Vive Wrist Strap Swap

Vive wrist straps are sometimes the only thing preventing you throwing a very expensive piece of kit across the room. I’ve chosen to swap my Vive controller wrist straps with alternative items.

Caution: Swapping things around on your Vive may affect your warranty.

Vive controllers aren’t cheap.

The lanyard-type wrist straps are worn to prevent a dropped controller falling to the floor. However, there are also cases where dangling the controller from your wrist for a moment may be a matter of convenience. When I put my headphones over my HMD, I sometimes have both controllers free on their straps.

Sometimes when demonstrating the Vive to friends, they may forget to keep hold of the controllers. A thick wrist strap may just stop a Vive controller going flying.

The Vive controllers are impressive items. Well engineered and with a heft to their feel. They contain a significant amount of technology including sensors, touch-pads and a lithium polymer battery to power it all. As such, Vive controllers are a fairly expensive item if you have to replace one out of pocket. The Vive controller currently lists on vive.com for $129.99.

Finding the strongest Vive Wrist Strap.

The end of the Vive wrist strap that connects to the controller is relatively thin cord. If sufficient force is applied, it may be possible to snap the cord. Of course, this could mean a controller taking a big and potentially damaging fall.

On closer inspection of my controller wrist straps, I can see no sign as yet of any fraying or damage. To ease my mind, I decided based on the experience of others and given the very low cost, to replace them with heaviest-duty straps I could find.

My source of my replacement Vive controller straps is an OEM Nintendo Wii set. Nintendo has plenty of experience with enthusiastic gameplay involving hand-held controllers and their wrist straps are thicker. I would guess later iterations of the Vive wrist straps will likely be more substantial too.

Disclosure: I own a Nintendo Wii and have been an avid player of sports games. I’ve have a couple of controllers ‘saved’ by the wrist straps in the past. Whether these straps are actually stronger can only be regarded a guesswork as I haven’t test either set of straps to destruction.

There’s no red port left in the bottle.

The set of straps I bought cost under $10 . The replacement straps don’t directly match the original Vive wrist strap color. In fact, there’s no matched pair in the pack. I’ve taken this as an opportunity to differentiate one controller from the other. Other than very close inspection of the serial numbers, there’s no other way to tell the controllers apart. This can be useful when you know one controller is low on charge but with your Vive HMD off, you can’t remember which.

I went with the nautical tradition of red, left and green, right. Okay, in this case it’s actually pink, left but it’s close enough ;-).

I’m happier now that I’ve got thicker straps fitted. The main risk to my controllers in future is my unfortunate tendency to mentally tune-out the visual chaperon and run out of playing room.

Note that this wrist strap swap is personal choice and is not endorsed by either HTC or Nintendo 😉

Bohemia Interactive Simulations VR VBS3 live demo

Bohemia Interactive Simulations has again shown VR interaction with their VBS3 product at I/ITSEC 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

Sharing earlier development with engines that power the ArmA3 and DayZ video-games, VBS3 is a complex defense-industry training simulator product.

Bohemia Interactive Simulations VR with Oculus Rift

The multi-station Combined Arms demonstration included four Oculus Rift based stations. A two place F/A 18 crew and a driver/gunner Stryker vehicle crew.

Leap Motion cameras supplemented the Oculus HMDs. The F/A18 crew directly input data on the virtual aircraft’s cockpit MFDs with their fingers as one would in reality.

Earlier videos demonstrated tracked hands using the Leap Motion in VBS3.

The whole multi-station networked demo is run in real-time. It shows that BISim has huge confidence in their product and the VR integration appeared faultless.

VR Motion Platforms

Also of note in the Bohemia Interactive Simulations VR demo is Talon Simulations‘ Atomic A3 Motion Simulators. The F/A18 Pilot and the Stryker driver each sat in seats mounted on a A3 compact motion platform. The platforms receive simulation data from VBS3/VBS Blue to cue motion. The accelerations of the platform cue the human balance system to perceive in-environment physical movements.

The Oculus tracking camera is mounted on the moving part of the seat. This ensures the users head is tracked relative to the seat regardless of the orientation of the chair. The Leap Motion cameras similarly track relative to the Oculus HMD.

I’ve not had the opportunity to try VR combined with a motion platform. I’d imagine it helps with matching up the vestibular system with the visual cues from the HMD. This should allow for greater VR comfort as well as the obvious realism/immersion boost.

It’s also interesting to see practical combination of immersive VR users with simple desktop display users in the same environment.

This could allow highly immersive training for the students in the VR environment. Tutors can then perform the role of other units on the simple desktop stations. This is much like the established training method used in fixed-base and motion platform aircraft simulators for pilot training.

 

 

H3VR Christmas Advent Calendar

I’m not having a Christmas tree this year. The fact is, the only space I have to put one is inside my Vive room-scale space and that’s not going to happen 😉 Developer Anton to the rescue with the H3VR Christmas Advent Calendar!

H3VR Christmas Cracker

This month, Hotdogs Horseshoes & Hand-Grenades is being updated every day up to Christmas with an advent calendar box containing new goodies to add to the item spawner. The H3VR Christmas advent calendar is filled with new guns and other stuff that goes boom and/or jingle.

To access the advent calendar, make sure H3VR is up-to-date in Steam. Then, in game, hit the “Meatmas” button on the left of the selection board. You’ll find yourself in a snowy Christmas environment. Christmas candy-canes and festive hot-dogs abound.

Christmas Chill

You’ll almost have a warm, festive feeling inside until you realize the truth. You’ve been shrunk and trapped in a snow-globe at Anton’s place. 😯

In any case, there’s no escape so don’t bother fighting it. Instead, enjoy the Christmas gifts on offer. Each gift or set of gifts is found inside an advent box. Simply find the day’s advent numbered box and pull the lever down on the right.

To funky music and confetti, the front of the box slides up. Inside is a description of the gifts you’ve received and the gifts themselves. Note that these gifts are also now available from the item spawner.

I was a bit late to the game and joined the H3VR Christmas calendar a bit late at day 10. This meant a bit of a binge of opening advent boxes. The first few are easy to find. The others you need to roam around to spot. It’s not terribly hard to find them, the confines of the snow-globe aren’t huge.

There’s no cheating though, the advent boxes only appear on the day of their update. You’ll notice Steam updates every day. If you can’t find a day’s box, ensure H3VR has updated in Steam.

Such a stream of new treats every day is everything an early-access title should be and much more.

New toys in the box.

H3VR Tactical Melee Yule Log
My tricked-out virtual yule log.

My new favourite toy so far is definitely the Tactical Melee Yule Log. A classic yuletide log, it has a wreath of holly wrapped around it. It also has several Picatinny rails.

I haven’t quite decided what to do with mine yet. It’s currently sporting a hand-grip and a scope. Maybe I’ll give it a laser sight too…

Day 9 was rather awesome, 3 bullpup rifles including an L85A1 (Please can I have a SUSAT to go with it next Christmas?). Day 10 included an “L25 Jingle Nade” with the expected effect. 🙂

rudolphI also had some fun making up one of the new bolt-action rifles with some reindeer antlers and a red nose. I christened it Rudolph the Red-Nose Rifle. Sometimes, I’m so witty it hurts…

Just remember to use tall rail adapters for the scope or yule [sorry] have an eye-full of red nose.

On the Christmas List.

There’s also a H3VR Christmas Card competition running until the 18th. Basically, create the best H3VR Christmas Card, post it on Reddit and win a prize! Full entry details can be found here: https://www.reddit.com/r/H3VR/comments/5g7cqg/h3vr_merry_meatmas_holiday_card_contest_dec_2nd/

H3VR itself is in early access, you can find it in the VR section on Steam.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 VR Quality Settings

Beta support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive has been available in Euro Truck Simulator 2 for some time. Unfortunately, the beta default quality settings leave something to be desired. With the default settings, the image appears ‘jagged’. The image in the far distance seems often to be a jumble of pixels.

I’ve been experimenting with ETS2 quality settings on the Vive. I think I’ve achieved some significant improvement. If you’ve been struggling with the VR quality settings, hopefully I can help you out here.

This article looks at the most useful settings to change to improve visual quality.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 VR Quality Settings Config File.

ETS2 has some VR specific config options contained within a config file. You should find config.cfg at My Documents\Euro Truck Simulator 2. First of all, make a backup of this file.

Lines that I worked with were:

Vive/OpenVR-specific:

uset o_openvr_independent_timewarp "0"
uset o_openvr_interleaved_reproject "0"

These are really about VR performance consistency. You can experiment with them. Switch either to “1” or both to “0” but not both to “1” and see what works (or feels) best.

Finding the line with uset r_mode, I set it to:

uset r_mode "2160x1200x32x0"

This matches up to the HMD’s native resolution.

Also, make sure MSAA is off. It’s unhelpful for VR in ETS2.

uset r_msaa "0"

r_manual_stereo_buffer_scale.

Now, the real game-changer (pardon the pun) is r_manual_stereo_buffer_scale.

This setting can be used to increase the size of the rendered image. The rendered image is then distorted for VR. It appears the better the quality of the initial image, the better the quality of the VR image. Especially in the far distance.

There’s a trade-off though, the higher you set this, the greater the peformance penalty for your GPU. I found using a GTX 970 that a setting of “1.3” was smooth and looked better. A setting of “1.5” or more made for a very much improved scene. However, at “1.5”, there was judder depending on the scene complexity.



The trick is to find a happy middle ground between quality and performance. With at least at GTX 970 or equivalent, I recommend starting off with:

uset r_manual_stereo_buffer_scale "1.3"

…and work up from there.

Hitting the speed limit.

This setting gave the single biggest improvement in visual quality for me.

The higher the performance your graphics card provides, the higher you can go with this setting. Go too high and you’ll see and feel the framerate dropping off.

You can recover some FPS by reducing the video quality settings in the game menu. Be sure to leave ‘scaling’ at 100% and MSAA off. Most of the other settings yield a little performance improvement. With current Virtual Reality systems being more about the ‘feel’ than the overall look, you can do without some of the bells and whistles.

ETS2-VR-Screenshot
The unedited, unstretched screenshot. The instrument cluster didn’t render for the screenshot but with readable in the HMD in-game.

Due to the way screenshots work in VR, it’s not possible to directly convey how much improvement you can get. You need to try the settings for yourself and make up your own mind what works best.

Certainly, getting rid of the jagged edges in the far distance makes a big difference. This takes the simulator from playable to enjoyable with VR in my opinion.

If you find settings that work well for you, consider posting them in the comments section below.

 

 

High Fidelity VR with Vive on SteamVR

I am currently trying out the High Fidelity VR beta on Steam with the HTC Vive. I first noticed ‘HiFi’ on Steam earlier in the week before its release. Sufficiently intrigued, I downloaded the beta from the HiFi website.

High Fidelity VR

High Fidelity VR is a multi-user, multi-location open VR environment.

The underlying goal of the project seems to be to provide the framework that allows presentation of any kind of VR experience. The concept is a bit like a web-browser. You connect your HiFi ‘browser’ (called ‘Interface’) to a server. The server provides the environment, communication, physics and assets for a multi-user VR experience.

Firing up High Fidelity from SteamVR drops you in a basic introduction and orientation tutorial. The tutorial demonstrates the HiFi controls and user-interface. Vive controllers can be configured to allow touchpad movement.

High Fidelity VR Vive Touchpad ControlsTo enable touchpad movement, press the menu button on one of your Vive controllers. That’s the button above the touchpad. Now use the ‘laser’ to highlight:

SETTINGS > Advanced Movement For Hand Controllers

You will now be able to move around using the Vive touchpads.

The left pad up and down moves backwards and forwards. Left and right moves you left and right. On the right pad, left and right turns your body left and right. Up and down lets you fly up and descend. (Yes, you can fly in HiFi).

A web of worlds.

The individual ‘Worlds’ of High Fidelity have inter-linked teleportation points. This is like the hyperlinks that allow you to click your way around the web. I went through one such teleport and experienced a simulation of human cells from the inside. As of writing, there’s about 80 such ‘Worlds’. However, I’ve not had chance to visit many.

High Fidelity feels more than a little like Second Life in some ways. It’s no coincidence; High Fidelity Inc was started by Philip Rosendale, the creator and former CEO of Second Life.

Unlike pre-defined VR experiences, High Fidelity VR allows for user created assets. Upon joining High Fidelity’s ‘locations’ virtual assets are progressively downloaded. Bandwidth may constrain how quickly assets are loaded.

Meeting Virtual People.

High Fidelity VR Greeter
High Fidelity VR Greeter helping newcomers in the Welcome area.

High Fidelity Inc have thoughtfully included ‘Greeters’. These are avatars that meet and greet in the welcome area. The HiFi greeters are real people using HTC Vives. Greeters help you out with your first steps in High Fidelity.

A surreal experience was stumbling into a virtual corporate meeting being held by an avatar that looked rather like Philip Rosendale. It seems like the meeting was with the representative of another company. It shows some real faith in the High Fidelity product having meetings in there.

The detail of HiFi avatars is notable. The movements follow my tracked movements. If I wave with my hand, my avatar repeats the gesture. If I squat, likewise my avatar squats.

High Fidelity tracks your head movements (with the HMD). Some avatars seem to have moving gaze. I’m not certain whether this is mimicked or if some users have eye tracking. It does suggest on the High Fidelity Inc website that gaze tracking is or will-be a feature.

When speaking, at least some of the avatars have (presumably voice activated) mouth movements. Along with the positional audio, this simplifies picking out which avatar in a group is speaking.

An experience within an experience.

High Fidelity VR Bowling
Bowling in High Fidelity VR

At one point, a greeter summoned a ten-pin bowling alley. The interface is intuitive enough that you can simply take a ball and take a shot. The Physics of High Fidelidy is distributed over the network. If I throw the ball over-arm down the alley, everybody else sees my throw that way. Playing catch seems a common introductory pastime in the welcome area. Avatars batting beachballs around is a common sight.

High Fidelity VR is free and open source.

It’s always nice when something is free and it just so happens HiFi is both free to use and open-source. Thats not to say you can’t spend your money on HiFi. There are ‘in-experience’ payments via the marketplace for premium virtual items. There’s also the option to buy a ‘domain-name’ for your self-hosted virtual location. The payments are entirely option and not necessary just to use High Fidelity.

If you wish, it is possible to run your own High Fidelity location. For this you need your own webserver and some technical knowhow. You can create your own virtual environment with your own assets.

High Fidelity is available on Steam.

Simply search for High Fidelity within the Steam Store. The Steam install should keep your copy of Interface up to date. The welcome area has become busier since the release on steam and I did encounter some frame-rate issues. Especially while digital assets were downloading.

It is worth remembering that High Contrast is currently in beta so it may have bugs. Hopefully a greeter will be there to help you out if you encounter any.

 

Google Daydream Compatible Phones

Google’s new VR headset: Daydream View requires a suitable “Daydream Ready” smartphone to operate. Here is a list of known Google Daydream Compatible Phones.

Taking it’s lead from the earlier Google Cardboard project, the Daydream View is a polished HMD constructed largely from comfortable fabrics and designed to accept a number of smartphones. A tracked remote control allows for greater VR environment interaction.

At launch, Google’s own Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are the only fully “Daydream Ready” phones on the market.

Further Google Daydream Compatible Phones are in the works. Several manufacturers have announced that they have forthcoming Google Daydream certified handsets.

Google Daydream Compatible Phones List

ManufacturerModelPriceDate available
Google IncPixel Confirmed$649October 20 2016
Google IncPixel XL Confirmed$769October 20 2016
MotorolaMoto Z Confirmed$624~November 21 2016 (Android 7.0)
MotorolaMoto Z Force Confirmed$720~November 21 2016 (Android 7.0)
ZTEAxon 7 Confirmed$400July 27 2016. Daydream Compatible with Nougat Update.
Asus ZenFone AR ConfirmedTBCQ2 2017 [TBC]

Google Inc.

Pixel and Pixel XL Google Daydream compatible phones
Image by
Maurizio Pesce
/ CC BY

Google lists the first Daydream Compatible phones as the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones.

Google lists both of these high-end smartphone handsets as Daydream Ready devices.

The two handsets are already on sale with list prices of $649 for the Pixel and $769 for the Pixel XL.

Motorola

With the update to Android 7, Motorola has announced that the Moto Z and Moto Z Force are Daydream Compatible. The updates to Android 7 will be rolled out as of the week starting November 21 2016. The Moto Z RRP starts at $624 which is slightly less than the Google Pixel.

ZTE

ZTE have confirmed their Axon 7 is Daydream compatible as of the Android Nougat update. As of mid February 2017, the Axon 7 is the cheapest Daydream phone on the market.

The ZTE Axon 7 costs $400.

Unconfirmed Daydream VR phones:

Asus

Asus announced at CES 2017 that the Asus ZenFone AR will be Daydream VR compatible. Tango compatibility (Google’s Augmented Reality Platform) is also featured on the ZenFone AR.

The Asus ZenFone AR is expected to be released around Q2 2017.

Other Google Daydream Compatible Manufacturers.

According to The Verge, Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei and Alcatel will also be hardware partners for Google Daydream.

Google Daydream Compatible phones have yet to be announced for these partners.

I will update this page as and when new information on Google Daydream Compatible Phones becomes available.

H3VR Meatgrinder Update is Awesome

The H3VR Meatgrinder update dropped last night. Developer Anton Hand has been teasing us on Twitter with the countdown.  It’s been worth the wait for this special Halloween update.

Early access release 26 of Hotdogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades is a special update. It marks the moment H3VR became more than just a guns ‘n’ ammo simulator. There’s now a serious gaming element to it.

Don’t call me Alice.

H3VR Meatgrinder Warnings
These warnings aren’t just for show.

When you next fire up H3VR you’ll see the new ‘MEATGRINDER’ option in the menu. Give it a push and you’ll find yourself in a room full of warning boards with a small table at the end. The warnings are mostly common sense VR practices. Pay special attention to clearing your roomscale space, the action can get wild!

On the small table are two hotdogs with a sign saying “Eat Me”. The only trouble is, you’re not Alice and this isn’t Wonderland.

You’ll next find yourself in a room with a table. On the table are all the worldly goods you’re going to start with.

h3vr-meatgrinder-you-get-what-youre-given
At least you get a free brain…

You’ll get a firearm and ammo. I swear the first magazine I got only had a few rounds in it. Your mileage may vary. Anything else you need you’ll have to find along the way. There’s a flashlight and also a melee weapon. Over a loudspeaker system, you’ll hear the voice of your sadistic host. Apparently, he’d like you to play a little game…

H3VR Meatgrinder is going to hurt.

I don’t want to drop too many spoilers. The awesomeness of H3VR Meatgrinder is in the surprises. Suffice to say, if it moves in this game, it’s unlikely to be healthy for you.

A couple of hints I will give you. Take your flashlight and put it on one of your upper carrying positions. It will face broadly in the direction you’re facing. You will need your hands for the action! Secondly, when searching filing cabinets, go for the bottom drawers first. Once opened they can be awkward to shut.

A quality VR game.

mechanized-killer-hotdogI thought Hotdogs Horseshoes & Hand Grenades was worth the money when it was just a simulator. Now it is a full-on VR action game. You work up a real sweat when you panic, fumble your magazine and drop your melee weapon as one of Anton’s homicidal creations bears down on you.

H3VR Meatgrinder’s game mechanics are much as before. I’ve been using the “menu button to slide” locomotion. With the smooth start-stop sliding, I’ve experienced little of the wobbly-knees. I did find a difference in the 4-way touchpad menu. It seems I have to pull the Vive controller trigger to select the menu item.

The graphics are good as ever. It’s worth stopping to check out the wall posters and demotivationals. Even though the game has you on the clock, they’re very entertaining.

H3VR early access is currently $19.99 on Steam.

Portable Vive Base Stations on Photo Light Stands

The HTC Vive Base-Stations provide the magic that allows roomscale VR but if you can’t drill holes in your wall, positioning them can be a conundrum.

Perhaps you rent your home and rules say no drilling or perhaps you’d like a portable setup that you can move around at will.

Let me share with you my solution to the non-permanent / portable Vive Basestation question:

HTC Vive Basestation on a Lighting Stand

Continue reading “Portable Vive Base Stations on Photo Light Stands”

Pumpkin SculptrVR $100 Halloween Contest

If you’re a HTC Vive / SteamVR user, SculptrVR have released a free Halloween-special version of their VR world-building experience; “Pumpkin SculptrVR”.

Pumpkin SculptrVR allows you to hollow-out the voxels of your very own virtual Jack-o-lanterns complete with candle lighting. Continue reading “Pumpkin SculptrVR $100 Halloween Contest”

Hello Virtual World

Every blog has its first post and it is often the least read so well done if you found this one. This is a first post with a difference though; i’m writing it from within a virtual environment. Specifically, I’m using a HTC Vive system with SteamVR’s virtual keyboard and built-in VR web browser.

Learning to type in VR

It’s a bit like typing on a smartphone, the Vive controller’s ‘laser’ acting as a long virtual finger or stylus. I have to admit it has some limitations.

Typing in VR with SteamVR's virtual keyboard with the Vive remote
Typing on SteamVR’s virtual keyboard with the Vive remote ‘laser’ wand.

Continue reading “Hello Virtual World”