Apparently, there were good sales numbers for VR equipment prior to the holiday season, and therefore a host of new VR users are coming in just about now. This meta-post collects a bunch of stuff I’ve written (or presented) in the past that might be of interest to some of those new users. These questions/answers are not hardware-specific, meaning they apply to any current-generation VR system (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, all the Windows Mixed Reality headsets, PlayStation VR, …), and go beyond basic tech questions such as “how do I plug this in, install drivers, …).
- How does VR actually work? (presentation at VRLA ’16 Expo, 25 minutes) In other words, how does a collection of screens and lenses and tracking sensors etc. create the illusion of a virtual space that feels real?
- I heard I need to dial in my IPD, or Inter-Pupillary Distance. Do I need to go to (and potentially pay) an optometrist to have it measured, or can I do that myself at home? (This post is also referenced in the presentation I linked above.)
- What are the problems with artificial VR locomotion, i.e., moving through a virtual space via a joystick/touchpad/button or other means that does not involve actually walking? (presentation at a VR meet-up, 40 minutes) (This presentation is also referenced in the presentation I linked above.)
- Why do VR headsets have lenses, or how is it possible to see anything on a pair of screens that’s only an inch or so in front of ones eyes?
- If I’m near-sighted, do I have to wear my glasses or contact lenses inside a VR headset? After all, the screens are only an inch or so away. (Ha! Tricked ya! Different question, but same answer as above.)
- Why do things in VR look blurry when I bring them close to my eyes?
- Why does my vision feel “off” when I take the headset off after a long-ish session? (Tricked you again; same answer as above. Anything for a click!)
There is one other issue for which I do not have a full article, but it’s quite important for new users: VR sickness (aka motion sickness, simulator sickness, …). Today’s VR headsets, at least the ones doing full head tracking (that means Rift/Vive et al., and not Gear VR, Oculus Go, Google Cardboard, …) should not cause VR sickness per se. These days, it is primarily caused by artificial locomotion in games or applications, as I explain in the second presentation I linked above.
The important message is: do not attempt to fight through VR sickness! If you try to stomach it out, it will only get worse. Stop using VR the moment you feel the first symptoms, take a long break, and then try again if you want to continue with the application/game that made you sick. If you try to power through repeatedly, your body might learn to associate sickness with VR, and that might cause you to get sick even when merely thinking about VR, or smelling the headset, or similar triggers. Just don’t do it.
That’s about it; now go ahead and enjoy your shiny new VR systems!
Want to Know More?
Here are a couple of other, more hardware-specific, topics:
- How exactly does Oculus’s Constellation tracking system work? A deep dive into the Oculus Rift DK2’s camera tracking system — which works basically the same as the commercial Rift’s, in three posts:
- How exactly does HTC Vive’s Lighthouse tracking system work?
- How are tracking results from optical systems such as Constellation and Lighthouse combined with results from inertial measurement units to create smoother and more stable tracking results with less latency?