Running a FREE Public VR Setup For 4000 Hours Per Year.

Ryan Sternlicht
Mar 18 · 8 min read
Noisebridge VR area

The Headsets

VR Device problems

To help keep things organized, I have split the problems into sections

Controllers, Sensors, Cords, Link Box, Headstrap, Face foam, Audio

Controllers

Vive- After a few hundred hours of use we were no longer able to click right on the directional touchpad, it was always depressed. Taking the controllers apart and putting them back together after a clean helped for a few hundred more hours. This problem severely affects gameplay of some games.

Sensors

Vive- Very likely to break if dropped due to internal moving parts.

Cords

Vive- Our first headset connection cord which was never connected to an above head retractable cord holder system got bent and tied on the floor so many times that it started cutting out randomly from all the kinks.

Link Box (HTC Vive Only)

After about 300 hours of use the link box seemed to stop working. Thus we had to plug Vive hdmi and USB directly into computer and have only power go through box. After doing a few software updates in steam VR, and on Viveport, we tried using the link box again, and it worked fine.

Headstrap

Vive- Our first and second head straps delaminated between the in the back. The velcro also lost most of its holding strength. Then we got the audio headstrap and that helped a lot. But the foam on the back of the audio head strap has been getting loose and quite compressed.

Face Foam (for all devices)

Over time the original foam face pads got sweaty, compressed, and would be constantly misaligned with face due to lack of solid adhesion to headset velcro.

Audio

Vive- Without the audio headstrap it can be hard to put on headphones after the headset. Also you need to do something with the excess dangling audio cord length. With audio headstrap yo don’t need to worry about headphones, but as they are not over ear, but on ear headphones you looks some of the sound isolation, and the earpieces can slip.


The Computer

Original Computer Configuration

The computer we currently use is a MSI Trident 3 we bought at Fry’s Electronic for $850. It came with an i5–7400 on a H110 Chipset motherboard with 8GB of DDR4 2166 speed (single channel) memory and a Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB. The storage drive was a 1TB HHD.

Computer Upgrades

We very quickly upgraded the OS drive to a SSD to help with storage amount and speed of access to the system. More recently we got 16GB of matched two channel DDR4 ram at 3200 speed (though we are currently using mismatched ram, as CMOS clear is quite difficult currently (the original 8GB stick and one of the new ones)). To help with thermals, we took the GPU shroud off of the GPU.


The Setup

Overall Setup

Our setup is quite unique as it was developed for constant public use, as well as VR development and transportability for events. This means that most parts of it need to be easy to move, and simple to set up in a timely fashion. To hold our sensors steady we use a 10’x10’ pop up canopy tent. And the computer and monitors are house in a rolling AV cart.

Gaming Setup Ware

Green screen- Our green screen has gotten ripped a couple times where we attached them to our setup. Then when they were taken down once someone thought it was sewing fabric and moved it to our spaces sewing area where it was used to make a custom shirt for an Octopus.

Current Improvements

Protection mesh- To keep people from possibly running out the window behind our VR setup we have put a fishing net mesh across that side of the pop up tent.

Future Improvements

Our current setup works well, but there are a number of problems and inefficiencies. Most of these fall into one of three sections: safety, ware reduction, or usability.

Custom Protection Mesh (Safety)

Do you have a VR setup near a window, if so you might be worried that you or a friend might accidentally run out of it. We currently do and currently use a massive fishing net as a barrier on that side of the pop up, the current problem is the type off net it is is not very forgiving in terms of stretchiness and it is somewhat sharp feeling.

Custom Retractable Cable Dropdowns (Safety)

A number of companies online sell retractable cable management dropdown’s. These fully get rid of the tripping problem and the cord kinking problem. The problem is these are just slightly modified ID badge reels, they were not designed for VR’s use case of constant movement, and much heavier forces. This causes a new problem, as these cables don’t have enough force to retract the cable to the ceiling, thus you get the cord tied around your neck, or get hit in the face constantly by the cord.

Link Box Housing (Ware Reduction)

If you want to get the most space for a Vive you need to move the link box to the center of your play area (above the player), and use long USB 3.0, HDMI extension, and power cable to connect the link box to the computer.

Computer Cooling (Ware Reduction)

VR will pin all aspects of a computer if you push it. Thus a 230 watt setup will produce 230 watts of heat, which will heat up the area or room quite fast. And since the computer is in a closed box with very little airflow, it can heat up quite fast.

Green Screen (Usability)

If you want to have mixed reality recordings of your gameplay, you need a chroma key backdrop and floor. Most people I know choose green screens over blue screens as cameras have an easier time keying it out. We are planning to have our single green screen slide along the back and left sides of the VR booth, by having a loop running along the top that slides along our rigging rods, and a slit in the middle for the 90° bend. And green magnets at the bottom to hold it down.

Custom Rigging (Usability)

To hold up our protection mesh and the green screens we need sum custom bracket to attach our 10’ wooden dowels to the pop up tent. The dowels are what the green screens and protection mesh attach to at the top off the tent.

Custom Wall Mounts (Usability)

Me and a number of other Noisebridge game devs go to many conventions and it is always interesting seeing how people set up their sensors for their booth, of event. I have seen sensors mounted to walls with tape, on top of really expensive tripods, camera pipe clamp attached to objects in space, and even velcro command strips.

Computer Switcher (Usability)

As our computer is meant to be used for development, we need to be able to switch which computer is being connected to the Vive. So we are creating a HDMI and USB switcher system to switch the input to the Vive (and Rift in the future if possible). There will be a spot on the cart specifically to plug a laptop in to the cart and have it use the Vive.


Thank You

Hopefully if you are building a VR setup, you find this information useful.

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Ryan Sternlicht

Written by

Silicon Valley Global News SVGN.io

Silicon Valley Global News: Stories, Research, Advanced Concepts RE: Virtual Reality, AR, WebXR, AI Semantic Segmentation on 3D volumetric data, Medical Imaging, Neuroscience, Brain Machine Interfaces, Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Drones, Light Field Video, Homomorphic Encryption.