What I Learned From Demoing VR to Hundreds of People

I demonstrated virtual reality at Automattic’s annual company Grand Meetup of +400 people over the course of a week. On some nights we went until 2am playing various games and experiences. Here’s my experience and what I learned during that week.

My Setup

This was the largest room I’ve ever setup for VR. We had an HTC Vive and Oculus Rift with two computers. I gave the largest amount of space to the HTC Vive for its room-scale capabilities and controllers.

I made the mistake of getting Amazon Basic Tripods that did not extend high enough. If you have a large space, the lighthouses need to be placed very high up for the maximum amount of space covered by them. Luckily we had some tables I could use to put the tripods on top of. I went through several configurations of the room to get the most out of the space available and was able to get 4m x 3m in the end. While I could have pushed it further, it didn’t really make sense to go larger because the headset cables limited the distance someone could go anyway.

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The cables were rarely an issue on the HTC Vive. A couple times a day someone would almost trip on the cable but normally the person would subconsciously move the cable while they were in VR. Often the wire would be in front instead of behind them which required some fixing but that’s about it. During room-scale setup it’s important that the step that requires to point to the monitor is actually pointed to where the linkbox is so for most games you get the cable in the back and allowing for greater walking distances and less of a cable mess.

I skipped using headphones at all for the HTC Vive. It was too much of a hassle handing that over to each person that was playing. It would have required that after they put on their headset for me to hand over the headphones. It’s too bad they skipped out on integrated headphones. On the plus side this made it a lot easier to explain what to do in-game rather than yelling into their headphones. It also made it slightly more interactive to be able to talk to the person. We had massive speakers for audio. I understand audio is an important aspect to feeling immersed but the convenience outweighed.

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We had a large projection and many seats for the audience. This made it a fun interactive activity proving that VR is not just for the person in the headset. I put duct tape down on the floor where the room-scale was so people can comfortably walk around the area without worrying about being in the way.

The Oculus Rift was in the back and while it usually did not draw as much of an audience as the HTC Vive because of the setup I had, it was still great to have.

I printed out a signup sheet for both setups. It was one of the best things I could have done. The line was often long. Rather than just randomly asking who was next and everyone guessing, we could just check the sheet.

I also printed a general VR guide with bullet points on what to expect, how to use it, and some rules. A second sheet contained a table of all the games and experiences someone could try. It included my personal thoughts on the difficulty of the game, type of game, and short description. This helped get people an idea of what to play before they stepped up to the plate.

Here’s the sheet if you’d like to use it for your own event.

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Quick Notes and Tips on Oculus Rift:

  • The Oculus Rift computer ran on its own for the most part. I never had to walk anyone through how to put it on, select a game, and use it. Oculus Home is incredibly easily for anyone to use and could easily just loop Dreamdeck.
  • The Climb was mind blowing for many people on Oculus Rift. It was an easy game for people to try and often did not require an explanation on how to play even for non-gamers.
  • I had a few people complain about Lucky’s Tale and that it made them “feel weird”. If I was moderating that table more often, I would have told people not to play that game if they feel motion sick easily or at least try another game first.

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Quick Notes and Tips on HTC Vive:

  • Demonstrate what the controls for the game they are playing before they put on the headset. The Vive controllers are not very intuitive sometimes. I had to explain the big middle circle is a touch pad and that it can be clicked. I’m glad the grip buttons are rarely used in games because that’s really difficult to explain while they are in the headset if you forget to tell them about it.
  • I told people to put the controls on the floor when they are finished. Too often the person would try to wrangle both controllers in their hands while also attempting to take the headset off. It can lead to something falling down.
  • Nearly every person that played The Lab never walked up close enough to the Start button. Is the depth perception confusion for new people? Or are they confused they can walk in VR? I’m not sure but it happened every time.
  • I love The Lab but it’s not easy to get around and try the different experiences. Most people wanted to jump straight into the archery game and wish there was a way to go straight into there.
  • The controllers last a long time! But not long enough for the sessions we were having. At one point we had only one controller working. While the controller charged I had people play The Blu and The Cubicle which really only required one controller. Eventually I plugged in the controller using a Jackery Battery Pack with a long USB cable and that worked well. The battery pack would go in the persons pocket.

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More Notes

  • Space Pirate Trainer was popular among those that wanted a high energy game. The problem is a newer update of the game has put a ton of boxes that you can shoot. Players would often just shoot random boxes not realizing they went into another screen. Menu options need to be consolidated in this game and the Ready To Rock button needs to be way larger.
  • PATIENCE! I had some people just stand there while bullets fly directly into them. Someone literally asked me “how do I dodge?”. Not everyone gets it super quick. VR is obviously new for many people.
  • Job Simulator was a crowd favorite. It’s hilarious and easy for the audience to enjoy. While the missions are fun, I think free play should be default once you’ve completed all the levels.
  • I had a few people try to put their controllers down on the table in Job Simulator. I died laughing.
  • Tilt Brush was mind blowing for many people thanks to the new music syncing feature. I only had trouble explaining the touch pad but once they got it, they were on their own creating. I love seeing people get lost in Tilt Brush.
  • I had everyone that played Tilt Brush save their artwork for a blog post later (to be posted here later).
  • Zombie Training Simulator is a great game to demo but it can be confusing to try to explain the table behind them contains meat bait and grenades. Sometimes I would just let them figure it out on their own because in the allowed time I gave people, it can be time consuming to try to explain all the aspects of the game.
  • Initially I was giving people 10 minutes but I found that to be too much time for the amount of people that wanted to play. 5 minutes seemed perfect. It would feel super quick for the person in VR but it’s the best we could do. Many people would come back later to play more.
  • Fruit Ninja is such an easy game to demo. No buttons to press. Just slice!
  • I used sanitizing wipes for the foam after every use and lens cleaning wipes every a few uses.
  • I let people who wear glasses use the headsets under the condition that they first put their glasses through the headset to make sure it fits well. Everyone besides two people was able to wear their glasses.
  • The biggest perception people had about VR is that it’ll make them feel sick. I had many people hesitate to try it because of that but the word got out that it’s amazing and won’t make you feel ill. It helped that I chose games and experiences and fit the audience. It’s impossible to feel motion sick from Tilt Brush but I’m sure I could have made people feel sick from other experiences. Know your audience if you’re demoing VR.

Author: Michael Tieso

Developer Advocate for WooCommerce at Automattic, WordPress, VR Evangelist, Gamer, Adventurer, and Writer.

8 thoughts on “What I Learned From Demoing VR to Hundreds of People”

  1. The VR room was one of the highlights of the GM. Thanks so much for running this!

    > few people complain about Lucky’s Tale and that it made them “feel weird”

    Only two games made me feel genuinely “weird” (apart from the whole “look down” thing on The Climb): Minecraft on the Oculus and Hot Dogs, Horseshoes and Hand-grenades on the Vive. The former was just overall unpleasant after a while, while the latter was exclusively during some of the levels (e.g., Gunasium) where you have to “drag” yourself around to move.

    Like

    1. Ah yes. I forgot about Minecraft. A few other people had mentioned Minecraft too. I think the devs that worked on Minecraft did an excellent job at minimizing motion sickness but you still might need to build up your VR legs a bit before going into immersive mode. Glad you enjoyed the VR room!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks again for running this, it was a great experience!

    I personally loved Unseen Diplomacy, I would have loved to play more of it. 🙂 Tilt Brush was also great, I could see myself spending hours in there. That was actually one of my main take-aways: it felt comfortable and natural to be in game, so much it was almost frightening.

    I can’t wait until all of this becomes more mainstream… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “I love The Lab but it’s not easy to get around and try the different experiences. Most people wanted to jump straight into the archery game and wish there was a way to go straight into there.”

    In the lab there is a shortcut menu to all the experiences in the upper side of Lab application window on your pc monitor.

    Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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