VR 101: Virtual reality demonstration tips and tricks

Thinking about throwing a VR party? Here’s some tips and tricks for throwing your own demonstrations.

(Note: Written with SteamVR and HTC Vive in mind.)

For more information on safety and etiquette, check out ‘Suggestions and Guidelines for Safety in a Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality HMD during public demos‘ written by Suzanne Leibrick.

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Smaller groups work better.

I too, once thought that having a huge VR party would be fun but after having a group of 3–4 people over, I realized it was enough. Like all good things, you need to account for space and time: room scale takes enough room as it is, but to really allow someone to process and absorb the experience for the first time, the more time the better. You’re popular and have a ton of friends? Just schedule multiple tiny VR parties, cool guy.

Introduce the equipment before someone steps in the VR environment.

One of the coolest things about the HTC Vive controller is that it can look like anything in a virtual environment. Because of this, it’s important to show someone where all the buttons are. This way, it’s easy to give hints and instructions to first timers. Awareness of base stations and the Chaperone system is also key: blocking base stations can affect tracking and if you’re trying to avoid accidents, Chaperone is only going to help so urge folks to start backing off once that bright coloured grid comes up.

Ease them into virtual reality — experiences over arcade first.

Maybe it was just me (OK I know it’s not just me) but I was blown away with my first VR experience, especially being spoiled with room scale so really let the technology shine here. You only get to try VR for the first time once so if you can help it, let the moment linger. Minimal interactive experiences like theBlu are probably the best here. Minds will be blown at first, but the natural desire to interact will come.

Cater to familiarity.

One reason why virtual reality is amazing is that I think it can speak to everybody. I have watched people from all walks of life, different ages, different industries experience VR and I believe there is something for everyone: Tiltbrush for the artists, Brookhaven Experiment and Abbot’s Book for horror fans, The Lab and Holopoint for the gamers… It’s endless. Cater to someone’s interests and they will be hooked.

Mirror your audio and use an external display for the group to see.

I’ve watched people play in virtual reality without any audio and without context, it can be funny (but also quite boring). It’s possible to have the headset’s audio mirror to another audio source with SteamVR’s Audio Settings. See below:

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Did you remember to charge your batteries?

I’m pretty impressed with the HTC Vive controller battery life but when they’re on their last leg of a charge, things get jittery. This goes for a lot of things — full performance requires a full charge. Planning on doing an all-day demo marathon? USB chargers that you may be familiar with to charge your mobile devices work with the HTC Vive controllers as well but folks will have to have pockets to put them in!

Always use protection. Or something.

If you plan on running a ton of demos, it might be time to invest in a headset cover. Actually if you plan on using your HTC Vive a lot, you should just invest in a headset cover. (Maybe some lens protectors too.)

So, thinking about going to a VR demonstration?

Leave the big nerd glasses at home. Better yet, wear your contacts.

You can wear your glasses with the Vive headset which is really great however glasses have been known to scuff the lenses. Bigger framed glasses with the Vive will also be very uncomfortable and press against your face, even distorting the display.

Save the foundation makeup for later.

If you wear a lot of full coverage makeup, try not to wear it when attending a VR demonstration. It will transfer onto the headset foam and be a burden to clean. Not to mention it will make your makeup look uneven! Save it for later.

You’re going to be moving around.

The first time I ever tried VR I was wearing a corset. Nope. Do not. You will surprisingly be active. Just like real life, watch your form. No injuries here. Wear comfortable clothes.

Picky about headphones? Bring your own.

I wholeheartedly believe that noise cancelling headphones work best for immersion so for the first time, use them even if they’re massive but if you want to move on to an active game, it might be best for more compact headphones.

Keep an open mind.

I was a skeptic and most people are. You’re allowed to be skeptical. Watching others interact with a virtual environment on a 2D display just doesn’t translate the experience. Just like seeing your friends’ photos of Disneyland and other travel photos, it’s just not the same as being there for yourself.