The Ultimate Guide to Working Remotely in Virtual Reality

HTV Vive with Doghead Simulations

Monday

Today I unpacked and set up an HTC Vive for the first time. It arrived in a huge Amazon box. The box was so big because it came with tripods for the lightboxes too. It was mostly filled with packing paper.

I dove in and started pulling out the headset, controllers, and cords. However, when I noticed how many parts there were I decided to stop. I went through putting up the light boxes and plugging them in before starting the Vive tutorial on my laptop. I knew how the lightboxes should be set up from the different demos I have given with my co-workers HTC Vives.

When you start the HTC Vive setup it tells you that it takes 28 minutes to set up. What it doesn’t tell you are the pre-steps to the actual set up. I recommend taking a deep breath and start with the software instructions before pulling out all the different cords and parts.

    1. You’ll need 6 electrical plugs. I got away without needing an extension cord because we had enough plugs distributed throughout the room. You will needs outlets for the 2 light boxes, 2 controllers, the computer cord, and a plug for the headset.
0423172123c_Film1
Notice that slight downward angle.
  1. Have comfortable headphones available. The HTC Vive tutorial talks you through the controls in virtual reality. Plug your headphones into the jack coming out of the top of the HTC Vive.
  2. Measure your IPD. IPD is an acronynm for Interpupillary Distance. This is the distance between your eyes. I either measured my IPD incorrectly or the Vive isn’t set up to go as low as mine was. My IPD measured as 55 but I could only get the vive to go to 64.2. At that point the display moved faster than my head turned making be feel dizzy. I had to turn it back up to 68. The only difference changing the IPD made was the clarity of the objects in my vision. Although, I didn’t see a large difference between 68, and my husband’s setting 73.
    0424170911_Film1
    The numbers are backwards so you can read them in a mirror.
  3. Contain your pets and children! My dog was laying all about in the middle of the Vive’s “play area” (what they call the area between the lighboxes where the Vive controllers are tracked). I had to close her out of the room, which she wasn’t very happy about but at least I was able to complete the tutorial without disruption to the lightboxes.

It took a bit over an hour to do all the setup; from standing up the lightboxes to completing the HTC Vive tutorial. Some parts were a bit frustrating such as getting the controllers to connect and update the firmware. After that everything was pretty straight forward. I am currently downloading Google Earth for VR.

pairing controller
Pairing the controllers.

I think the best part of the Vive was seeing my husband experience virtual reality for the first time. He wasn’t as vocal about how excited he was to be in virtual reality until I heard him popping the balloon animals from the Vive tutorial.

SteamVR Ready
We are ready for lift off!

Tuesday

I woke up today feeling like it was Christmas morning. There was a HTC Vive in the guestroom! Hopefully Everest VR had completed downloading. It was one of the promo games that came with the Vive. I downloaded Richie’s Plank Experience the previous night too but hadn’t had a chance to play it yet.

HTV Vive with Doghead Simulations

I was also excited to see how much work I could get done in the Vive. Yesterday I figured out how to switch to my desktop from inside the headset. I experimented opening Gmail, highlighting emails to read for later, and deleting ones I no longer needed. I was even able to catch up on a Hangout chat from the browser!

After checking my email went to my hobby site, Columbusga360, to see how my 360 degree photos displayed. They worked just as well from inside the Vive as outside of it. It was cool to drag the images for the full 360 degree view. I recommend you try it.

I still need to figure out how to view my photos directly. I read that the Virtual Desktop on Steam will let you do this. I’m not sure how this differs from viewing the desktop directly. If any of you know a good way to view 360 photos on the Vive, let me know.

My last meeting of the day was in rumii. I was most excited for this because there’s nothing like meeting with other people in virtual reality. I hope you don’t envision me as some geeky loner in a virtual world all day. My colleagues are scattered across the country. To make up for it we meet in our virtual office. I left the meeting feeling energized. It was a good day working in VR.

HTC Vive Selfie
Working on my HMD Selfie Skills

Pros of the Day

  • It is awesome being able to switch to my laptop’s desktop from inside the Vive.
  • I was really excited to have a meeting in rumii in virtual reality again. I liked being able to stand for a meeting instead of hunched over at my desk.
  • Meeting in rumii forces you to stand in a power stance because it’s too awkward to cross your arms or fiddle with your hands while holding the controllers.
  • I remembered I had a doggie gate to keep Sugar out so I wasn’t totally shutting her out behind a closed door.
  • I met with five other people in VR today; all from the comfort of my own home.

Cons of the Day

  • Either my laptop or Steam froze switching between the desktop and the game. I had to take the Vive off to restart it on my laptop.
  • Our meeting in rumii was about 45 minutes. After a while I could feel my face getting hot and a little sweaty, even though I had the fan on overhead.
  • My feet started to hurt. I’m either out of standing shape or 45 minutes is too long for a standing meeting.
  • I still couldn’t figure out how to take a screenshot from the Vive.

There you have it! I would say it was a successful Day 2 working with the HTC Vive.

Wednesday

Today is Day 3 with the HTC Vive. To be honest, I didn’t think I would get to it today. I had to prep my speech for Toastmasters this afternoon (which I’ll be posting a blog on soon). I had to get work done that involved lots of typing. Which, unfortunately, VR HMDs are not optimal for.

I finally got to the Vive in the evening. I planned to use it to destress from the day. Of course, It didn’t go that smoothly.

I opened my laptop to this lovely error:

Missing Files SteamVR

I’m not sure why SteamVR would have missing files since it has been working just fine the past two days. I went through the following steps.

  1. Refreshed SteamVR from Settings. That didn’t work.
  2. Unplugged the HTC Vive headset and restarted the computer.
  3. Booted Steam and SteamVR back up. No error messages! Yay!

It is time to play Everest VR. I downloaded the game two days ago and was excited to play it. I have a morbid fasination with the mountain climbing movies like Everest and this documentary about K2.

everest_basecamp
Screenshot from Everest VR.

EverestVR took forever to load. To all VR developers out there, please  play some jokes or something during loading screens. In a HMD, you can’t just walk away to get a drink or pet the dog like when waiting on a console game. Standing in the dark is super boring.

Once the game finally loaded I opened the Steam menu to adjust the sound. Doing so, I accidently exited the game. This froze the EverestVR. I had to take off my headphones and Vive to fix the problem from my laptop. I closed the game from my laptop but it was still showing up as “exiting” in the Vive. Not good.

I had to close Steam and SteamVR on my laptop to clear the Vive. I also un-plugged and re-plugged it back in just to be safe.

Round 2 with Everest

Everest is the most challenging mountain to climb, right? Not everyone does it on their first try. I opened EverestVR from my Steam Library inside the Vive. The “exiting” screen appeared in front of me.

I restarted Steam (again) and loaded Everest VR (again). I could hear the music for the game as if it was loading but it seemed frozen still. I couldn’t move my hands and when I turned my head the graphics didn’t move.

I took off the HMD to come back to this error report on my laptop:

crash report EverestVR
I don’t believe this is the Vive’s fault. I think it’s the game. It doesn’t have very good reviews for this reason. It’s a shame because I really enjoyed the 2 minutes I played the game for. There is nothing more annoying than having to take on and off a HMD to play a game.

At this point, I think I’ll just go back to Richie’s Plank Experience.

Here’s a list of VR experiences I’ve tried so far (in no particular order):

 

Thursday

Today I had two meetings scheduled in rumii. The first one, was kind of bust because I couldn’t get the HTC Vive to be found by the computer. I started SteamVR and it showed that everything was connected. I started up rumii and it ran without a problem. I put on the Vive, put it displayed darkness.

I went back to my laptop.  The HMD icon on SteamVR showed that the Vive was is rest mode. SteamVR claimed that all I needed to do was move the HMD a little and it would wake up. Shouldn’t the Vive have woken up when I put it on my head then?

By now I was running late for my meeting. I ended up attending the rumii meeting outside of virtual reality. This wasn’t a problem because rumii runs on desktop mode (insert plug for Doghead Simulations here :)).

After my meeting I went back to SteamVR to figure out the headset issues. However, now it showed an exclamation mark over the light boxes. I hovered my mouse over the icons. A message displayed that the firmware is out of date. How could that be already when I just plugged them in for the first time 3 days ago? Oh well, they are lit up green so I decided to save that project for another day.

Fast forward a few hours later.

It was time for my second meeting of the day in rumii. We had the Doghead Simulations weekly leadership standup.

The leadership meeting lasted 45 minutes but my feet didn’t hurt like the other day. This is probably because we were walking around rumii. We went around the building (you can describe a virtual environment that way, right?) checking out the updates to the lighting and details put into the space.

Later in the night my husband and I decided to spend some time in the Vive instead of watching Netflix. It was fun to mix up routine, especially since we’re in a show hold at the moment (if you have anything to recommend, let me know!).

I watched on the laptop as my husband walked Richie’s Plank, and then jumped off of it. On the fire level, he found the flames around the city and put them out much faster than I did. I think the difference is that I simply enjoyed flying around the city where he likes the object part of the game.

Richie's Plank Experience
VR brings out the two year old artist in us.

After Riche’s Plank Experience, we decided to give Everest VR one more shot. For some reason, it worked without issue for my husband. I watched in envy as he offered food to the mountain, crossed dangerous crevices on shaky ladders, and dodged falling backpacks while climbing up the steep slopes of Everest.

Everest VR
Climbing Mt. Everest.

Tweet: It turns out the HTC Vive is good for both work and play. @lilyotronIt turns out the HTC Vive is good for both work and play. It is quickly becoming an essential tool in my everyday life.

 

Friday

I didn’t do nearly as much as I wanted to with the HTC Vive this week. Although, I did finally manage to take some screenshots from Google Earth VR. Turns out some programs disable the option to take screenshots which is why I was having so much trouble with it!

I didn’t get a chance to download the Virtual Desktop to view 360 photos directly from the Vive. I also didn’t have a chance to try this hack to use Facebook Spaces on the HTC Vive. Maybe I’ll give those two things a shot this weekend.

HTC Vive with controllers.I had one meeting in rumii today which meant Vive time! I am happy to report that I had no issues with the lightboxes, controllers, or SteamVR. rumii booted right up into the HTC Vive and I flawlessly jumped into my meeting. Although my dog did give me a scare when she busted in and started throwing her ball around the plugged in lightboxes. Hence, why I recommend a doggie gate.

Collage 2017-04-28 18_32_37

Today, I couldn’t help but think about the importance of hand gestures in meetings. I have worked remotely since 2013 and this is the first time that I am able to use my own hand gestures and see my coworker’s. Despite what Skype will have you believe, I can count the times I’ve had a video call on one hand.

I found that I have to pay extra attention to what my hands are doing because my coworkers can see me now. They can see if I’m letting the controllers dangle from my wrists because it looks like you have broken wrists in VR. I have to be careful not to play too much with the controllers, such as making hand gestures, pointing the laser at random things on the wall, or accidently teleporting. It will look like I am not paying attention in the meeting. Being in VR forces me to pay attention because I can’t drift off to Instagram while putting myself on mute.

On the flip side, I haven’t been drifting off in meetings as much since I’ve been able to attend them in VR because I can see hand gestures. I forgot how much I was missing, not being able to see my coworkers point graphs on a PowerPoint or describe tasks to by mimicking them with their virtual hands. Not only that, but I can respond nonverbally by giving a “thumbs up” or high fiving my coworkers to show how proud I am of their accomplishments.

While I always felt like part of the team, working virtual reality really seals it in.

Take aways from a week in the HTC Vive

  • Setting it up and downloading the right software was not as difficult as I thought. Keep in mind, the process does take longer than the tutorial tells you.
  • When things do go wrong, such as the controllers not syncing, the help guides are easy to follow and get things working again quickly.
  • Steam has its own quirks. Some VR software doesn’t run as well as others.
  • Being in virtual reality with other people takes the experience to an even greater next level.
  • Your dog probably won’t like that you’re spending time in virtual reality instead of petting them.

That wraps up the week! Make sure to follow me on Twitter or my blog to stay up to date on my virtual reality adventures.

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