Last March Valve and HTC debuted the HTV Vive virtual reality system. It's an ambitious setup consisting of a VR visor, a couple of custom controllers and a tracking system the allows the user to wander around a 15'x15' area (the system puts up virtual walls to keep your real self from wandering out of this area and falling over a futon). The system was supposed to be available for this holiday season but, aside from a limited number destined for developers' greedy paws, it has been delayed into 2016.
To recap the details check out my post from March.
While the Vive system certainly sounds impressive I've had questions about how practical it'll be. How many people have a 15'x15' clear area in front of their PC? Turns out, not many.
Yesterday Valve published the results of a "Room Scale VR Survey" that it had asked member of its VR Community to fill out. Out of 2008 responses, 860 (~43%) said their gaming PC was in their bedroom and 1,393 (~69%) said they were not willing to move their PC to accommodate a VR experience. The average space respondents feel they can devote to VR is about 8.5'x 9'.
That's actually more room than I expected; I guess a lot of VR enthusiasts either have really large bedrooms or are anticipating getting rid of their beds. Or maybe when they answered "bedroom" they meant "a spare bedroom."
This is all a curiosity for me and (probably) you, but it's important data for VR developers who're crafting walk-around experiences for the Vive. They're going to want to develop an experience that takes advantage of the room tracking, but which is still feasible for the majority of users to access. According to this survey at least, using all of the 15'x15' space the system can track is going to leave most users frustrated. Of course this probably isn't a surprise to most devs; how many people have that much empty floor space in any room of their home?
Even more importantly, 939 of responders said they had an area 6.5' or less wide to work in, and 774 said they a space 6.5' or less long. I guess the take away is that if you want everyone to be able to play, you need to craft an experience that just has you shuffling around a few feet in each direction.
I have a business idea that I'm giving away for free. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had it and I hope someone is making it happen. We need to bring back Internet Cafes, only as VR Cafes, and instead of crowding in as many workstations as possible, these VR Cafes would have fully tricked out VR Rooms that you could rent by the hour: a big space all ready for you to slap on a visor, grab the controllers and start walking around in the closest thing to a holodeck experience as you can get at this point.
I could see Valve actually opening a chain of VR Cafes. For $10 or $20 curious individuals could go to one of these and experience VR first hand for an hour. On the way out the door you'd hand them a pamphlet advertising "the home version" which would actually be exactly the same gear you just used. If the Vive experience is as good as Valve (and to be fair, journalists and devs who've had the chance to try early versions) says it is, they'd probably sell a lot of units like that.
Here's Valve's breakdown of the survey results. It's worth stating once again that their pool of responders came from Valve's VR Enthusiasts community, so these are the folks that are presumably really excited about VR.