Is PCVR Dead?

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Does the sales success of the Oculus Quest 2 spell doom for tethered VR hardware and software? (Photo by Remy Gieling on Unsplash)

Cix Liv, a VR developer who has a bit of a reputation as a gadfly in the virtual reality industry, made the following bold claim on Twitter yesterday:

Sorry to my VR friends.

I declare PCVR dead.

Prove me wrong.

PCVR is the umbrella term used to refer to tethered VR headsets, which require a high-end desktop computer with a powerful graphics card to run. Examples of PCVR headsets are the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and my beloved Valve Index. Right now, the standalone Oculus Quest 2 is selling like hotcakes, and Facebook has in fact stopped selling the Oculus Rift headset:

It was only a matter of time, really. Facebook announced in April of this year that it would not be sending more Rift S units to retailers—once they sold out, that was it for the Rift S.

“Rift S is still available for sale currently in some channels around the world, but as we announced last year, we plan to stop selling Rift S in 2021,” Facebook told UploadVR at the time. “Generally speaking, as channels sell out of stock, they won’t be replenished.”

So, while you can probably still get your hands on an Rift via resellers (you can still find units on Amazon, for example), its days are clearly numbered.

Is PCVR indeed dead, as Cix asserts? His tweet raised a lot of comments, among them Kent Bye, a thoughtful VR commentator and podcaster of the Voices of VR podcast:

Kent Bye: There’s still lots of things at the frontiers of digital culture still in PCVR< like film festivals (Sundance, Tribeca, Venice and SXSW) happening in the Museum of Other Realities, full-body tracking, LBE [location-based events], live theater in VRChat and NeosVR. It’s an open platform that’ll never really die.

Cix Liv: “Die” is an extreme claim that is lacking nuance. The more expanded nuance would address the specific use cases where it will never die: mocap [motion capture], LBE, emboded docial [platforms] like VRChat. For broad consumer uses, it’s dead [in my opinion).

Kent Bye: I disagree. New communications mediums never fully replace previous mediums. We still have radio, TV, PCs, phones. PCs are ‘open platforms”. Mobile has thermal/power tradeoffs and people will ALWAYS want premium experiences like Half-Life: Alyx, Also, Steam Deck is an open PC.

Thrillseeker actually dropped a 15-minute YouTube video on this very topic today:

The video is engaging and raises lots of good points, but Thrillseeker eventually declares himself for the PCVR-is-not-dead camp, noting that the Oculus Quest 2 can also be used as a PCVR headset. He predicts that PCVR will never die, as Kent did.

Cix Liv eventually got so much blowback that he tweeted:

Please god tell everyone else that in the thread who is lighting me up for saying this.

I am not hating on PC VR because it’s trendy, the numbers so low Devs can’t even make a living now.

The reasons can be debated, but it’s the reality.

Cix argues that the numbers of sales of PCVR hardware and software are now so much lower than standalone VR, that it’s not worth the risk to develop for PCVR. For example, Oculus just announced that Lone Echo 2 would be the last PCVR exclusive that they would be shipping. Steam statistics show that PCVR usage is down. There’s haven’t been any really big PCVR releases in a while, with really nothing to match the hype of Half-Life: Alyx. And PCVR-only social VR platforms have struggled lately, either pivoting to new markets (e.g. Sansar, to live events) or shutting down completely (e.g. the old High Fidelity platform).

So, what do you think? Is PCVR doomed, or it just having a pause? Are standalone VR headsets going to kill tethered VR headsets? Please feel free to leave a comment on this blogpost, or join in the never-ending, freewheeling discussions and debates taking place among the 500+ users on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server. Thanks!

It’s Time to Upgrade My Home Computer: Anybody Have Any Good Recommendations on What to Buy for the Best VR Experience?

I’ve got my eye on this little number by Acer, which is currently in stock, although I’m wondering if I should upgrade the RAM from 16GB to 32GB…

*sigh*

I’ve held it off as long as I can, but it’s time to face facts: it’s time to upgrade the four-year-old desktop computer I use at home. I bought it in December of 2016, based on the computer specifications at the time for my trusty Oculus Rift, and it still met the minimum specifications when I upgraded my Rift to a Valve Index earlier this year.

But the Vive Facial Tracker that I eagerly bought makes my Intel Core i5-6600 CPU running at 3.30GHz cry, so it now sits sadly in its little box on my computer desk. The final straw was when I kept crashing while in NeosVR today (sans facial tracker) while Joris Weijdom was giving me a guided tour of the interesting, postmodernist immersive theatre work projects he is involved with at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. After several successive embarrassing crashes, we had to resort to using video chat on Discord!

So yes, it’s time (at least, if I want to continue using NeosVR, which I do). The recommended specs for the Valve Index are brief (and no, I am not aiming for the minimum; I want whatever I buy to last me for at least three years):

Minimum

  • OS: Windows 10, SteamOS, Linux
  • Processor: Dual Core with Hyper-Threading
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 / AMD RX480
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Additional Notes: Available DisplayPort (Version1.2) and USB (2.0+) Port required

Recommended

  • Processor: Quad Core+
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or better
  • Additional Notes: Available USB (3.0+) Port required for Headset Pass-Through Camera

Fortunately, I already have a computer store picked out (the same place I bought my last PC from, a suitably übergeeky place where all the salespeople can comfortably and confidently sling computer acronyms with the best of them. The shortage of computer chips caused by the current boom in cryptocurrency mining might cause some problems, though; most of the higher-end gaming machines I have my eye on are back ordered, according to my preferred store’s website. I’ll probably drive across town tomorrow and see what they have in stock that meets the recommended PC requirements for my Valve Index. There’s not really a rush; the only platform I am having problems with right now is NeosVR.

But I decided to write this blogpost and ask you, my readers: what Windows PC specs do you recommend for a higher-end virtual reality setup?

If you have any recommendations (or links to helpful resources to help me draw up my shopping list), please leave a comment on this blogpost, drop me a line via the Contact Me page, or ping me on the RyanSchultz.com Discord (or any of the other social VR/virtual worlds Discord servers we might have in common). Thanks!

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!