What Is Roomscale VR – Complete Overview, FAQs, Tips and More

Are you wondering what Roomscale VR is?

Let’s look into it.

What is Roomscale VR?

With room-based VR, users can move through a virtual space by walking within a defined physical area. They can also interact with objects in the virtual world using their hands.

Basically, room-scale tracking means that you can walk around an entire room freely without the game, headset, sensor, or anything else losing sight of your position.

This means turning around, walking away from your PC, lying down on the floor, getting under things in the virtual world, or doing any other kind of free-form interaction in the virtual world. This has been a core feature of the HTC Vive ever since its launch.

With the Oculus Rift, you don’t need to stand up straight for the system to track you. However, if you lean forward too much, the tracking system may lose contact with you.

You cannot move freely in the VR experience, but it is still an immersive virtual world.

How Does Roomscale VR Work?

The HTC Vive enables this through the use of its lighthouse base stations. They work by invisibly sweeping lasers across your room and tracking the headset and controllers by way of the little concave sensors you see spread across the surfaces of the devices.

In order to use the Vive at all, you set up a base station up in each opposite corner of your room. This allows them to see and track the full area, in real-time, regardless of what you’re doing or which direction you’re facing.

oculus rift

Oculus Rift and Roomscale VR

Until now, the Oculus Rift wasn’t really capable of matching this feature. But with the flexibility afforded by multiple Rift sensors on the same setup, that’s starting to change. When you purchase the Oculus Touch controllers for about $200, they come with a second sensor.

This expands the trackable space laterally as you place them on opposite sides of your desk. Now you can reach out with your hands and move around your room a bit without having any real issues. However, even then, it’s still a mostly 180-degree experience.

Turn all the way around or go too far to either side, and the sensors will lose track of parts of you eventually.

But if you get a third sensor and enable the Rift’s “experimental” room-scale tracking, you can finally access true room-scale. A third sensor is available for approximately $80 before tax and shipping, and it includes a 5-meter extension cable.

You place this third sensor at the back of your playspace, which enables it to see you when turned around, and can access up to an 8×8 feet space. This is still much smaller than the ideal maximum of the HTC Vive.

This comparison — the complete HTC Vive experience vs. a Rift with three sensors and the Touch controllers — is the primary focus of this article. If you want to know what we think about the Touch controllers vs. the Vive controllers, you can read that here.

Roomscale Setup: Vive VS. Rift

When setting up your room-scale environment, the Rift and the Vive differ quite a bit.

Vive Roomscale Setup

For the Vive,

  1. You plug your headset into the breakout box with clearly labeled ports
  2. Then plug that box into the back of your PC with a USB port, an HDMI cord
  3. Then into a power outlet. That powers your headset. Make sure your controllers are charged up, then set those aside.
  4. Now you have to place your lighthouses, above head level, in opposite corners of the room. It can be a bit tricky depending on what’s in the room, but they can be easily wall-mounted, which is recommended for stability and accuracy.
  5. Just angle them downward toward the center of your room, and you’re good to go. All they require is a single power outlet for each.
  6. For inevitable firmware updates, you’ll have to plug devices into your PC directly.
  7. Now you go through the SteamVR setup process, including the room setup, which will allow you to set the floor orientation and outline the trackable environment by walking around the perimeter of your room.

Once you’re done, everything should work well. The thick wire from your headset to the breakout box is frustrating, but you get used to it eventually. To make sure you did it all correctly, I’d highly recommend reading the official documentation.

Oculus Rift Roomscale Setup

For the Oculus Rift with three sensors and the Touch controllers, we found setup to be a bit more complex.

  1. For starters, the Rift itself plugs into the PC in a very similar fashion — with a USB port and HDMI cable.
  2. Then you’ve also got to plug in both — or in the case of roomscale, all three — of your tracking sensors.
  3. Instead of using power outlets, they must each go into a USB port. This means a lot of cords and at least one USB extender for that pesky third sensor in the corner. It also means getting out a tape measure to make sure your playspace is setup correctly, which can be frustrating and lead to rearranging furniture.
  4. The default presentation of each Rift sensor is on a short stand with a platform at the bottom, rather than the lighthouse’s cube design, which is more adaptable for mounting.
  5. Once everything is plugged in, the setup process that the Oculus SDK walks you through isn’t fully functional for a three-sensor room-scale setup. Luckily, it all worked fine even after skipping those.
  6. If you want to run Steam/Vive games with the Rift and Touch, then we recommend going through the Oculus SDK setup process first, then launching Steam VR and running its room-scale setup afterward.
  7. You can read the official documentation here about the experimental tracking.

In both cases, the setup process isn’t simple and has a lot of steps that could get messed up or take well over a half hour to an hour to get everything right.

We hope you started downloading games and apps before trying to set either headset up. Ultimately though, the Vive setup process is easier, with fewer cords and more flexibility.

Conclusion

We hope this article was helpful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us in the comments below. 

Author

  • Victor Marquez

    Victor is the Editor in Chief at Techtyche. He tests the performance and quality of new VR boxes, headsets, pedals, etc. He got promoted to the Senior Game Tester position in 2021. His past experience makes him very qualified to review gadgets, speakers, VR, games, Xbox, laptops, and more. Feel free to check out his posts.

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