Written by Micah Blumberg March 2016: You can use the Vive sitting down, you can use the Vive if you only have a small space for tracking, and it is possible to even use it with only one Lighthouse station. This means that everything you can do on the other VR headsets you can also do on the Vive. You don’t have to utilize room scale tracking. It will work for people in wheel chairs, and people who have limited mobility as well. So far everyone that I have seen test out the HTC Vive room scale experience comes away amazed by the profound experience that it is.
Room-scale position tracking with this much precision in the tracking itself makes for an incredible experience according to everyone I know who has experienced it. Some people are wondering if room scale is a phase, like the wii mote, like wii sports. You can argue that it’s not unlike the Wii mote the Vive tracking is perfect. That is why people keep saying that having a Vive is like having your own personal Star Trek Holodeck, or the X-men’s Hologram Training Room. Once you try Virtual Reality inside room scale tracking you realize this is what Virtual Reality was meant to be. The tracking is 1:1 perfect, how you move in reality matches how you see your movements in VR. Maybe you are thinking, yeah so what if room scale tracking is laser perfect, I want to sit on my couch, and I don’t have a 15×15 room, can I do that? Well yes you can, you can use the Vive for sitting down experiences, and you can use it in smaller spaces
I was at CES and I tried Elite Dangerous and it was a seated experience, it only used one Vive lighthouse station it had the Saitek X52 joystick connected to it. it’s a big gaming controller. It’s perfect for a space ship simulator like Elite Dangerous. The Saitek joystick was a great match for Elite Dangerous and the HTC Vive incase you are wondering
I was playing it and the tracking was perfect, and even with only one light house station on the tracking worked better than any other VR system that I have used for Seated VR experiences. I have also played Eve Valkyrie on the Consumer Version of the Oculus Rift, and while it is a beautiful game that everyone should play I got motion sickness playing it which I blame on Oculus’s constellation tracking system.
I have also tried the Oculus Rift in room scale tracking mode, with Oculus Touch controllers, and one sensor in each corner diagonally from one another. It was with the Bullet Time demo by Epic, I was teleporting around really fast and I got motion sickness. There are a lot of reasons for why that may have happened but my suspicion is that the Oculus constellation tracking system is to blame for that. In contrast I have heard people say that they have used the Oculus Touch without getting motion sickness. So just because it happened to me does not mean it can’t be fixed before you try it.
I have teleported around really fast on the HTC Vive without getting motion sickness. So if I want to play a seated space game like Eve or Elite Dangerous you know I am going to play it sitting down inside the HTC Vive if I have the option. As you know Elite Dangerous is a seated experience and it was a great experience. Elite on Vive is flawless, and it was just as good as the stand up experiences.
Now regarding space: Just because it can do up to a 15 by 15 foot room with two lighthouses doesn’t mean you have to do that. If you have 5 feet by 6 feet of space that is going to be enough for the majority of Vive experiences. Most people have that kind of space even in a small dorm room or small office you may have to move your desk out of the way you may have to move a couple things in your room but usually there is at least three feet of space in front of your door, because the door has to swing open all you need is two or three more feet from the door, and then take that distance and make it a square by moving stuff to the side. A space that is 6 feet by 5 feet is enough to stand up, to crouch down, to move your arms forward or around, or backwards, to turn around, that is enough space to have a full and complete and exciting virtual reality experience. A lot of Vive developers, like the team that makes Job Simulator, are planning to make their games fully usable in very small spaces.
Also know that if you have to set up in a smaller space you do not have to worry about hitting the walls because the chaperone system works really well to prevent you from accidentally hitting anything. A lot of the Vive apps seem to be meant for standing up, walking around, moving your arms a lot, but that does not mean you can’t use a chair in them. Some games like Elite Dangerous that are coming that are meant to be used in a chair. Even if you decide to not stand up, and even if you do not have a big room, you still get to use the extremely good position tracking that the HTC Vive is known for. This tracking system is also called SteamVR and it’s also called the Valve Lighthouse, because when you set up a tracking area for your Vive you are setting up an invisible house of light that the sensors can use to pin point the headset and controller positions. I have tried a dozen different tracking systems for Virtual Reality and I think the Vive Lighthouse is the best tracking system out there.
I would have to say that there is nothing that is perfectly on par with it in terms of comfort though. I do have to say that good tracking is good for comfort but also it has to do with frame-rate, latency, low persistence, and other technologies you get the best tracking system on the Vive but you get a 90 hertz frame rate maximum. I would say that while the Vive tracking system is the best overall for comfortable Virtual Reality experiences. In second place I would say that the Playstation VR, with it’s 120 hz capable and comfortable headset is also one of the most comfortable Virtual Reality systems. The resolution and tracking on PS VR does not seem to be as pinpoint accurate as the Vive but it is still a great product and I would love to have one in addition to my HTC Vive.
About the author:
Micah is a researcher, entrepreneur, and journalist who covers virtual reality, cognitive science, biology, and AI.
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