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Is File Size a Problem When Developing a Virtual Reality (VR) eLearning Module?

As we approach to the final stages of the production of our first virtual reality (VR) enabled eLearning module, it is important to create a list of lessons learned that will make things smoother for future projects. When using this technology, one thing that stands out from a technical and user experience perspective, is the file size of the assets used in the VR-enabled eLearning module.

In our case, we are hosting the VR eLearning module on our webserver, which means that the learners won’t need to install any mobile apps (since we are focusing on delivering this module through mobile devices using Google Cardboard), and all the content will be streamed in real time through the browser.

Of course, being a highly interactive eLearning module, it relies mostly on image assets and videos. The images, depending on the format and resolution, usually don’t result in too much bandwidth usage, and especially the background images (the actual 360 equirectangular images) shouldn’t be larger than 1.5 MB.

The issue lies with the videos we use, both 360 videos and standard videos. Initially, when we rendered our videos, being around 30 to 40 seconds long, the file size for each one of them was between 40 and 60 MB (!). Objectively speaking, this file size is not large, but when it comes to user experience, it might prevent things from going smoothly, and also, probably more expensive for the user if they are accessing the eLearning module using their data plan.

The way we fixed this, was to find a tool to re-encode the videos to both, keep the quality but lower the file size considerably, so in the end, we reduced the file size of our videos by 75%(!), meaning that our 40 MB videos are now only 10 MB! In terms of time, it takes much less time loading the module, and for unstable connections, it is much more difficult for the connection to time out. After testing the new videos, we found that user experience was considerably improved as now the VR-enabled eLearning module wasn’t lagging in any way!

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