We find out how Valve’s roomscale VR plan will change change homes forever – for better and worse
Well, if you thought clearing off the coffee table for a Wii Sports session was an inconvenience, or that 20 minutes of pre-party Rock Band kit setup was too much like hard work, you’re in for a heck of a shock. The problem with HTC Vive’s ambitious, often brilliant room-scale VR is that, as the term implies, it needs an entire room.
Rarely has the phrase ‘disruptive technology’ been meant so literally. You’re not clearing the coffee table, but picking it up and taking it out of the room; every piece of furniture and potential obstruction must be pushed right up against the perimeter of your chosen play space, or removed from it entirely. Vive requires full floor-to-ceiling coverage, too, so any location featuring fancy light fittings is a no-go.
You also need two high, diagonally opposite surfaces on which to mount its base station sensors – if you’ve no bookshelves, you’ll need to get your drill out to install the provided mounting brackets. Oh, and we assume you’ve got at least three spare power points in the right places – one for each base station, and another for the junction box that sits between HMD and PC. And if you connect your PC and TV over HDMI, and your GPU only has one HDMI slot, you’re going to have to rethink that, too, because Vive needs it. The arrival in the home of room-scale virtual reality means half a day’s head-scratching, furniture-moving and cablechasing, a displeased frown from your significant other, and disappointed offspring asking why their playroom’s been transformed into a health-and-safety nightmare. Sorry, kids, but the future comes at a cost, and we’re not just talking about the hefty £689 price tag.
Things improve markedly once everything is installed, though the workflow for Valve’s browser-based setup tutorial could do with some improvement. If we’re being kind, perhaps the decision to not have you download 2GB worth of SteamVR files until after you’ve rearranged your entire living room is Valve acknowledging that you could probably do with a sit down. (If only we had anywhere left to actually sit.) Once that’s done, though, the fun begins, as you use a wireless Vive controller to trace the perimeter of your play space – the haptics inside rumbling near solid surfaces like a Ghostbusters PKE Meter – and show SteamVR where your floor is by simply putting the