A Vive Facial Tracker Update: Good News and Bad News

Well, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that have attached my Vive Facial Tracker to my Valve Index VR headset, set it up, and got it working! The bracket I ordered arrived last week via FedEx from Japan (here’s the page I ordered from, although by now you I suspect you should be able to find several other models of brackets via the internet!), and last night I put it all together. Here’s what it looks like:

The bad news? Well, it started even before I installed the Vive Facial Tracker, when I took my weeklong course in content creation in NeosVR, taught by sirkitree and Medra (highly recommended, by the way). I kept crashing out of the classroom, and Medra finally set up a private tutorial session with me in my home world, which worked fine.

But, ever since I set up the facial tracker, I have been unable to stay in NeosVR for longer than ten minutes before crashing out! It would appear that I am bumping up against the limits of the CPU and GPU on my high-end gaming computer, which I bought four years ago.

I will be reaching out to NeosVR for support, and perhaps we can troubleshoot the issue. I did turn my refresh rate down from 120Hz to 90Hz, which is supposed to help with any GPU strain, but I am still stuttering and crashing. Unfortunately, I was thus far been unable to take pictures or video of my avatar in a mirror in NeosVR, but if I succeed, I will share them here with an update to this blogpost!

It is disappointing, but frankly I knew that at some point, for some app, I would reach the upper limits of what my PC is capable. So perhaps it’s time for Ryan to start shopping for a new computer (I already have the store picked out, the same place I bought this computer, which has a stellar reputation for both sales and support). In the meantime, I will keep testing.

Keep your fingers crossed and wish me luck!

UPDATE April 22nd, 2021: It would appear that, alas, the CPU on the computer I bought four years ago is the bottleneck here. Apparently, both Neos and the Vive Facial Tracker are very CPU intensive, and even though I have a good graphics card (a NVIDIA GeForce GTX1080), I will probably have to either upgrade my CPU and add more memory, or simply trade up to a newer, faster, more powerful computer.

I’d like to thank the staff at NeosVR (especially Shift, their Quality Control Lead), and the ever-helpful community on the Neos Discord server for all their assistance in troubleshooting. Thanks, guys! For now, I will be packing my Vive Facial Tracker and its Japanese bracket (which is, thankfully, detachable) and stowing it away until I can upgrade my PC. *sigh*

Exploring Sleep Worlds in VRChat

The beautiful Islands of Dreams sleep world in VRChat

In order to relax in the evenings, I have been exploring some of the tens of thousands of worlds in VRChat in my new Valve Index VR headset, and this week I have been visiting a special category of worlds known as sleep worlds.

These worlds, as their name suggests, are intended to evoke an atmosphere conducive to sleep or meditation. Often, they are a bedroom or even an entire apartment, either in an urban, rural, or fantasy setting, where you can adjust the environmental effects (rain, thunder and lightning, fog, fireflies, etc.), the lighting, and the furnishings to achieve the perfect setting for your contemplative or naptime needs.

A bed in the Rest and Sleep world in VRChat

Often, there is a music player, allowing you to play from a selection of soothing, ambient music to add to the overall atmosphere. Some rooms also have a video player and a mirror. Many times, the creators even share a link to their Patreon profile, so you can show your appreciation by sending a little money to them for their creation!

If you don’t wish to be disturbed in your sleep world, you can create a new instance of the world from the Worlds menu, then set it to Invite Only (which means that only you can invite other avatars to join you in a private instance of the world, if you wish).

Doing a keyword search under the Worlds menu for “sleep” usually gives me any number of wonderful user-created worlds to visit, and the VRChat Maps Discord server actually has a #sleep-maps channel where users post worlds suitable for sleepy times. Here are a few suggestions of worlds from that channel:

  • Phunky’s Chill & Sleep
  • Hermitage
  • Sleepy Fireflies
  • Oknuj’s Hangout n Sleep
  • Another Home
  • The Sleep Room
  • Relaxation Particles 2
  • Rest & Sleep
  • After Life Night
  • Alone & Sleep_zZ
  • Hotel Beautiful Night

One popular sleep world that I quite like is a wood-paneled bedroom with a enclosed balcony called, quite simply, The Room of the Rain. I always turn the graphics quality all the way up to High, so I can watch the rain running down the floor-to-ceiling windows! On the extensive list of world settings, there’s a special Index filter setting that makes the scene look even more realistic in my Valve Index headset.

I find the sound of the rain quite soothing, and I can adjust the volume of the rain, adding sounds for wind and thunder as I prefer to create the perfect oasis. In fact, I love this room so much that I have set The Room of the Rain as my home world in VRChat, so it is the first one I see when I start VRChat up.

The Room of the Rain

Now, I have heard reports of people who have actually fallen asleep in their VR headsets, both in VRChat and in other social VR platforms (it seems to be quite commonplace among Japanese VR headset owners). Personally, I would find it quite uncomfortable to sleep in my Valve Index, but if it works for you, hey, more power to you!

Do you have a favourite sleep world in VRChat? Please feel free to leave a comment with the name of the world on this blogpost. Thanks!

UPDATED! Pandemic Diary, January 18th, 2021

Today is officially Day 309 of my working in self-isolation from my apartment for my university library system: 309 days, or 7,416 hours, or 444,960 minutes.

I have not left my home in the past month, except to drop my trash bags into the nearest dumpster, and to start the engine on my car in the parking lot and let it run for 10-15 minutes, to make sure that my car battery doesn’t lose its charge during our bitterly cold Winnipeg winter. (As a matter of fact, I am typing the first part of this blogpost out on my WordPress app on my iPhone, sitting behind the steering wheel of my car in my apartment’s outdoor parking lot, while my car is warming up.)

I’ve actually completely lost track of how long it’s been since I’ve been in the vicinity of another human being! The province of Manitoba is still under a code-red pandemic lockdown, and I don’t expect that any of the social distancing and other restrictions will be relaxed or lifted anytime soon. Vaccination is still mostly limited to front-line healthcare workers, and it is happening here at a frustratingly slow pace, with announcements of vaccine delivery delays by Pfizer over the next few weeks to add to the delays.


My car battery recharged, I come inside from the -18°C/-1°F cold, shed my parka, gloves, and face mask, and thoroughly wash my hands, singing Happy Birthday to myself twice under my breath.*

I have been going through a rough patch these past few weeks, which started as I concluded my Christmas holidays and returned to my full-time paying job with the University of Manitoba Libraries. I know that many people are in much worse circumstances than I am during this pandemic, and I know that I am lucky to be able to work from home. But I do not feel very lucky at the moment. All of the classic symptoms of depression are present: low mood, lack of motivation, insomnia.

My brand new Valve Index VR headset and my fancy Knuckles hand controllers sit on my desktop, infrequently used since I installed them in early January.

The Valve Index VR Headset

I do believe that using my then-new Oculus Rift headset four years ago was instrumental to my recovery from my last bout of serious clinical depression, as I wrote on my blog back in May 2018:

I first got my Oculus Rift headset back in January 2017, when I was on sick leave for depression from my job, and my life was feeling pretty bleak. Shortly afterwards, I also got the Oculus Touch hand controllers to be able to handle objects in VR.

I have no scientific proof, but I do believe that using that VR headset regularly—creating art using TiltBrush and Oculus Medium, using apps like Guided Meditation VR and Nature Treks VR, and interacting with other avatars and exploring new experiences in High Fidelity and the then-closed Sansar beta—was indeed a beneficial factor in my most recent recovery from depression. The best way I can describe it was that VR got my neurons firing again!

Now, I am not feeling as depressed as I did four years ago, but I can already see the warning signs. Therefore, I intend to slip on my Valve Index and explore as many social VR platforms, games, and creative apps as I can over the next few long, cold months, as a sort of preventative inoculation against isolation, depression and acedia. And, of course, blogging about them here.

Stay tuned for reports from my virtual excursions and adventures!


*No, today is not my birthday; I only sang Happy Birthday twice because that is how long you are supposed to wash your hands for. My actual birthday is on January 23rd (hint, hint, hint).

UPDATE January 20th, 2021: Wow! Somebody sent me a $50 Amazon gift card! Thank you!! The gift is much appreciated, and will definitely be put to good use. 🙂

Valve Index: Day One

Today was the day that I finally removed my Oculus Rift VR headset, uninstalled the Oculus software from my home computer, and installed my shiny new Valve Index! Yet another step on the road to my complete emancipation from Facebook Inc.

Setup was a breeze, as I already had SteamVR installed on my computer. However, it is definitely going to take me some time to get used to the new headset and the new hand controllers. I feel as awkward as a teenager again! For now, I am sticking with a seated or standing experience, but I hope to set up room-scale VR once I have rearranged things in my apartment, and thrown out a few things. I cranked up my refresh rate from 90 up to 120 Hz, and marveled as I wandered around my new “home” space (buh-bye, Oculus Home!).

I still have to run through all of the tutorials, but my first port of call was Sansar, where I marveled anew at how beautiful everything looked. I didn’t need to reinstall the Sansar client at all; it worked as flawlessly with the Valve Index as it did with my Oculus Rift (although it doesn’t support individual finger tracking). The sound is amazing!

Today is day one of new adventures in virtual reality! I am quite looking forward to all the worlds I will visit in my Valve Index.