My first experience with playing in virtual reality was the quirky game ‘Job Simulator.’ Initially, everything was fun and the first few minutes were incident-free. I had strapped on my brand new VR (virtual reality) headset, which completely hid the real world from my view and transferred me to a kitchen of the future in the virtual world. By using the controllers, I had in each hand, I could reach out and open the door of my virtual refrigerator, pull out a steak, and cook it on my virtual grill. This is easy, I thought.
Suddenly, some of the eggs started to roll away. I leaned forward to try and catch them, and in the process, leaned on the ‘counter,’ which unfortunately only existed in my virtual world. I fell forward and bumped my head on a very real wall in my non-virtual living room.
Preparations for Playing in Virtual Reality
Playing in virtual reality has taken the world by storm as a new and immersive way for people to play games, watch videos and socialize online. However, my little accident made me realize that careful planning and setting up of a dedicated space is the only way to enjoy the virtual experience, without injury or damage. This new way to play games is different from the old game consoles which required nothing more than a couch and a coffee table. Pau Bettner, the founder of Playful Corporation says, “You cannot just put VR in a corner of your living room like a new TV.”
In the same way that Nintendo’s Wii Fit got gamers to get up off overstuffed sofas almost a decade ago, the newest VR apps will need you to move around the room, often quite vigorously. Bettner adds, “Some of the most enjoyable VR experiences are a complete workout.”
Analysts expect the sales of premium VR headsets, that are used to connect to powerful computers or gaming consoles, to be brisk. According to market research firm Gartner Inc., about 1.5 million people in the US alone will buy a VR headset this year. If you are one of them, here are a few handy tips from VR experts on how you can prepare yourself and your home for the best and safest virtual experiences.
Put Away Your Valuables Before You Start
Flailing around blindly in a room will put your fragile belongings, as well as your own limbs, at serious risk. Before you strap on your headset, take time to completely clear your floor and remove your priceless collection of masks from the wall. Also, do not forget the higher plane: Ceiling fans and low-hanging light fixtures can get whacked when you are fully immersed in VR, so it is important to consider them when choosing your play area.
Identify Your Boundaries
If you are blinded to the real world by a VR headset strapped to your head, you can easily lose your sense of exactly where you are in a room. How do you tell if you are dangerously close to a picture window or a flight of stairs? Neville Spiteri, who is the founder and CEO of VR company Wevr, provided a clever solution to the problem which does not need a user to continually peek from behind their headset: He suggests that a gamer should lay down a rug or mat of a different texture to the floor. In this way, if a game is played barefoot or with socks on, the user will be able to sense immediately if they have strayed out of a dedicated safe zone. He also suggests leaving a couple of feet of buffer space between the rug and any hazards in the room.
Get a Swivel Chair
Not all virtual reality experiences require extensive movement. Many can be enjoyed while seated. However, you will still need to be able to turn from one side to the other to get a view of the entire virtual landscape. Anna Rosa Lappalainen, who founded Vizor.io, a website for the creation and sharing of VR content, suggests that gamers should dedicate a bar stool or swivel chair. In this way, a player can turn their whole body, not just their neck, while playing.
Currently, all consumer virtual reality headsets need to be tethered to a game console or computer using wires. In order to avoid getting caught up in the cables, many VR users will fix a hook to a nearby wall and hang the excess cord over the hook. According to Ms. Lappalainen, a tall floor lamp could also be useful. Simply remove the lightbulb as well as the shade and affix the cables running to your headset.
Keep Pets and Kids Away
High-end virtual reality headsets are supplied with powerful headphones or a jack where you can fix your own set. However, you need to be aware that they can keep you from hearing a child or pet when they enter the room. Shauna Heller of Clay Park VR suggests that you should lock doors to your play area to avoid trampling any small visitors who may wander in.
Playing in virtual reality can be an exciting place and if you take the time to secure the area you are playing in, your game play will be accident free and a whole lot of fun!