The HTC Vive Review

Health, Safety & Maintenance

Health & Safety Concerns

When brand new technologies are introduced, they usually present fresh health and safety concerns. Sometimes those worries seem unfounded, but virtual reality introduces clear issues that need to be addressed.

HTC's Vive isn't all that different from the Rift in this regard, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this headset comes with many of the same warnings. The included safety and regulations guide warns that if you have a history of photosensitive seizures, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress or heart conditions, you should consult a doctor before using the Vive. Pregnant woman and the elderly should also exercise caution.

The guide also warns of repetitive use injuries. HTC suggests that you maintain good posture while wearing the headset, and your grip on the controllers should be light (use the straps). You should also avoid prolonged use of the Vive because it can affect your hand-eye coordination and balance, in addition to the obvious physical exertion that may result in muscle and joint pain.

The experiences you have while using the Vive will feel very real. You brain will react to VR the same way it handles the world outside of VR. HTC cautions that if you have a history of reacting to scary, violent, emotional and high-adrenaline content, you should avoid those experiences in VR.

Not For Children

HTC doesn’t specify an age limit for the Vive, but does warn that the product was not designed for children. Oculus was very specific about a recommended age, due in part to the available IPD adjustments. HTC doesn’t cite the same issue, though its Vive does offer a wider minimum adjustment. The concerns outlined in the booklet revolve more around children being hurt, hurting others or damaging the hardware. It does say that if older children are allowed to use the Vive, they should be monitored during and after for adverse effects.

Chaperone

Bumping into things is an obvious concern when you put on an HMD and walk around. As mentioned, the Chaperone was designed to help you avoid accidents involving your furniture or a wall. It uses a combination of the barriers you set up in the calibration process and the camera system on the front of the headset.

When you move too close to the barriers defined in your play area, a virtual wall in the form of a colored grid appears to let you know what's happening. This is incredibly helpful for establishing trust in the technology, and it really puts you at ease about walking around without slamming into something. If the grid lines aren’t enough for you, take safety a step further by enabling the front camera.

There are three different features that you can toggle when the camera is enabled. The first one gives you a full color preview attached to the left side of your controller when the SteamVR interface is accessed. This lets you reach for your keyboard or grab a sip of your drink (through a straw, of course). 

You can also enable Room View. This allows you to engage a blue overlay of the room at any given time. Simply double tap the System button and the camera engages. There’s no depth perception in this mode, but it does let you see the cable on the ground and objects around you. This is useful for interacting with anyone in the room, or for pulling a chair into your space if you want to switch from a standing to a seated game. 

The Room View camera can also be attached to the Chaperone walls, though this view is even less clear. Whenever you move close enough to a barrier, you engage the Chaperone walls. Room view in this mode appears more like a wire frame outline than the standard room view. In practice, this proves to be more annoying than helpful. You don’t have to pass the barriers to engage the Chaperone, so unless I was directly in the center of my small play space, Room View always wanted to be on. HTC demonstrated the feature at CES in a much larger area and it worked well. Your experience with this feature will depend on the size of your room.

Cleaning And Maintenance

HTC doesn’t provide many cleaning guidelines. The booklet says not to expose the headset to liquids, but it really doesn’t explain why. We had better documentation with the Vive Pre, which explained that the headset sensors can be damaged by liquid, including water. To clean the headset, use a dry cloth. The controllers house the exact same sensors, so exercise the same care when cleaning those.

HTC provides a fine microfiber cloth to clean dust and smudges off of the lenses. HTC suggests using only the provided cloth to avoid scratching their surface.

As you pick the place you're going to set up and store the Vive, try to avoid areas with direct sunlight. The sensors on the headset, controllers and base stations can all be damaged by sunlight.

Hygiene

Many of the games available for the Vive are very active. Others may leave you nervous. Either way, you're probably going to sweat, which will eventually get on the headset's foam material. Thankfully the foam is easily removable, but HTC doesn’t give any guidance on maintaining it. If you plan to let others use your Vive, it would be wise to purchase a washable cover for the foam gasket.