The HTC Vive is here, and like any new piece of technology, it’s a giant pain in the ass to set up.
The tiniest mistake can send you spiraling into a day-long troubleshooting hole. Even once you have it up and running, VR is all so new that there’s no “common sense” approach to using it or storing your Vive headset.
Lucky for you, we’ve spent the past week messing around with HTC Vive. Many mistakes have been made (protip: don’t drop anything on a hardwood floor), and now you get to benefit from them.
1. Run the installation software immediately
The first time you open the Vive box, you’ll see a large sheet of paper that explains — with diagrams — how to position the room scanners. Ignore that for now. Your first stop should be the HTC Vive website, where you can download your setup software.
Run the software once it’s downloaded. It walks you through every step of the physical hardware setup much more thoroughly than the measly sheet of paper that’s packed into the box does.
There’s just one small problem ….
2. Don’t use the HDMI port on your motherboard
The Vive setup process tells you explicitly to plug the headset’s HDMI cord into the port on your graphics card. What it doesn’t tell you is you shouldn’t then plug your monitor into the motherboard’s HDMI port.
Instead, plug your monitor into your PC using an DVI cable. And if you’re setting up in a living room with a DVI-less HDTV, get an HDMI-to-DVI adapter. Every VR-ready PC should have the ports you need.
Whichever approach you use, just know that both the headset and your monitor/HDTV need to be plugged into the graphics card.
3. Get yourself some light stands
There’s a mounting kit inside the Vive box for those that want to physically attach the two room scanners to their walls, but that won’t be an option for every setup. Fortunately, the scanners can screw into a 1/4″ 20-thread screw mount — the same one you find on most camera or lighting tripods.
Light stands are better than camera tripods for Vive use, since height is key with the room scanners. You’ll also want a ball head on each tripod, since the scanners need to be angled downward at a 30-45 degree angle.
4. Use earbuds
An 1/8″ headphone port dangles off the back of the Vive headset, allowing you to plug in virtually any standard pair of headphones. A pair of earbuds is packed into the box, but that shouldn’t stop you from using your own if they’re better.
That said, try to avoid over- ear headphones. The Vive is a bulky headset, and while it’s comfortable enough to wear, you definitely start to feel the weight of it settling in during longer gaming sessions. Earbuds add minimal extra weight, leading to a much more comfortable experience over longer periods of time.
5. Unplug and untangle the headset cord often
The Vive lets you move around a room freely while you’re in VR, with one very long cord tethering the headset to your computer. As you can probably imagine, that cord gets tangled pretty quickly with regular use.
It’s a good idea to completely unplug the headset from the “Link Box” it connects to and untangle the cord regularly. At least once per day, and more if you’re spending a lot of time in VR.
Basically: as soon as you find yourself getting tangled up in the cord, or tugging on it as you move about, it’s time to untangle.
6. Get a collapsible TV tray
Given how much space the Vive requires, we’re guessing that most of you will be setting one up in your living room. There’s just one problem with that: With all the furniture cleared out, there’s no convenient surface for your keyboard, mouse and Vive controllers.
That’s where the TV tray comes in. They’re light, they’re cheap and they’re easily stored in a closet. Most can also have their height adjusted. Keep one handy, and just outside your play area, so you don’t knock into it while you can’t see.
7. Buy a mannequin head
This advice applies to the Oculus Rift as well. Both the Vive and the Rift are essentially monitors. You can unplug and store them when they’re not in use, but it’s not the most convenient thing to do.
You know what’s astonishingly cheap and sized just right for storing a VR headset? Mannequin heads.
You can buy cheap styrofoam heads for less than $10, though they might be too flimsy to remain upright when fitted with a hefty VR headset. That’s okay, since the head’s main purpose is to keep dust and debris away from the interior lenses.
This or this might work if you really want a head that can stand up to the weight of a headset. Just take note: We haven’t tested this firsthand, so we can’t speak to the sturdiness of individual heads.
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