All posts by octopusrift

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Oculus Rift and Touch Storage Options

VR creates a lot of problems when trying to maintain a tidy office.  The Rift headset is somewhat large and not easy to store. Untamed, it will eat up a lot of desk space with the Touch controllers and cables.  The Rift is delicate and expensive so it deserves a better fate than being dumped into a desk drawer.  Rift storage can be difficult but there are options to tidy things up.

Oculus Rift Storage

Many Vive owners have had success using a flexible track with hooks to hang controllers and the headset.  This is a little easier for the Rift since there are no headphones to worry about.  An extra hook can be added as tidy storage for the headset cables.  The one downside of hanging the headset is that you may cause the elastic strap to stretch over time.

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The Rift is the perfect size to fit into an Ikea shoebox which will protect it from harm and keep dust away from the fabric cover and optics.

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If you really want to show off your headset you can mount in on a glass mannequin head when not in use.  Futuristic to some, creepy to others.  Normally used for ski goggles, it’s the closest purpose built mount you may find.

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The Touch controllers can easily be hidden out of the way with an under desk mount normally used for headphones.  This is a slick way of keeping them accessible and hanging them for charging.

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Vive Storage Options

VR is great but it sure has a lot of clutter.  I remember the first time I cracked the Vive box – the head set, controllers, lighthouses, cables, and chargers were all neatly packed into a largish box.  Unpacked, the Vive accessories can command a lot of space.  I wanted to cover some storage options and ideas for the Vive and help tidy up your VR collections.

Any time I use the Vive I’m juggling the head set, head phones, and a pair of controllers.   This stuff will eat up a lot of desk space when not in use and it all needs to be handled somewhat carefully.  Luckily there are a few ways to neatly and safely store your Vive and controllers.

Storage Options

This is a nifty hook based solution that uses guitar hooks to support the Vive headset, controllers, and cables.  The hooks do a very nice job of supporting the headset without stretching the elastic.

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Next up is two track based options that are a little more flexible and slightly more attractive, depending on your aesthetic.  The one downside is they let the headset hang which will allow dust to collect on the lenses and may stretch the elastic strap.

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Another option is to reuse the shipping foam included in the Vive box and use it as drawer liners.  Classy but not space efficient.  The upside is that you completely hide your Vive in a set of drawers – much less obtrusive than mounting your VR collection to the wall.

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If you really want to show off your headset you can mount in on a glass mannequin head when not in use.  Futuristic to some, creepy to others.  Normally used for ski goggles, it’s the closest purpose built mount you may find.

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Setup your Vive or Rift in Another Room

Is your office too small for your Vive or Rift? No room to move around? Consider moving your VR setup to your living room. Now you have plenty of space for VR but your office no longer has a PC.

Luckily there is a better solution. You can extend the cables on your PC so that you can setup your Rift or Vive in another room and share your PC with your office. Now you can have the best of both worlds – plenty of space for VR and your PC stays where you need it.

This gives you all sorts of solutions:

  • VR in your living room without a PC
  • Setting up VR in your basement or garage
  • Moving VR to a room where you have free space
  • Using your VR PC in your office
  • Sharing your dedicated VR PC

Extending your PC allows you to use your expensive VR PC wherever you want.

The Solution

extend_headset

The key to extending your VR system is literally extending the wires.  We need to make all the cables connected to your PC longer. The best way to do this is with Ethernet extenders that will transmit an HDMI or USB signal over Ethernet.  This allows fewer and smaller cables to be run over longer distances than normally possibly with HDMI or USB.  The Ethernet plugs have much smaller connectors than HDMI and require smaller holes to route them through a wall or ceiling.

A note that these extenders are normally not network devices, the extenders have to be wired directly to each other with no switches or routers in between.

There are two ways to solve your wiring problem and it’s ultimately a question of where you want your PC.  The simplest path is to leave your PC right next to your Vive or Rift and then extend the cables to your monitor, keyboard, and mouse to another room.  This method has less wires to extend and keeps your VR setup simple.  It allows for more space in your office but may place your PC right in your primary living space.

The alternative method is to keep your PC in another room and extend all the VR cables to your VR space.  This can be a little trickier but will keep your VR space a lot tidier.

Extend Your Monitor

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Extending your monitor may be your easiest solution depending on what you need to extend and how far you need to go.

The best case scenario is if you’re only going to the next room over or possibly directly below or above your PC.  A wireless keyboard, mouse, and headphones should have no problem punching through a single wall or ceiling.  In this case you will only need an HDMI extender for your monitor.

Stray too much further and you’ll encounter a lot of frustration trying to use a wireless mouse.  If you need to extend further distances you will need to add an extra USB extender for peripherals.

cat6hdmi

HDMI Over Cat 6 Extender – This will take your HDMI signal from your PC and run it over Cat 6 directly to your monitor.  It handles 1920 x 1080 at 60 frames a second with no problem.  Grab some Cat 6 cabling and don’t mix up the receiver and transmitter.

Remember, don’t send this signal through a switch, go direct – transmitter to receiver.

If this extender uses the one HDMI port you were using for your Rift or Vive then switch over to your DisplayPort.  If you need a DisplayPort to HDMI adapter make sure you get an active version.

cat6usb

USB Over Cat 6 Extender - This takes all of your USB devices and sends them over Ethernet to your PC.  There are cheaper versions available for single devices but this one is bulletproof.

I prefer these Ethernet extenders since Ethernet plugs are much smaller than HDMI connectors and require smaller holes to route them through a wall or ceiling.  If you’re not worried about larger cables you can purchase active HDMI and USB extension cables that will get you the same result.

Extend Your VR System

extend_headset

Extending your VR system can be a little tricky due to the number and complexity of cables involved.  It’s still possible and uses a lot of the same hardware described above.  The critical criteria is making sure your HDMI cable can handle the high throughput video signal and that your USB cables can handle the pass through or tracking camera throughput.

Since Ethernet extenders can be touchy with higher bandwidth signals it’s recommended to only use active HDMI and USB cables when extending a headset.  This will ensure the video signal arrives undistributed and without lag.  Unfortunately this means the connectors will much larger and if you’re going through a wall or ceiling you’ll need a bigger hole.

Extending the Vive

Extending the Vive is relatively straightforward, the key is to keep the link box with the headset and extend the USB and HDMI cables that run to the link box.

Finding a good cable can be a little challenging as many don’t work the way they are advertised.  The /r/vive wiki has a great guide on cables that have been tested.

hdmi_vive

Active HDMI cable – Tested and approved, this is your best bet for a clean video signal to your Vive.  Monoprice builds great cables for a reasonable price.

usb_vive

Active USB cable – This is an active USB 2.0 cable that has been tested and is working with normal camera operation.  Vetted and approved.

Extending the Rift

Extending the Rift is a little bit trickier as the headset and sensors are very particular about the PC port and extension cable used.  There are mixed reports about active and passive cables working.

The /r/oculus wiki has a good guide on cables that have been tested and are working but most are on the short side.  Proceed at your own risk.

You’ll need to extend at least one USB cable for the headset and one for the sensor.  One more cable may be required for the controller and you’ll need to add cables down the road if you add more sensors for Touch.

hdmi_rift

HDMI Extension Cable – Tested and approved, this should give you the best reach and deliver a clean signal to the headset.

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Headset USB Extension Cable – This is an active USB 3.0 extension cable that has been tested and confirmed as working with the headset.

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Sensor USB Extension Cable – Another active USB 3.0 cable, you may be able to get away with USB 2.0 for the sensor but it’s better to err on the side of caution.

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Building a PC for Virtual Reality

Hardware manufacturers are tripping over themselves to build flashy virtual reality head mounted displays but the PCs to power these devices receive little attention.  HMDs such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are only one half of the VR equation.

The Requirements

As VR awareness becomes more mainstream the big question for most people is,

“Can my PC handle it?”

The answer is likely “No.”  VR content requires a powerful gaming PC to pump out the high frame rate required to make the experience fluid and enjoyable.  Many people will have to upgrade their graphics card or invest in a new PC to meet the minimum specs required.  What are those specs?

Oculus and HTC have both released official recommendations for  PC system requirements and interestingly the specs are almost identical.

HTC Vive

  • Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 4590 or AMD FX 8350 or greater
  • RAM: 4GB or more
  • Video port: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, or better
  • USB port: 1 USB 2.0 or faster port
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer

Oculus Rift

  • Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 4590 or greater
  • RAM: 8GB or more
  • Video port: HDMI 1.3
  • USB port: 2 USB 3.0 ports
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer

The main difference between the two requirements is the amount of RAM and the number of USB ports.  The Rift requires more of both. The good news is RAM is cheap and any modern motherboard should have the correct number of USB ports.

The PC Build

If building your own PC seems too daunting don’t worry, you can buy an Oculus Ready PC bundled with the Rift and save yourself some stress.

The recommended specs are a good starting point for the build.  One of the main goals for a VR PC build should be flexibility.  If you’re going to invest the money in a PC now it’s a good idea to make sure the hardware will still be relevant 12 to 18 months from now.  At the same time you should resist the urge to purchase today’s top of the line components.  You’ll be paying a premium for a slight performance edge that will be eroded when the next generation of GPUs arrive. Save that money and upgrade later.

After doing some research I knew I was interested in building what could be described as a budget performance PC.  I wanted my overall build to be inexpensive, have flexibility for future upgrades, and have the power to meet and exceed the Oculus and HTC recommended specs. I wanted to invest some money upfront in the processor and motherboard so they wouldn’t have to be upgraded later.

Here’s what I put together:

i5

ProcessorIntel I5-6500- New Skylake processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  This more than meets the recommended specs.

msi

MotherboardMSI Intel Skylake B150 LGA 1151 - Modern and inexpensive.  More than enough USB 3.0 ports for the Rift.  This is a great foundation for a new PC and will support upgrades over the life of the PC.  Great BIOS screen for easy setup.

1070

Graphics CardEVGA GeForce GTX 1070 – The new generation of GTX cards.  Great performance at a slight premium, this will hold you over for quite awhile.  If you’re looking to save some money consider the GTX 970.

ram

MemoryKingston HyperX FURY Black 8GB – Nothing too special here, starting off with one stick, it’s easy to drop in a second down the road.

evo

StorageSamsung 850 EVO – 250GB – Solid state drive for the OS.  Note that this is on the small side, you may want to spend a little more money upfront here and buy a larger drive  I plan to add in a 3.5 SATA disk in a few months for game storage.  I’ve had bad experience in the past with SSDs so I prefer to stick with a brand name.

cooler

CPU Cooler – Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO – A best seller for a reason.  Inexpensive, quiet, and enough cooling if you want to overclock.

case

CaseCorsair Carbide Series 200R – Nice budget case for the money with plenty of cooling.  The case adds two additional USB 3.0 ports in addition to the motherboard, just make sure you install the correct drivers after you land the cable.

psu

Power SupplyRosewill 650W ATX12V – Nice power supply to support future upgrades, the modularity of cables helps keep things clean.

win10

OS - Windows 10 Pro USB –While I still prefer Windows 7, I can’t recommend it for new builds.  Windows 10 is the future and it comes on a USB stick for easy installation.

VR System – Pick your poison here, the Rift and Vive are both available through Amazon with Prime shipping.  Don’t forget Oculus Touch either.

This should be everything you need to put together a nice gaming PC with upgrade potential.  I included Amazon links for everything but I recommend you shop around.  I was able to save some money on the processor and motherboard with a combo deal through Newegg.

Never built a PC before?  It’s easier than you think, everything snaps together.  I recommend the step-by-step guide at Tom’s Hardware.

Rift Banner

Building a PC for the Oculus Rift

One of the most common questions asked about the Oculus Rift is “what type of PC will I need?”

The answer may not please you.  The Oculus Rift will require a powerful gaming PC to pump out the high frame rate required to make the VR experience enjoyable.  Many people will have to upgrade their graphics card or invest in a new PC to meet the minimum specs required.

Don’t want to build a PC?   Buy one.

Oculus has released the official recommended specs for the PC hardware to power the Rift.  This is a smart move as it standardizes the experience for developers and end users.  The official recommended specs are:

…an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590, and 8GB RAM. This configuration will be held for the lifetime of the Rift and should drop in price over time.

UPDATE (10/5/16): Oculus has developed Asynchronous Spacewarp (ASW) to lower requirements even further.  The new minimum requirement is a i3-6100 CPU with a GTX 960 GPU or AMD FX-4350 with a Radeon RX 470.  This is huge!  The barrier for entry to VR has been lowered significantly!

The required frame rate, while not extreme, is pretty demanding for any system.  I knew my current PC wouldn’t come close to achieving 90fps for even the simplest VR demo. I would need something new to run my Rift when it arrived, otherwise I would have purchased some very expensive ski goggles. This was the start of my quest to build a PC for the Oculus Rift.

The recommended specs are a good starting point for the build.  One of the main goals for a Rift build should be flexibility.  If you’re going to invest the money in a PC now it’s a good idea to make sure the hardware will still be relevant 12 to 18 months from now.  At the same time you should resist the urge to purchase today’s top of the line components.  You’ll be paying a premium for a slight performance edge that will be eroded when a new generation of graphics cards arrive.

After doing some research I knew I was interested in building what could be described as a budget performance PC.  I wanted my overall build to be inexpensive, have flexibility for future upgrades, and have the power to meet and exceed the Oculus recommended specs. I wanted to invest some money upfront in the processor and motherboard so they wouldn’t have to be upgraded later.

The PC Build

i5

ProcessorIntel I5-6500- New Skylake processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  This more than meets the recommended specs.  The new minimum spec with ASW is a  i3-6100 CPU.

msi

MotherboardMSI Intel Skylake B150 LGA 1151 - Modern and inexpensive.  More than enough USB 3.0 ports for the Rift.  This is a great foundation for a new PC and will support upgrades over the life of the PC.  Great BIOS screen for easy setup.

1070

Graphics CardEVGA GeForce GTX 1070 – The new generation of GTX cards.  Great performance at a slight premium, this will hold you over for quite awhile.  If you’re looking to save some money consider the GTX 970 or the new ASW minimum spec GTX 960 GPU.

ram

MemoryKingston HyperX FURY Black 8GB – Nothing too special here, starting off with one stick, it’s easy to drop in a second down the road.

evo

StorageSamsung 850 EVO – 250GB – Solid state drive for the OS.  Note that this is on the small side, you may want to spend a little more money upfront here and buy a larger drive  I plan to add in a 3.5 SATA disk in a few months for game storage.  I’ve had bad experience in the past with SSDs so I prefer to stick with a brand name.

cooler

CPU Cooler – Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO – A best seller for a reason.  Inexpensive, quiet, and enough cooling if you want to overclock.

case

CaseCorsair Carbide Series 200R – Nice budget case for the money with plenty of cooling.  The case adds two additional USB 3.0 ports in addition to the motherboard, just make sure you install the correct drivers after you land the cable.

psu

Power SupplyRosewill 650W ATX12V – Nice power supply to support future upgrades, the modularity of cables helps keep things clean.

win10

OS - Windows 10 Pro USB – While I still prefer Windows 7, I can’t recommend it for new builds.  Windows 10 is the future and it comes on a USB stick for easy installation.

rift

The RiftOculus Rift – Available directly from Amazon with Prime

touch

TouchOculus Touch – Unless you want to use a controller

This should be everything you need to put together a nice gaming PC with upgrade potential.  I included Amazon links for everything but I recommend you shop around.  I was able to save some money on the processor and motherboard with a combo deal through Newegg.

Never built a PC before?  It’s easier than you think, everything snaps together.  I recommend the step-by-step guide at Tom’s Hardware.

christmas

Guide to Virtual Reality Gifts

Virtual reality (VR) is shaping up to be one of the most popular gifts for Christmas 2016.  VR is new medium that offers a wide range of immersive experiences unlike anything else.

It’s one of those experiences you really have to try to believe.  It’s fun to share with the whole family and can be enjoyed by everyone!

About this VR Guide

This guide is to help people unfamiliar with VR, whether they’re parents or just someone who’s curious.  The goal is to provide a well rounded explanation of VR systems available and not to get bogged down in technical specs.

The guide covers the VR systems available, has advice on what VR to buy, and has recommendations for the VR system that will be the best fit.

Is VR Safe?

VR Safety

VR is a relatively safe experience. The number one complaint is motion sickness or nausea with some experiences.  Sometimes moving images in the headset can cause a feeling of disorientation or a loss of balance.

Wearing a headset also prevents users from seeing obstacles in the room.  Bumps and collisions into furniture, walls, or TVs can happen so it’s important to clear your VR space of any clutter before you start.

Most headsets also have an age limit to protect young eyes.  Oculus recommends users be 13 or older, PlayStation VR has a recommendation of 12.  Younger users may experience eye strain when focusing on a small screen that’s close to their face.  Short breaks are recommended for everyone to reduce eye strain.

Will VR Give me a Workout?

VR Workout

Surprisingly yes!  The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift will have you on your feet dancing around and dodging enemies.  You’d be surprised at how much work it is!  It’s easy to get your heart rate elevated while moving your feet and waving controllers around.  The headset is still tethered to a PC so you won’t quite be running circles around the room but some experiences will still be very active.

The Gear VR is best enjoyed when seated and promotes less movement.  The PS VR will have you on your feet but won’t let you move too much or stray too far from your TV.

 

GearVR

GearVR

What is GearVR?

GearVR is a VR system that uses a Samsung cell phone with a headset to create a VR experience.  The cell phone mounts in a headset to act as the screen and the phone software takes over to create the VR experience.

Oculus partnered with Samsung to create the system so you have a combination of great hardware, great software, and excellent content.  If you’ve ever tried Google Cardboard this is easily 10 times better.

The best thing about the GearVR is that it’s 100% mobile.  You’re not tied to a computer so you can use it anywhere – on a plane, on vacation, or on your couch.

The downside is that any phone is slow when compared to a computer so VR experiences are good but won’t match higher end systems such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

Who is GearVR for?

Anyone who wants a VR experience they take anywhere  or anyone who already has a Samsung Galaxy phone. It’s great for frequent fliers who want to enjoy movies on planes.

The GearVR has a broad appeal because it allows anyone with a Samsung phone to easily try VR if they’re curious.

GearVR is compatible with the following Samsung Galaxy phones:

Content Available on the GearVR

Gear VR has an excellent library of games and apps!  It’s amazing how well games run on the GearVR, you’ll be surprised!

  • Netflix
  • Minecraft
  • Oculus Arcade
  • And much more!

What to Buy for the GearVR

PlayStation VR

psvr

 What is PlayStation VR?

PlayStation VR is a VR headset that works with the PlayStation 4.  It has great games, great visuals, and almost all of the features as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.  A camera is used to track the illuminated headset and controllers to allow for a wide range of motion.

The PlayStaion VR has great support by Sony and many game developers.  It has some of the best content available and is a great fit for any home or family.

Who is PlayStation VR for?

PlayStation VR is prefect for anyone who already has a PlayStation 4.  The VR headset builds on the PlayStation 4 by adding touch controllers, a camera, and a VR processing unit.

It’s easy to setup and great for families to share.  This is your best VR option for anyone who wants to try VR.  It’s easily approachable, provides an amazing VR experience, and is inexpensive when compared to the top of the line VR systems.

Content Available on the PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR has some of the best games and experiences available.  An amazing demo disc is included with the system to give you a taste of what’s possible.

What to Buy for the PlayStation VR

Oculus Rift

Rift with Camera

What is Oculus Rift?

The Oculus Rift the “original” VR headset that has jump started the recent VR craze and attracted competitors.  It is a high-end VR headset that requires a powerful computer for it to work.  It is arguably the best designed headset available with the best visuals and headphones that are built in.

The Oculus Rift originally launched with a hand held controller for playing games which was a bit limiting for VR.  They are working on hand held motion controllers that will be launched soon.  The system uses a camera to track the headset and will require additional cameras to track the controllers.

Oculus has partnered with many software developers to create a great library of content and games.  Some of the best VR experiences are only available on the Rift.

Who is  Oculus Rift for?

Oculus Rift is for PC gamers or anyone who wants the best-looking VR experience. The Oculus Rift has to be tied to a computer so  it may be difficult to share with the family like the PS VR.

The Oculus Rift is a little technical to setup but users are guided through the experience by the software.  The headset requires a powerful computer so double check your PC before you buy or plan on buying a new PC.  Oculus makes it easy to check your PC with a compatibility tool.

Motion tracked controllers aren’t immediately available for the Rift but they are launching soon.  If you want a more complete and immersive VR experience immediately then you may want to consider the HTC Vive.

Content Available on the Oculus Rift

  • Minecraft
  • EVE: Valkyrie
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Project Cars
  • Dirt Rally

What to buy for the Oculus Rift

HTC Vive

HTC Vive

What is HTC Vive?

The HTC Vive is a powerful VR headset that is a competitor to the Oculus Rift.  It requires a powerful computer to work but has the most immersive VR experience available today.

The HTC Vive includes motion tracked controllers and allows users to have a “room-scale” experience where they can walk around and experience VR in 360°.   A laser-tracking system called Lighthouse tracks the headset and controllers.

The HTC Vive has a huge advantage over the Oculus Rift because the Rift doesn’t allow users to walk around in VR like the Vive.  Oculus is offering this option as an upgrade in the future.

The Vive works with Steam software and has many great games and experiences available. Many of the games available for the Oculus Rift are also available on the HTC Vive.

Who is  HTC Vive for?

HTC Vive is for PC gamers or anyone who wants the best and most immersive VR experience available. Motion tracked controllers and room scale experiences are available right out of the box. The HTC Vive has to be tied to a computer so  it may be difficult to share with the family like the PS VR.

The HTC Vive is the most technical system to setup with many parts included. The headset requires a powerful computer so double check your PC before you buy or plan on buying a new PC.

Content Available on the HTC Vive

  • Minecraft
  • The Lab
  • Elite Dangerous
  • Space Pirate Trainer

What to buy for the HTC Vive

VR Recommendations

What’s the best VR system for someone who’s curious about VR?

Consider trying Google Carboard which will use a standard smartphone.  A better experience would be the GearVR although it may be pricey unless you have the correct Galaxy phone.

If you already have a PlayStation 4 you may want to consider PlayStation VR.

What’s the best VR system for families?

The PlayStation VR is probably the best fit for a family because it’s easy to use, easily shared, and works off of a PlayStation 4.

What’s the best VR system for gamers?

Serious gamers are going to be the most interested in the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive because of the performance available from either of these systems.  HTC Vive may have better game support since it is well integrated with the Steam library.

What’s the best VR system for kids?

There are concerns about young children using VR but the PlayStation VR is probably the best bet for older kids.

What’s the best VR system for adults?

The HTC Vive or Oculus Rift will offer the best VR experiences out there although each system will be somewhat complex to setup and use.

What’s the best VR system available?

The HTC Vive currently offers the most immersive and enjoyable VR experience with its room-scale 360° tracking of the headset and controllers.  Oculus is working to match the Vive’s capabilities but isn’t quite there yet.

What’s the most immersive VR system available?

The HTC Vive is the only system to currently offer room-scale 360° tracking of the headset and controllers.

What VR system has the best graphics?

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both offer excellent graphics through the use of a powerful gaming PC but the Oculus Rift has a slight edge in screen and optics.

What’s the most expensive VR system?

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are both pricey options considering you need a powerful computer to go along with each system.  The HTC Vive is the most expensive as a single product but the Oculus Rift will be more expensive if you factor in the cost of the headset plus the additional touch controllers.

cameras

Guide to Mounting Oculus Touch Cameras

Oculus is releasing their new motion tracking input system called the Touch which leverages their existing headset tracking system named Constellation.  The Constellation system uses cameras to track the headset and controllers in space to know where things are.

The Rift originally included one camera which could easily be placed on a desk to track the headset.  Touch allows users to get up away from their desks and interact with things all around them.  To track things clearly Oculus is including a second camera with Touch (and even recommends a third) to make sure your controllers and headset are always visible to a camera.

Camera Locations

If you plan on using Touch while always facing your monitor then Oculus recommends placing both cameras on your desk, on opposite sides of your monitor as shown below.  This can be a bit limiting and can eat up valuable desk space.

touch_seated

If you plan to explore room scale tracking then you need to get a little more creative with camera mounting.  Oculus recommends the addition of a third camera to the system with all three arranged in a circle around the user.

touch_room_scale

Camera Mounting

If you’re lucky you will have enough bookshelves to place all three cameras in all the right spots.  If not, there are plenty of easy and creative ways to mount these cameras, many in a temporary fashion so you can maintain security deposits or meet the discerning approval of a spouse.

The key to mounting the cameras is detaching them from their stands and using their 1/4-20 mounting threads which is the standard thread for photography tripods and equipment.  It’s as simple as unscrewing the camera and sticking it on something else!

touch_camera_thread

 

Tripods

touch_tripod

One of the easiest things to do is to mount the cameras to a standard camera tripod and set them up where you need them.  The tripods are small to store but can easily extend  to head level.  They eat up some floor space but are very flexible for positioning the cameras

You can also buy a light stand which will allow you to mount your camera above head level.  The light stands are a more attractive option but have limited flexibility.

Wall Mounting

touch_wall_mount

If you want to free up floor space consider a camera wall mount or a smaller speaker wall mount that will allow you to fasten the camera to a wall or ceiling.  This isn’t a bad option for your desk camera either to free up some space.

If you don’t want to put holes in your drywall consider drilling into a wooden door or window frame or using 3M Command Strips.

Other Options

tension_rod

If you want something less permanent but also non-obtrusive consider a tension rod and clamping tripod mount.  You can get creative with mounting the cameras and use the tension rod to span from floor to ceiling or horizontally across windows or alcoves.  This has been a good setup for Vive owners who have heavier and vibrating Lighthouse stations.

Cables

Last thing, you may want to consider picking up some USB extension cables.  Depending on your layout the Oculus provided cables may not reach back to your PC!

What’s the Cheapest Way to get an Oculus Rift?

VR gaming started out as an expensive hobby.  Originally you needed a modern and top of the line gaming PC to even think about getting a Rift.  Oculus has made some recent software improvements to lower demands on your PC which has made VR more accessible to everyone.

Right now you’re looking at a $1300 minimum cost for a Rift and capable PC.

This doesn’t include Oculus Touch but it does get your foot in the VR door with the option to add Touch any time in the future.

The key change for lowered requirements was a new technology called Asynchronous Spacewarp or ASW.   The improvement here is that ASW allows games to run at a much lower frame rate with software filling in the gaps between frames.  Essentially you’re getting more bang for your buck.

Oculus has been working with CyberPowerPC to release a $499 Oculus Certified VR ready PC which is an insane price point.  This PC has not been released yet but will feature components that meet the new minimum requirements:

  • AMD FX-4350 quad-core processor
  • Radeon RX 470 4 GB graphics card
  • 8 GB of dual-channel memory

In the meantime you can pick up the next cheapest thing which is an Intel i5 system with a RX 480 GPU.  This may actually be a better option as it gives you a little more muscle under the hood.

 

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Building a PC for the HTC Vive

Hardware manufacturers are tripping over themselves to build flashy virtual reality head mounted displays but the PCs to power these devices receive little attention.  HMDs such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are only one half of the VR equation.

The Requirements

As VR awareness becomes more mainstream the big question for most people is,

“Can my PC handle it?”

The answer is likely “No.”  VR content requires a powerful gaming PC to pump out the high frame rate required to make the experience fluid and enjoyable.  Many people will have to upgrade their graphics card or invest in a new PC to meet the minimum specs required.  What are those specs?

HTC has released official recommendations that will help guide our build.

HTC Vive

  • Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 4590 or AMD FX 8350 or greater
  • RAM: 4GB or more
  • Video port: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, or better
  • USB port: 1 USB 2.0 or faster port
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer

The PC

The recommended specs are a good starting point for the build.  One of the main goals for a VR PC build should be flexibility.  If you’re going to invest the money in a PC now it’s a good idea to make sure the hardware will still be relevant 12 to 18 months from now.  At the same time you should resist the urge to purchase today’s top of the line components.  You’ll be paying a premium for a slight performance edge that will be eroded when VR optimized GPUs arrive in the next generation. Save that money and upgrade later.

After doing some research I knew I was interested in building what could be described as a budget performance PC.  I wanted my overall build to be inexpensive, have flexibility for future upgrades, and have the power to meet and exceed the HTC recommended specs. I wanted to invest some money upfront in the processor and motherboard so they wouldn’t have to be upgraded later.

Here’s what I put together:

Intel i5 CPU

ProcessorIntel Core i5-4590K – Haswell processor from Intel, will offer excellent performance for the cost.  Also consider the  Intel Core i5-4690K which slightly exceeds the recommended spec.  Note that this includes its own cooler and fan, nothing else is required here!

PNY GTX 960 GPU

Graphics CardEVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 – Good performance for the price, EVGA makes a great card.   It’s great that Oculus set a fixed GPU bar for the Rift, just keep in mind that one day this may need to get replaced.

MSI Motherboard

MotherboardMSI ATX DDR3 2400 LGA 1150 – supports Z97, modern and inexpensive.  (2) USB 3.0 ports for the Rift.  This is a great foundation for a new PC and will support upgrades over the life of the PC.  Great BIOS screen for easy setup.

Kingston RAM

MemoryKingston HyperX Blu 8GB 1600MHz 240-pin DDR3 – A single stick of 8GB will leave room for expansion.  I would recommend two sticks right off the bat for 16GB but this is an easy upgrade in the future.

Samsung SSD

StorageSamsung SSD 840 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III – Solid state drive for the OS. Also consider a  3.5 SATA disk for game storage.  I’ve had bad experience in the past with SSDs so I prefer to stick with a brand name.

Corsair Case

CaseCorsair Carbide Series 200R – Nice clean case that is solid and inexpensive. Beautiful with plenty of quiet cooling.

Power SupplyRosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE 550 – Decent power supply to support future upgrades

OS - Windows 7 64-bit OEM – The old standard here, I prefer it over Windows 8

The Vive - HTC Vive – Available directly from Amazon

This should be everything you need to put together the perfect Vive PC with upgrade potential.  Budget versions of this are possible but this PC is a quality build for the Vive.  I included Amazon links for everything and recommend them for their Prime shipping and ease of exchanges.

Here is the complete list with totals:

Component Link Price
Processor Intel Core i5-4590K $199
Graphics Card PNY NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 $320
Motherboard MSI ATX DDR3 2400 LGA 1150 $85
Memory Kingston HyperX Blu 8GB 240-pin DDR3 $104
Storage Samsung SSD 840 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch $78
Case Corsair Carbide Series 200R $66
Power Supply  Rosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE 550 $70
OS Windows 7 64-bit OEM $135
Total  $1057

Never built a PC before?  It’s easier than you think – everything snaps together.  I recommend the step-by-step guide at Tom’s Hardware.

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How Can I Get an Oculus Rift?

The VR headsets made by Oculus and HTC have been hyped for months and they are finally starting to ship to consumers.  For many the experience has delivered and VR has lived up to the hype.  Interest will continue to grow as these VR experiences are shared by the early adopters who actually have a headset.  The challenge for expanding the VR community will be the limited number of headsets available to the public.

Anyone who  has a headset today was one of the very first to pre-order a headset, likely minutes or seconds after pre-ordering went live. The communities at /r/Oculus and /r/Vive have been tracking deliveries very closely and have been stirred into a frenzy with each delay in the delivery process.  Both Oculus and HTC have had hiccups in shipping and many early pre-orders are still weeks or months away.

Each company still has a substantial backlog.  If you ordered a Rift today be prepared to wait until August for delivery.  HTC is faring a little better with a new order shipping in June.

cv1_unbox

These long queues are a nightmare for the impatient. The good news is that there are alternative channels for those who want a Rift or Vive today.

If you’re extremely impatient and have the money to spend then head over to eBay where you can find a Rift or Vive for double or triple the cost.

If you’re interested in a Rift and have some patience then there is an interesting alternative available.  Oculus has partnered with a few PC manufacturers to offer Rifts bundled with gaming PCs at normal retail outlets.  These bundles have had Rifts allocated from outside of the long back-order queue and can be delivered immediately when they are in stock.  For many people new to VR the bundle is a great option as includes an inexpensive VR capable PC and eliminates the headache of building or upgrading a PC.

amazon

Amazon has a variety of bundles available ready for shipment as soon as they’re  back in stock.  Reports from /r/Oculus have placed the delivery time at around two weeks from the time of order to delivery.  Two weeks is a huge improvement over the 16 week direct preorder.

How could this happen?  Is this a fluke?  Oculus likely has agreements in place with both retailers and the PC manufacturers to provide Rifts in these bundles so that they’re available in normal retail channels.  While most of the new Rifts off the assembly line will go to directly pre-orders some will be filtered off and sent through these channels to retail partners such as Amazon.  Oculus isn’t trying harm the community doing this, it’s in their best interest to get the Rift out to as many people as possible through various channels.

tl;dr – Want a Rift ASAP?  Skip the preorder line and go to Amazon for bundle.  You can get one in ~2 weeks.