Cooking up Successful VR Apps with Juan Cuadra

Today, we are joined by Juan Cuadra, a professional developer with Exutec, who recently released a hugely successful virtual reality app – iba Virtual Bakery Tours. Launched at the world’s leading trade fair for baked goods, the app was viewed by over 3000 visitors over 5 days and received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

Hi Juan, it’s great to have you for an interview! To get started, please tell us a little about yourself, and how you got into development.

I’m from a small country – Nicaragua, and have always been interested in technology. I worked in a web development agency for years as a PM (Project Manager), but I was always very interested in graphics and interactive media. I taught myself some basic modeling, rendering and animation, and always had a great interest in Unity.

A few years back I set about learning how to code and I completed the Ironhack Bootcamp in Barcelona, and soon thereafter I wanted to get myself into Virtual Reality, as it seemed to combine a lot of what I enjoyed.

Congratulations on such a successful app launch for iba Virtual Bakery Tours! We’re thrilled that Zenva courses helped you to gain the skills you needed to create it – can you tell us a little about which courses you used, and how they helped you?

I looked around online for a way to get myself started, and soon enough I found the Virtual Reality Mini-Degree, and thought it looked very solid. I took the Mini-Degree, and it basically taught me all I needed about Unity from scratch. The Mini-Degree had absolutely everything I needed to get started and develop something serious! A few months later, the opportunity to create an actual app presented itself.

It’s great to hear that our courses helped you to take on this opportunity! Tell us a little about the technologies that you used to create your app, and how you found them. Were there any limitations or obstacles that you had to overcome?

We created the app for the Oculus Go headset, which had only just launched when we started development. This meant that there was a lot of uncertainty about with how to develop for it, and not too much help online yet. We used Unity and the native Oculus SDK for the development, and the biggest challenge we encountered was understanding how to handle quality 360 video in Virtual Reality. There are so many kinks and details that need to be taken care of to have consistent and pleasant playback, which was instrumental to immerse the users in their journey through the bakeries.

By using proven UI patterns, you managed to onboard viewers in less than a minute, and these viewers went on to interact with your app for an industry-leading average viewing time of 13 minutes. Can you tell us a little about the patterns you used, and how you managed to keep viewers immersed for so long?

We really wanted to keep it simple, and at the end of the day throwing too much information at the user could prove to be overwhelming – we couldn’t pretend that we were going to teach everyone how to use a headset and the app all by ourselves. It was a combination of letting the user feel out the headset intuitively, and having enough visual indicators and hints that they could refer to when something was not immediately clear.

We can certainly see how you implemented that. Part of your brief was also to inspire and excite a supersaturated target group. How did working with Virtual Reality help you to achieve this?

The idea was to show that baking is not strictly an old-fashioned profession reserved for the generational mom and pop shops, or a profession that offers very few opportunities. We wanted to show – especially younger visitors – that all around the world there are a lot of talented bakers who have been very successful. We wanted to showcase these people, who have travelled all over the world, opened many bakeries in the biggest cities, and show viewers that it’s possible to be a rock star within this world.

There was no better way of showing this than through VR, which is the most immersive medium that we have right now. We wanted to evoke the awe factor in them, and use storytelling to guide them through the stories that we have in the app.

In addition to the 360-degree 3D video material, your app also featured storytelling through unscripted interviews and documentary content. How did you manage to create a cohesive story when the experience centers on a viewer-led journey?

One of my colleagues traveled to different cities in the world, filming, interviewing and getting a feel for the atmosphere in these unique bakeries. The user could choose the city and baker they found most interesting, and while each had unique story, the overarching story that connected them all was discovering what made each one of them tick, what motivated them to do the job, and what they enjoyed the most. The key was transmitting these feelings to the user.

Thanks so much for joining us and sharing your inspiring journey! Before you go, do you have any advice that you’d like to share with our students?

Complete the courses. I have a few to go myself, but if you have the discipline and do them all there is, for sure, A LOT to learn from them. Especially if you are a beginner in this world like I was, Zenva courses have more than enough to provide that kick start you need, and get the tools you need to create what you want. The rest, of course, is up to each of us to use the tools in the most interesting way possible!

A massive thanks again to Juan for giving us such a detailed look into the development of his app!

Find out more about Juan’s work on iba Virtual Bakery Tours here, and be sure to check out his Portfolio Website and his profile on LinkedIn.

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