Setup the Oculus Rift (including Steam VR)

Posted on: March 3rd, 2017 by Jason Hawken
This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Virtual Reality Beginners Guide

How to setup the Oculus Rift

You are now the proud owner of a top of the line Virtual Reality system like 80s movies predicted would be normal in the 90s. So it took a bit longer than we expected but at least it’s here now, and it’s not some primitive junk that gives you a headache with ugly red graphics. And your bank account probably is so empty that you are looking forward to a month of ramen noodles for dinner. But none of that matters because you can now open a Rift™ to another dimension in your bedroom. While this doesn’t involve satanic rituals, there are a few steps to follow. Let’s get started.

Before you fiddle around with the software it’s a good idea to plan out your play space. Setup for one sensor is a bit different from two or more sensors so we will cover these setups separately.

Sensors

Tips for setting up oculus sensors

  • Make sure your sensors are placed in a stable position where they are not likely to be bumped or moved. The sensors calculate your position with precision accuracy. Any change in the sensors position, angle or orientation will cause the virtual world to not line up properly.
  • Sitting the sensor on top of your computer can cause issues because the fans inside might vibrate the sensor.
  • Because the sensors are basically digital cameras they require line of sight to work. Make sure nothing will block the sensor’s view to the Rift or the Touch controllers.
  • The sensors have a limited field of view and a sweet spot in terms of distance. (see below)
  • The Rift’s tracking system works with infrared light so rooms that get a lot of sunlight can be problematic. Try to block it out as best you can.
  • Accuracy increases when more sensors can see the touch controllers. Try to place each sensor so that  it covers as setup the Oculus Rift much of your play space as possible.
  • While it’s a good idea to have the sensors roughly vertical because the pickup area is a wider rather than taller (see below), they will work at any orientation. Some users even mount their sensors upside down on the ceiling.

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How to setup the Oculus Rift without Touch

This is very simple. Just place the sensor somewhere stable and point the shiny side towards your face. Also make sure you are not too close or too far from the sensor. (see above)

How to setup the Oculus Rift with Touch

There are a few different ways to set this up. The official config for two sensors is directly in front, about 6ft(2m) apart pointing straight ahead. This is simple to arrange and provides accurate tracking. The drawback being that the touch controllers lose line of sight if you turn around. The sensors will also have trouble tracking the controllers down to ground level. Imagine dropping your gun and being unable to pick it back up. (see below)

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How to fix USB problems with Oculus Rift

As we covered in the Hardware section the Rift requires a lot of USB ports. With so many high-end USB devices the chip that manages USB data can get overloaded. Oculus recently posted an excellent blog about spreading the work load across different USB controllers. Basically, you just keep swapping plugs around until windows device manager shows the Oculus Sensors in different groups. Luckily this only affects a minority of users. Check the link for the full Guide.

 

Click here to download the Oculus setup program. This will install all the required software and walk you through a basic setup. It’s all quite simple and well made, just follow the prompts.

 

How to make the Oculus Rift work in Steam VR

Thought you were finished with setup? Not quite yet. Steam requires its own calibration, but this one’s pretty quick. Firstly, go into Oculus general settings and tick [Unknown Sources]. To stop you crashing into the walls, VR systems use a holographic grid to warn you where they are. The Oculus “Guardian” system works in any game or app so you don’t need Steam’s “Chaperone”. If you set up both you just end up with two different grids that don’t quite line up. Just tell Steam you want to set up for “Standing Only”. You can still play room-scale games but this will skip the Chaperone setup. Follow the instructions and you should be good to go.

Why does the Oculus setup say my sensors are placed wrong?

If you use anything other than the official setup the Oculus software will complain about your sensor placement. Just ignore this warning and use common sense. If you’re sure the sensors can see your play area clearly, just continue onto the next step. You might also run into problems during the step where you have to hold the touch controller in the center of your play space. This step is really just for center and orientation. Just move the controller up and down, or twist it around until you find something that works. Always remember to keep the controller steady during calibration.

Cables

How to better manage the headset cable in VR

One of the biggest qualms with the current generation of VR is the electrical tether. The headset still needs to be connected to the computer via a cable and this can be rather annoying. You might also reach the end of your leash if you have a particularly large play area. And while the headset is comfortable enough to feel like a second skin, any time the cable falls against your body you are jarringly reminded of the cruel pain that is actual reality. Wireless kits are on the way but for now there are a few cleaver ways to minimize these immersion breaking moments.

What extension cables work with the Oculus Rift?

Oculus released a blog recommending some cords you can use to extend range. The sensors can use up to 15ft(4.5m) USB extension cables if the cables have signal boosters. For the headset they only recommend 6ft(1.8m) HDMI and USB extenders but these don’t need boosters. The headset requires one HDMI and one USB 3.0. While 6ft is enough for most people some users have had success with 15 ft cables and boosters. Reddit also has a list of tested cables. To read the blog and get links to the cables Oculus recommends click here. The blog even suggests some USB hubs in case your internal USBs are struggling.

Please note that Oculus does not guarantee any cable will work. The massive amounts of data required for VR mean the connection has to be almost perfect, so you may still have issues.

Tips for managing VR cables.

Another trick is rigging system to hold the headset cable up off the floor and out of the way. I’m lucky enough to have a vent directly above my desk to loop the cable through, but most people will have to mount a hook of some kind to the ceiling. If this is not possible, or you would rather not drill holes, then attaching the cable to a nearby object like a cupboard is another option. At the very least this will stop you from tripping or rolling over the cable with your chair. Some clever users have even attached the cable with an automatically retracting dog lead.

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