Goldman Sachs, the investment banking company, envisages an $80 billion growth for the virtual reality industry by 2025. With some big, global brands like Google, Facebook, and Samsung stepping their foot in the virtual reality space, and large investments pouring in, it is evident that virtual reality is here to stay. The impact and relevance of VR go beyond the scope of entertainment and gaming, and it is getting its fair share in the mainstream industries.
It cannot be argued that virtual reality has made breakthroughs in the entertainment industry; however, the use of this multi-dimensional tool goes beyond video gaming and enjoying immersive videos.
In this day and age, many organizations are leveraging virtual reality to generate empathy in their audiences. For example, Unicef, the humanitarian aid agency, uses the powerful and immersive virtual reality tool to convey the significance and intensity of the crises in some parts of the world, which is a step further from reading stories and browsing through images. With the help of this incredibly immersive technology, the humanitarian agencies can give a human element to the initiatives undertaken by them and garner support for them as well.
The Complexity of Virtual Reality Applications Development
Virtual reality applications are being used and developed for multiple domains, many of which provide unique insights for challenging issues and provide progressive interaction techniques that were previously unavailable. As one of the most sought-after technologies today, virtual reality apps are multi-faceted, making the application’s effective development and testing a herculean task. Considering that one of the main aspects of virtual reality is user immersion, the development of these applications requires the management of low-level details of the VR system while also catering to the variability of human-computer interface demands. The added feature of ‘immersiveness’ makes it more complex than the other average applications. One of the differentiating elements of virtual reality applications is that an iterative process is employed for their development and evaluation. As opposed to the development process of a typical application, the iterative methodology used in the VR apps allows the application developers to modify the application as it progresses through different stages. New requirements are gradually added as it evolves.
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Robust Testing Strategy for Virtual Reality Apps
Despite their challenges, there are many platforms and tools for the development of virtual reality applications. Still, there is a general lack of standardized and adequate testing strategies for reality-based applications. Furthermore, the multi-dimensional simulations and environments which make use of hearing, vision, and touch to interact with an alternate reality can in many ways prove to be a health hazard for the users. This not only raises the stakes for quality assurance but also makes the testing process more challenging. Given the additional ‘immersive’ component of virtual reality applications, the traditional automation and lab testing proves insufficient, requiring the testers to leap a more immersive testing approach.
Due to its complexity and other elements pertaining to the human-machine interaction, the testing of virtual reality apps has its own nuances, which necessitates an innovative and hybrid testing approach. Instead of complete automation testing for all aspects of the application, it can be used for the internal components of the application, while manual testing is implemented for the evaluation of users’ interaction with the application for best results. Manual tests are especially required to determine the application performance in user interaction and gauge whether the application performance matches the expected outcomes. Owing to the complicated nature of the VR application user interface, the usual interaction handler is not implemented to derive data from the device. Instead, the input from the device is processed directly. The underlying purpose of this approach is to understand the effect of the overall environment on the application performance and how all of this comes together to provide an immersive experience for the user. While it is required to keep the testing process of user interaction completely manual for accurate results, automating some critical parts of the application is essential in order to process the high level of input and the corresponding output along with a large amount of interaction data.
The first phase in the testing process is unit testing which tests pieces of code to ascertain that the code meets the expected outcomes of the app functionality. It is then followed by integrated testing, which gauges whether the code modules work well together or not. Next, the user compatibility and the seamless interaction in VR applications are determined by usability testing, while heuristic tests are used to check if the application is correctly following the standard design. Performance, compatibility, user interface, security, accessibility, and motion sickness testing are all part of the automated testing process, which measures the performance of the app and the entire user experience. In addition to these, focus groups are also used to study the interaction of the users with the virtual reality application and derive insights from their behaviors.
Challenges of Testing for Reality-Based Software Applications
· Virtual reality application testing is relatively more expensive than traditional testing processes
· There are no standardized interfaces for the testing of user interactive and immersive applications
· Reality based application testing requires more space
· Compatibility issues are more common in these applications because of the complex structure
· One testing approach (automated or manual) is insufficient for VR applications
· Testing process for virtual reality apps is more time consuming than others
· Motion testing is also a requirement which further adds to the testing complications
· There is little to no support of hardware, software, or simulators for the testing process
An adequate and robust testing strategy is needed to ascertain the high quality of the VR apps, especially as they tend to be more complex and nuanced than other applications. Therefore, it is vital for the quality assurance teams to have proper, detailed strategies with focused milestones to measure benchmarks and key performance indicators.
Natasha Akhtar is senior marketing consultant and writer at Software Testing Lead. She has done Graduation from Islamia University. Natasha has written a lot of technology articles, news, and review on different blogs.
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Augmenting the Impact of Virtual Reality with a Robust Testing Strategy was originally published in AR/VR Journey: Augmented & Virtual Reality Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.