HTC Vive mounting bracket measurements & early game impressions

My HTC Vive arrived today, and after roughly 10 hours in VR I’m really impressed and quite tired. But I promised that I’d provide some mounting bracket measurements since I was annoyed a few days back that I couldn’t find anything reliable about that online.

Brackets measure as length 8.4 cm / width: 4.45 cm / depth: 3 mm (Where the screws pass through, slightly curved)

Mounting holes are symmetric and centered exactly 1 cm from the ends (6.4 cm center <-> center distance). Their diameter is 5 mm. The length of the included screws is exactly 4 cm (after the cap).

Bonus room setup process image:

Here are some very early and short (because I’m tired) impressions:

Overall, and this might be hard to believe, room scale VR with tracked controllers is just about as magical as you heard. I really did grin like mad simply by creating and popping a few balloons in the tutorial. And it obviously gets better from there.

The Lab:surprisingly polished and diverse, both graphically and in the types of gameplay demonstrated. My favourites were the archery game and Xortex (the bullet hell shooter). The interactivity in the lab itself was also amazing. Oh, and the trademark Valve  humor is there in robot repair and the calibration testing. I love the robot dog.

Space Pirate Trainer: it’s a very simple foundation, but despite the straightforward mechanics it actually seems to have a very significant stratification in terms of skill. I think it’s a game where, even at this early state, you can spend a lot of time playing and notice a continuing increase in your skill and accomplishments, which is always rewarding. Better anti-aliasing would be nice, it seemed a lot worse than all the other games I played today in that regard.

Water Bears VR: I got this for free in some promotion, and after the real physical exhaustion and sensory overload of Space Pirate Trainer (and Xortex in The Lab before it) we wanted to try something a bit more laid back. It’s a fun puzzle game with surprisingly good production values and very intuitive controls. It’s also really “complete”, unlike some of the other games which do feel like the early access titles that they are.
And the “Water Bears” (which you can interact with after completing each level) are extremely cute, so this is a game to show off to anyone enthralled by that.

Cloudlands VR Minigolf: it’s minigolf, in VR. Except the courses are often a lot more inventive than what you’d find in reality. The controls work very well after a small adjusting period, but the game is surprisingly challenging in how it sets the par for each hole. Room scale helps a lot here in being able to actually walk around the ball or get down on the ground and check the intended trajectory of a shot.

Audioshield: perhaps the game I was most hyped for, having played Audiosurf for over 400 hours. It does not disappoint. The best part was starting off with a random semi-obscure song (Dogfight by M.O.V.E.) and someone had already played it!

Anyway, I’ll probably be capable of more coherent thoughts later.

Also, by the way, I wrote a in-depth DS3 pc version technical analysis (good thing I completed that article before the Vive arrived!)

The Witcher 3 Tech Analysis

witcher3_2015_05_19_19_52_05_657I wrote an article about The Witcher 3 for PC Gamer. I focused primarily on some tips for achieving the smoothest possible gameplay, but what I’m really surprised by is the CPU results I obtained.

I might have chosen a bad location for that benchmark, and perhaps I’ll repeat it somewhere else, but I really expected an open world DX11 RPG to be more CPU-heavy. Certainly not playable with two 2.2 GHz cores at 30 FPS and 4 at 60 FPS. Very well done, and another indicator to me that seems to hint towards the gains with future low-level graphics APIs being less pronounced than some expect, outside of very specific use cases.

Of course, that level of control will at the very least be a huge boon to VR rendering, which inherently requires a high framerate, low-latency and extremely consistent performance.

Public VR Demonstration using Rift DK1

I rarely post about anything work-related on this blog (the last time was over a year ago), but I really wanted to write about this one. I’ve been a huge supporter of VR and the Rift since before the kickstarter, but the overwhelmingly positive reception when I had the chance to use it in a public demonstration still surprised me.


There is an annual event at Austrian universities called the “Lange Nacht der Forschung” (Long Night of Research). Basically, for one evening/night – starting at 17:00 and going on until 24:00 – the Universities prepare demonstrations, talks and interactive sessions about research for a general public. It’s (surprisingly?) popular, with 136500 visitors this year. There’s a great variety of visitors, students, families with their children, and even seniors.

Our Demonstration

This year, our group was asked to do a demonstration again. Since I wanted to do something which is both related to our current research and engages people I had a pretty hard time coming up with ideas. In the end, I settled on taking the result of one of our compiler analysis methods (designed and implemented by Herbert Jordan) which generates a Petri net representing the parallel execution of a program, and visualizing it in VR using the Rift.

I had a prototype up and running using OpenSceneGraph, but with the recent release of UE4 with licensing for mortals, I decided to try it using that. With just a bit over a week to go (and, it turned out, a few graph layout papers to read and 3D models to create in addition to getting used to coding for and working with a huge engine from scratch) it was a tight squeeze, and quite exhausting, but I completed it in time.

If you can read German you can find more detail here. Basically, it’s a set of nodes (2 types) floating in space, connected by “bridges” representing graph edges, and with pillars showing the ID of the related program node/construct, as well as (optional) “monitors” showing the associated code for e.g. region constructs. Here’s a screenshot:

Screenshot of the Visualization (Non-VR mode)

Screenshot of the Visualization (Non-VR mode)

For the actual demonstration at the event we also had a 30″ screen mirroring the Rift output set up, so that people could see what’s going on, as well as a copy of the poster I linked above to explain the context of what was being presented.

The Reactions

Now we get to the part which is actually interesting. I was really curious how these “normal” people would react to the Rift. I am happy to say that the overall reaction was much more positive than I expected, despite all the technical shortcomings of DK1. We had a group of people watching and waiting for their turn for the entire duration of the event (so 7 hours, actually closer to 7 and a half if you take all the time before and after the official start into account), and probably around 250 people using the Rift.

We had a wide range of visitors over all age and gender boundaries – with families, normally it would be the kids trying the Rift first and then convincing their parents or grandparents. Here are a few photos:

Some remarkable incidents and things of note I observed:

  • We actually had to reassure people multiple times that “we’ll still be here for 5/4/3 hours” during the most crowded periods.
  • Upon it being explained that importing DK2 to Austria will cost about 400€, most people were surprised at how inexpensive that is. One particular remark I remember is a boy (probably elementary school age) exclaimed “Wow, that’s 100€ less than the new Xbox!”.
  • A young woman in her early 20s telling her boyfriend “we need one of these at home” after walking around in the demo for 2 minutes.
  • More people recognized the Rift than I expected. I’m sure some of that had to do with the Facebook deal and the reporting around it.
  • You could easily tell if someone who tried it was familiar with twin stick FPS gameplay. Gamers would zip around using both sticks, but often fail to move their head and just look at stuff until prompted to do so. On the other hand, non-gamers would turn exclusively using their head/body, and be in danger of getting wrapped up in cables.
  • “Mom, can I get this for Easter?”

That’s it, pretty much. After this exhausting but fun experience I’m more certain than ever that VR will not just become big, it will do so very quickly. Oh, and I’d like to thank Philipp Gschwandtner for helping me with the demo, and for taking all the good pictures you see in the gallery above. The bad ones were taken by me.

Oculus Rift

Two days ago I received my Oculus Rift developer kit. If you’re unfamiliar with the Rift, it’s an affordable Virtual Reality headset that had a successful kickstarter for developer kits last year.

My kit had a pretty long journey, going to Australia first. I used to think that people (particularly in the US) mixing up Austria and Australia was just a myth, but it seems like it actually happens:

Mislabeled Package

Tracking Information for the UPS order

Tracking Information for the UPS order

But hey, all is well that ends well. It’s a really nicely packaged kit, and includes adapters for anywhere on earth and 3 times as many video cables as you need:


You can find much better pictures of exactly what’s inside (and the great box!) elsewhere on the web.

Sadly, I don’t have much time to do development for the Rift or even much testing right now, but here are my first impressions:

  • It works! When you first put it on and look around, it really feels like an entirely new experience. I had a few people at work try it today, and all were really impressed as well.
  • The resolution is low, but not as bad as I expected. I think with the consumer version’s planned 1080p resolution and really nicely anti-aliased rendering, we’ll be fine for a while.
  • The pixel switching time of the current display is too long. Ideally, I think it should use something like an OLED display, with instant response.
  • The headtracking is really fast, I didn’t notice any perceptible delay.

I just tested using the “Oculus World Demo” included with the SDK, and I noticed that the reaction speed and even the blur with head movement seemed significantly better with the windowed fullscreen mode instead of the “real” fullscreen mode. I’m not sure why this is the case, it could be that in real fullscreen I had VSync on.

Anyway, I hope I get more time to play around with it this weekend.