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How to get started with VR: What do I need?

Looking to get started with virtual or mixed reality? With a few key pieces of hardware, you’ll be off to experiencing a world of endless opportunities in no time.

  1. Head-mounted device
    First, you’ll need a head-mounted device (HMD). These are typically wired via cables and tethered to a PC to enable high-fidelity graphics to be shown inside the device. The headset is worn on your head and over your eyes. This allows the HMD to output an application or scene to immerse the end user.
  2. Compatible PC hardware
    Next, you’ll want to use a PC that can run your application. This can either be a laptop or a desktop PC. While many variables can affect your system performance, the two main components are the physical connections and hardware available on the PC. You’ll want to ensure you have enough ports to plug the HMD into the PC successfully. You’ll also want to have a compatible graphics card and processor. The higher the graphics card and processor power, the smoother your application will run. A list of system requirements to run a Varjo HMD can be found here.
  3. Controllers
    You’ll also need a pair of controllers to interact with most applications. Controllers will allow you to interact with certain objects within the application. Depending on the HMD, controllers may not be required as certain devices have hand-tracking capabilities. This will enable you to extend and use your hands to interact with objects. To determine if you can leverage hand-tracking technology, you’ll want to ensure the application you’re running supports it.
  4. Positional tracking system
    For HMDs connected to a desktop PC, a tracking system is required for your play area. Various tracking systems are available, but the most common are SteamVR base stations. These small boxes are mounted and positioned in the corners of the room or play area. The base stations’ purpose is to track the precise movements of the HMD and the controllers. Depending on the size of the play area, anywhere from 1-5 base stations may be needed. For base stations to properly track the HMD, they must have a visible line of sight to each other. An example of how base stations should be set up can be found here.
  5. Secure play area
    Lastly, before putting on an HMD, you’ll need to identify a play area. A play area is typically a dedicated 10’x10′ squared-off space where you’ll wear the headset. You want to ensure that within this play area, there are no hazards that the person wearing the HMD can run into. If you do not have a 10’x10′ playing area, make sure that you have enough space to put on the HMD and that you can achieve a full range of motion with your arms without obstruction.

Once you have all of the above set up, you’ll have everything you need to start your journey.

get started with VR - set up SteamVR base stations

An example setup for SteamVR base stations in a VR room.