6 DOF Virtual reality standalone headsets are cool, but of course introduce some safety problems: how can you be sure that moving you aren’t going to stumble on a wall, on a cat or on your girlfriend? For this reason, headsets producers are working on solutions to show you some safety boundaries telling you where you are safe to move. Sometimes these auto-set boundaries are not useful and are on the contrary very annoying. For instance, when I made the positional tracking comparison between the Focus and the Mirage Solo, I had to move on a large area, so I had to disable these warnings. But, how can you do that? I’ll show you the solution for the two headsets owned by me: Vive Focus and the Lenovo Mirage Solo.
Both devices have a similar management of safety boundaries: boundary management is pretty rough and just use a cage centered on the first position where you put the headset on your head. As I’ve said in my Focus review, this has not always a great sense, so I disabled it in both devices. The way to disable it in both devices is similar as well. What you have to do is:
- Enable developer mode;
- Go to VR options and disable boundaries.
Let’s go in-depth now for the two headsets, showing you how is the boundary and how to remove that.
Vive Focus boundaries are shown by an azure grid that becomes more opaque the more you go closer to it. When you start wandering outside it, visuals gets slightly grayed out and you see a pop-up warning you that you are outside the safe area. I think that it is a non-obtrusive way of warning the user.
Let’s see how to disable that. To enable developer mode on the Vive Focus, you have to go to Settings -> More Settings -> About Device and click on “Build Number” 7 times so that to be granted Developer mode. After you have been recognized as a cool VR developer, you can go back to the More Settings Home and pick “Headset & Space”. You should see a lonely option called “Safety Virtual Wall” that you can turn on and off to enable and disable the virtual boundaries.
If you want a video that shows all this process, here you are:
Easy, isn’t it?
Lenovo Mirage Solo
The Lenovo Mirage Solo has a WTF way of showing the boundaries, that is: if you go outside the boundaries, you can’t see the VR scene at all anymore. The visuals get obscured by a Google interface where a compass tells you the direction that you have to follow to re-enter the safe zone. This is a very obtrusive way of warning the user that IMHO ruins the experience: imagine that you’re fighting the final boss of an action game and you move fast and suddenly you can’t see the game anymore and you lose the match. I guess that you would think about throwing your Solo out of the window. This weird behavior is the reason why disabling safety boundaries has been one of the first things I did on my Lenovo headset.
You may think that Google has gone completely crazy about performing this choice: I myself performed an epic facepalm when I discovered it.
Actually, playing around with the device, I understood that this choice has a reason and most probably its name is Seurat. Seurat is the technology implemented by Google that lets you perform awesome optimizations on a VR scene, reducing the poly count so much that even graphically appealing scenes could be rendered in real time on a mobile headset. This happens because Seurat makes calculations considering the geometry of the scene and the possible positions of the head of the user and so removes all polygons that can’t be viewed by the user in any conditions. The scene so becomes lighter and even a standalone like the Mirage Solo can render it. But… what happens when the user exits from the area where he/she was assumed to stay in? Artifacts, artifacts everywhere! This means that while playing an app that has been built using Seurat, exiting from the safe area can result in weird visuals. Look at this video I shot while playing Blade Runner Revelations on the Solo: there are enormous artifacts caused by me moving too much from the point I was supposed to be.
So, the solution that Google has found to prevent the user from seeing the artifacts on Seurat apps (the non-Seurat apps are not affected, of course) has been: obscure completely the visuals. Pretty barbaric IMHO, but it has sense.
Anyway, if you, like me, don’t like someone obscuring your visuals, you can remove this by first of all activating developer mode: press Mirage Solo button -> select Settings Icon -> All Settings -> System -> About device and then click on “Build Number” 7 times, until the system tells that you are now a developer. Make a little party because of it. Then, return back to the All Settings menu and this time pick Daydream -> VR settings -> Developer Options and find an item called “Enable Safety Graphics”. You can use it to toggle safety boundaries management on or off. If you change this value, reboot the device for changes to take effect. And voilà, you can now move freely in VR.
I hope this little guide has helped all the VR enthusiasts out there that are annoyed because of boundaries to enjoy more their VR headsets. And if you are one of them, please help me by subscribing to my newsletter! 😉
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