounted displays (HMDs) have their own distribution platform.
For example, the HTC Vive’s official app store is Viveport, and the Oculus Rift distributes most of its content through the Oculus Store. Windows Mixed Reality apps are distributed through the Microsoft Store. PlayStation VR games are available through traditional stores as well as the online PlayStation Store. Other options like Steam VR allow you to distribute to multiple devices, but may not be a friction-free experience like the “officially” supported app store for a given device, most of which are available while in a VR environment or in front of a 2D screen.
Each store may have a different set of requirements and regulations. If you are creating content for these devices, make sure you understand what you need to offer each store when submitting your apps and how your apps will be presented and displayed.
Portable Virtual Reality Headphones
Similar to desktop headphones, portable headphones usually have an associated store or distribution platform that most users use to download their content. It is possible to create standalone designs for users, but most of the VR content you create for portable headsets will be downloaded from each headset’s official distribution platform. The Google Play Store displays VR content through the Daydream app, while for the Gear VR, most of the content is accessed via the Oculus Store available through the Gear home screen.

Google Cardboard
Google Cardboard is less tied to a specific piece of hardware or software, which makes its app distribution channels more open. Most content will likely still be accessible from each specific device’s distribution store. For Android devices, you will likely distribute your apps through the Google Play Store, while for iOS devices, you can distribute content via the Apple App Store.

WebVR gives you a much broader distribution platform than the “walled gardens” of device-specific app stores. As you would with any website, you simply need to find a web host to store your WebVR works. Doing so will enable users on the likes of Cardboard, Daydream, Gear VR, Rift, Vive and Windows Mixed Reality to experience your content via VR-enabled web browsers.

Augmented reality headphones
AR headsets seem to be heading in the same direction as VR headsets in terms of app distribution. However, since most AR headphones are aimed at enterprise-class customers at this time, it will be interesting to see how these distribution methods work. Microsoft’s HoloLens apps, for example, are currently available through the Microsoft Store.
Augmented reality for mobile devices
AR mobile apps, like typical mobile apps, can be found in their app stores. ARKit apps are available through the Apple App Store, while ARCore apps are delivered via the Google Play Store.
Web-based augmented reality, similar to WebVR, can be accessed via a web browser on your mobile device. However, it should be noted that mobile augmented reality often requires very specific hardware and software, other than the standard mobile web browsers available to users. Be aware of which hardware and software can support your experience if you intend to distribute your AR app over the web.

Other VR Distribution Options
You can create VR content with a specific application or distribution method in mind. Or you may want to create and share simple content, such as 360-degree photos or videos, without developing an app to do so.
Distributing 360-degree video content has become much easier, with platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook making 360-degree video possible on their respective platforms. Videos can be played through standard browsers on 2D screens and on most VR headsets. If you are looking for a simple way to distribute your VR video content to a large audience, a solution like YouTube might be the best way to do it.

Various photo apps allow you to share your photos in VR as well. Photo sharing site Flickr produces the Flickr VR app that allows you to share photo content in virtual reality. The Facebook 360 app for Gear VR allows users to browse 360-degree VR photos from their friends, and sites like Kuula allow users to create and share 360-degree VR images, as well as add 3D hotspots, videos, and links to one another. Photos, all within a 360-degree experience. All these 360-degree images can be browsed in a standard 2D web browser.
The nature of AR and its current level of maturity can make sharing AR content a bit more restrictive. However, apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook provide their users with different ways to share their photos and videos complete with AR filters applied to them. The “augmented reality” of these items is of limited scope (often little more than applying a filter to a user’s face to make them appear to have the ears of a koala or a butterfly crown), but these AR features are likely to be the broadest current use of consumer augmented reality to date. Millions of users use it every day.
As augmented reality grows to maturity, it will be interesting to see how it will evolve beyond these simple and common filters into content that can be shared with more content.