The explosion of consumer-grade virtual reality systems over the last year has created a lot of excitement and not just a little uncertainty. VR systems have been around for decades, but only in the last year or so have they reached the point where it’s possible for average consumers to actually assemble one.
Like any technology, adapting to home use takes a little bit of work. But with a tape measure and a few screws, you can be up and running fairly quickly.
Sit Down, It’s Gonna Be a Wild Ride
You can have an immersive experience with virtual reality just by sitting down in a comfy chair. It’s an arrangement that lends itself well to flight sims and “space sims.” The product that is probably best suited to this setup is the PlayStation VR (PSVR), although the Oculus Rift can be also used seated.
For the PSVR, a rough visualization can be achieved by picturing a 10-foot-by-5-foot storage unit. It doesn’t sound like much, but for the average living room, it’s enough. You’ll want an extra two feet of space in front of the PlayStation Camera to compensate for a blind spot, but that’s easily taken care of for all but the most cramped of quarters.
Enlarging Your World
When most people picture virtual reality, their first image is of somebody wandering around a dedicated room with a headset covering their eyes. This is known as room scale VR, and it’s possible to build it using a good-sized living room and existing home theater systems.
VR headsets use IR and laser sensor base stations to translate your movement into the game by following the headset, so the placement and arrangement of those base stations will define your play space.
For the Oculus Rift, an area about 5 feet square will provide enough space to move around in and otherwise navigate for playing on your feet. The Rift will need three base stations arranged in a rough triangle for optimal performance.
The HTC Vive, on the other hand, can operate with spaces up to 16.5 feet across, allowing for more freedom of movement. Only two base stations set diagonally from each other are needed, but make sure they have clear lines of sight.
The Hard Stuff
Putting together a VR room setup has gotten a lot simpler than it used to be, but it’s by no means easy. Wearing a VR headset, you’re effectively blind to your immediate real world surroundings, so extra care should be taken to make sure no furniture is in or near the play space.
Aside from the Gear VR, most virtual reality headsets are not wireless, which means that you stand a chance of tripping over cables if you’re not careful. Plus, if you’re going to be on your feet a lot, an anti-fatigue floor mat will be a good investment.
And while you’re probably not going to be worrying as much about repetitive strain on your wrists and thumbs, eye strain is a much more immediate concern, along with motion sickness.
Finally, you’re going to need some computing horsepower to really make these systems perform. The PS4 console can handle the PSVR system, obviously. For the Rift and the Vive, you’re looking at installing purpose-built custom computers with cutting-edge graphics cards that will tie into existing home theater systems.
Putting in a call to Performance Audio can help sort out the logistical concerns, since they have experience with custom home theater in San Francisco, and they can get you ready to experience a new reality.