HTC Vive 6mm VR Cover Review

When you get your first Rift or HTC Vive HMD, you’re supplied with a foam pad that separates your face from the hard plastics of the HMD. The trouble with these pads is that they can wear quickly and soak up all manner of sweat and nastiness from your face during an energetic VR session.

The foam pads also distance you somewhat from the display optics. This can be to allow for glasses-users to fit their prescription lenses between their face and the optics. However, it also reduces the immersion factor of the displays.

Shortening the distance between your face and the optics boosts the feeling of immersion. This can be achieved by using thinner foam pads. To this end, I puchased a set of 6mm VR Covers for my HTC Vive.

VR Cover 6mm Review

6mm VR Cover HTC Vive Kit

I’ve been using VR Cover ever since I bought my first ‘modern’ HMD, the Occulus Rift DK2. Back then the cover I was using was a soft fabric item. The cover was designed to be wrapped around the original foam. Getting accurate alignment of the cover was a little tricky.

Later, when I bought my HTC Vive, I bought a second set of covers from VR Cover. As before these were wrap covers for the existing foam. Instead of the soft fabric, I went for the new, leather-style wipe-clean option. I actually found these more comfortable than the soft fabric version.

However, this still left the original thickness of the foam and the covers were still a bit tricky to fit. VR Cover then began offering a complete replacement pad as an all-in-one solution. These pads are also available in different thickness options.

The OEM foam pad on the HTC Vive is held in place by a velcro ‘hook’ strip that runs around the edge of the HMD where it meets your face. It stands to reason, a replacement felt-backed foam pad of the same dimensions can be substituted with relative ease.

The 6mm VR Cover foam pad kit

The 6mm VR Cover does just this. Made from a similar material to the wipe-clean covers I had before, the 6mm VR Cover is an all-in-one replacement pad and wipe-clean cover.

The kit I bought included two 6mm thick VR Cover foam pads in wipe-clean black. The kit was delivered in a handy re-sealable bag so you can keep the second pad dust-free in reserve.

While the quality of the packaging is great, preserving the resealability means opening it carefully. It took me a couple of minutes to get inside!

The two pads in the packet are, as you’d expect, notably thinner than the OEM pads they’re designed to replace.

The material quality is excellent, closely resembling the black leather-style material of my earlier VR Cover wipe-clean covers.

VR Cover 6mm Texture

With the cover material being completely integrated with the foam and the backing material, it really is a simple swap for the OEM foam.

The felt backing is designed to easily attach itself to the Vive’s existing Velcro strip.

VR Cover 6mm Backing Felt

Fitting the 6mm VR Cover to the HTC Vive

The kit includes visual instructions for swapping the VR Cover in place of the OEM foam pad on your HTC Vive. There is also a URL to visit which includes a video demonstration of the installation process.

While the installation of the VR Cover is simple, I did hit a snag with the Vive’s velcro strip. The Velcro strip on the Vive is the ‘hook’ side of the system. It is applied to the Vive as an adhesive backed strip. Unfortunately, the strength of the velcro exceeded the adhesive in the area near the nose pads.

I noticed straight away that the adhesive was pulling away and stopped. I revised my strategy, stuck the strip back down and pulled the velcro away in the opposite direction. This is a bit of a failing in the HTC Vive where HTC probably didn’t consider that their customers would want to change their foam pads so often.

With the HTC Vive’s OEM foam pad removed, the 6mm VR Cover can then be applied. The instruction detail how to do this, starting at one edge and working your way across.

Naturally, ham-fistedness and lack of patience meant this didn’t go to plan for me. I had three goes at doing it the recommended way but always managed to misalign it.

I ended up making my own method. With the Vive HMD face-down in my lap, I bent the VR Cover inward and touched the VR Cover against the Velcro at the top mid-point of the Velcro strip. I then worked outward and managed to get the VR Cover installed satisfyingly straight. 🙂

Deeper into VR

It’s fair to say I was a bit excited at this point about trying out the greater immersion from the reduced eye-to-optic distance. So much so, I forgot that the HMD strap adjustment would be significantly different and the Vive promptly rotated down to my chin 😀

After adjusting the head straps correctly, I put the Vive back on and was immediately impressed with the difference.

I’ve always likened the modern VR HMD experience to pushing ones face through a hole in a wall to the virtual reality. How far you perceive your face to be going through that wall defines how immersive the experience feels.

With the stock, OEM foam pads on the Vive, there was still the awareness of the optics and the feeling of my face and eyes being at the inside edge of the ‘wall’ in virtual reality. While good, you knew it could be improved.

With the VR Cover 6mm pads, the difference was notable. It now felt that my face was well through the wall in virtual reality. I felt that more of my peripheral vision was exposed to the visuals. I could look to the side at slightly greater angles than before without seeing the inside of the HMD.

The passive elements of immersion were improved also. Previously, there was a gap below my eyes into the real world. In a lit room, this would reduce the overall immersive effect. The 6mm VR Cover meant this gap was gone, blocking all light from the room.

I also realized at this point, I’d been using the gap to ‘cheat’ and occasionally look directly at my Vive controllers when I was picking them up. Hey, you can’t win em all!

Comfortable Covers

The VR Cover pads also covered the edges of the HMDs plastic with a good margin. This meant that there was no sensation of the plastics digging into my face. This can be an issue with some ‘homebrew’ methods of reducing the face/optics distance.

The all-in-one VR Covers are massively more comfortable than the OEM foam for me. The OEM foam could sometimes seem almost abrasive and often sweaty. The VR Cover material is a colossal improvement.

One concern I had was that the reduced gap between my eyes and the HMD as well as the closed gap under my nose would mean more steaming-up of the optics. I’m happy to say I didn’t encounter any steaming up during a 1 hour session with the Vive.

I suspect the lack of steaming-up is because my breath, especially when exhaling through my nose was now diverted entirely under the HMD rather than rising through the gap below my eyes.

Conclusion

The 6mm VR Cover for the HTC Vive is a great product. Personally, I believe it’s a must-have product not just for the improved comfort over the OEM foam but for the overall improved experience when used with your HTC Vive.

The good only reason not to use the 6mm covers is if you wear glasses with your Vive and need the extra clearance. If this is the case, there’s a 14mm thick version of the same covers available or even VR Lens Lab for a fully integrated solution.

The 6mm VR Cover kit with two covers for the HTC Vive is available directly from VR Cover for $29

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 😉

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.

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”