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Experiments

Re-index

Originally published by SkarredGhost. Edited to remove my original spelling mistakes and some images updated. Introduction by Tony at Skarredghost


June, 28th, one year ago, Valve launched the Valve Index, one of the best virtual reality headsets on the market. To celebrate its first birthday, my friend and renewed XR ergonomics expert Rob Cole of Immersive Computing has decided to write another one of his very interesting guest posts about his experiments with this device, that you can read here below. The post is long and detailed, and will teach you all the modifications that you can apply to improve your experience with the Valve Index.

Happy birthday, Valve Index!


Re-Index

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since I received my Valve Index PCVR kit on launch day, June 28th 2019. I wish the Valve Index a very happy 1st birthday, with reports of new Indices being shipped to customers as fast as they can make them!

This article looks at some of the different modifications I’ve experimented with during the past year to improve the fit of my Index headset, Index controllers and Index ear speakers, as part of what I like to call my Re-Index project. 

I’m not going to get bogged down by talking about RMA claim as it’s not the focus of this article. But yes, there have been many problems since launch including replacement of the headset, tether, controllers, and ear speakers. I lost about 1/3rd of the past year waiting on replacement parts.

I’m currently on my 7th left Index controller and 6th right Index controller which informs me that controller issues have not yet been resolved. But I’ve been impressed by Valve’s active warranty support with a number of my RMA claims resolved as “advanced replacements” where the new product was shipped before the faulty product was returned.

Despite the loss of VR time and frustration over long delays in receiving new parts, overall the sheer sense of presence and immersion provided by Index is unlike anything else currently available on the consumer market, and for that reason alone I have stuck with my Index.

Wide Face Gasket Base

For some unknown reason Valve released the Index headset in June 2019 with only a single, relatively narrow facial gasket, which immediately became a problem for my medium-sized head (59cm) as the Index simply did not fit onto my face.

I was puzzled by this omission, as their previous collaboration with HTC saw the Vive released in 2016 with both narrow and wide facial gaskets to offer 2 fitting options out of the box. 

Later I learned that Index development kits were originally supplied with narrow and wide facial interfaces, as listed by the Valve Index webpage from early April 2019 which clearly listed 2 Face Gaskets (narrow and wide) ; by the end of April this was changed to just Face Gasket

Much later (early 2020) physical evidence of the “L” development face gasket emerged after Steam Support mistakenly sent one to a Redditor, who then posted a picture on Reddit asking how to attach the gasket, as it did not have magnets (production gasket) but clip-in tabs (pre-production).

This has led me to consider why the wide facial gasket was officially dropped, and despite asking Steam Support on three different occasions over the past year, I always get the same reply:

Unfortunately we do not have any information on potential future products. For information on current sales and promotions please refer to the Steam Storefront, the Steam News section, or on the Valve Index store page.

For reasons unknown it seems there is no interest in a wide face gasket within Valve, which seems bizarre as it cannot be true that all of Valve’s staff and 3rd party developers happened to have narrow faces.

One theory is that the Index is display-limited, and the wider face gaskets simply showed an unflattering view with black borders. This idea is supported by an IPD upper limit for Index of only 70mm, compared to the Vive Pro at 74mm. From Steam user “Edhem”:

My IPD is 74mm, and as soon as I tried the Valve Index, I started getting a headache. I currently have the HTC Vive and I have tried the Vive Pro, both with 75mm IPD vs the Index’ 70mm, and neither of the HTC headsets gave me any issues. I am sad that I will never be able to buy the Index as it appears to be a great device, but only made for smaller people.

Either way, there was no wide face gasket product offered by Valve, although did Valve did the modding community a big solid by releasing the Index modding CAD files which included the plastic base model for the face gasket.

Modder “Anonymous Hermit” quickly stretched out the Valve base design to create a wider base, and released it on Thingiverse under the Creative Commons Licensing scheme. You can find it at this link: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3738708

After getting quotes around £200 from several UK 3D print shops, I managed to get a much more reasonable price from Ninja Prototype who offered to print my base in their Chinese print shop and ship direct to the UK.

This was the first time I had used a 3D printing service and I was really impressed by their smartphone application which made the entire process incredibly easy.  About 2 weeks later, my wide base arrived and I got to work building a wide face gasket for my Index.

Wide face gasket build

Top: Valve Index face gasket; Bottom: Wide face gasket build

With Anonymous Hermit’s wide base design now printed, I set about building my own wide face gasket. The dramatic difference in the width and radius between the Valve face gasket and my wide face gasket can be clearly seen in the image above and demonstrates how crucial the wide gasket actually is for fitting wider faced Index owners.

I purchased a pack of 1 x 5mm Neodymium magnets, industrial-grade self-adhesive Velcro, and aftermarket Vive face cushions, and carefully bonded the magnets and Velcro to the 3D printed base after degreasing with Isopropyl Alcohol to remove any skin oils or other contaminants.

The Vive cushions were then cut to fit the larger Index eye box and positioned to give the most comfortable position whilst presenting the optics in a neutral position.

After letting the adhesive cure overnight I started testing my wide face gasket which immediately solved the “narrow fitting” issue and proved that a wide face gasket could work for Index.

Other “comfort” issues would arise in the longer term from the use of PU face cushions, but at least for now I could finally wear my Index without having my face squashed and my eyes in the wrong position.

Magnet Stacking

(Image by Immersive Computing)

After building my wide face gasket, I discovered it was possible to make fine additional adjustments to the face gasket fitting by “stacking magnets”, as seen in the image above.

To get a 3D printed facial gasket to attach to the Index headset, 4 magnets are bonded onto the plastic base, 1 in each corner; I used readily available 2-pack epoxy adhesive and left to cure overnight. 

These tiny magnets (5mm dia x 1mm thick N42 F351-50) are very strong (0.3kg pull), and quite capable of supporting several stacked magnets without the stack becoming unstable (which could cause the face gasket to shift around).  

This led to a realisation that some asymmetry could be partially accommodated beyond the standard adjustments offered by the Index headset, using different arrangements and numbers of the magnets on each of the 4 mounting posts of the face gasket.  

One noticeable difference for me was placing stacked magnets on the 2 top mounting posts which seemed to sharpen the picture quality as well as creating eyebrow clearance, I also experimented with different left/right bias which made further subtle changes. 

I wrote an article about building my wide face gasket for this blog and you can find it here.

VR Cover Valve Index face gasket

(Image by Immersive Computing)

After months of using cut-up Vive face cushions in my 3D printed wide facial gasket base, I was pleased to learn that VR Cover were bringing their own facial gasket to market – the first after market facial gasket replacement for the Index to hit the market.

Tony at SkarredGhost was kind enough to put me in touch with VR Cover who quickly sent me some production samples to test. 

Their well finished plastic base was the same width and radius as the Index original, with thick and thin PU face cushions offering 2 different fits on the 1 base.

VR Cover’s thick cushion gave the same narrow fit as the Index original so was unusable for me, whilst their thin cushion was a closer match to my facial width, but at the expense of headset comfort. Index is a relatively heavy headset with a long tether requiring clamping force from its head strap to keep the headset in position on the face especially during active gaming. 

I quickly found the thin cushion was unable to isolate my face from the weight and clamping force of the Index headset, whilst the PU material got hot and sweaty very quickly allowing moisture to build up inside the headset, making longer sessions uncomfortable with red marks left on my forehead, sweaty skin and sometimes a mild headache.

My recommendation to VR Cover was to produce the plastic base in 2 widths (original and wide), offer a pre-curved (no ripples) face cushion for each width of base, but using a medium thickness breathable foam and skin-compatible surface layer to provide better comfort for longer sessions, kinda like what Valve did with the original Index facial interface.

(Image by Immersive Computing)

Another concern was the lack of absorbency to protect the headset from sweat corrosion damage: as seen in the image above the PU cannot absorb moisture causing the lenses and inside of the headset to quickly become wet. This is not ideal in the long term as it may cause similar damage to that seen on the HTC Vive when used with PU cushions.

Unfortunately the Coronavirus pandemic soon followed, and production facilities around the World shut down which saw stock shortages of all VR products including headsets, controllers and after market accessories.

Hopefully VR Cover and many other VR companies with their manufacturing partners can all get back to prototyping, building and distributing their products very soon as many VR enthusiasts especially Index owners await further improvements!

You can find my full review of the VR Cover cover for Valve Index in this blog as well.

“Pogo biscuit” working prototype

(Image by Immersive Computing)

After getting a workable face gasket installed in my Index headset, I turned my attention to my ears which were unhappy with higher sound pressure blasting my left ear.

After looking at every audio related software solution, including reducing left volume which seemed to just let in more background noise rather than resolve the imbalance, I realized it was a physical imbalance caused by my perfectly normal, human asymmetry. It’s common to have asymmetrical ears, faces, hands, feet, etc.

With a normal pair of audio headphones, most people can get a good fit with the adjustments available on the sprung headband, and unless an outlier in terms of fitting, will find the experience comfortable.

However, with the off-ear “Ear Speaker” design on the Index, there was no depth adjustment to accommodate different size and shape ears, and wonky heads! This meant that the left and right speakers might be a different distance between the left and right ears due to variations in head and ear shape.  

A physical adjustment was required, and I measured my gap difference at about 10mm on the left, which was a good starting point. Quickly going through ideas for redesigning the arm mounting mechanism, before settling on a simple physical spacer with matching “pogo-pin” pass-through electrical connections for the headset and ear speakers.

Soon, a collaboration on Reddit with Anonymous Hermit produced the Thingiverse model they published; using an East London 3D print shop I had a dozen biscuits printed and built some working prototypes after using cut down bicycle spokes to create electrical pass-through pins. I took the best-finished prototype, installed it into my head strap with a longer M2 screw; it worked well and proved the concept was firm.

(Image by Immersive Computing)

However, it was tricky to build at scale as the 3D printed solution wasn’t ideal in terms of small detail strength, requiring an injection mould tool and pogo pin fittings would need to be custom made with large minimum orders.  

Whilst I was figuring this all out, the Hermit launched a much smarter and simpler solution…

5.4 degree ear speaker spacer

Anonymous Hermit had figured out with some maths that a simple shim could be added to the existing BMR ear speaker setup whilst maintaining electrical and structural connection through the existing pogopin connector. You can find its model on Thingiverse as well.

In an act of kindness (many thanks!), the Hermit mailed a number of samples they’d 3D printed from their base in New York,USA; as seen in the image above.

I have 1 of these installed on the left side of my Index, and it sat there quietly for many months since just doing its job, which is the sign of a great design. These spacers are essential to have in your modding box if you own an Index and want to make ear speaker adjustments.

Depending on its fitting orientation, the spacer can be used to move the ear speaker in or out relative to your ear. Due to the pogo pins requiring a good connection but having limited engagement depth, its not advisable to double up the spacers.

The improvement to the audio was immediate, giving a balanced and comfortable audio presentation to both ears. Feedback was provided to Valve so hopefully, we will see a future iteration of the ear speaker with a depth adjustment mechanism. 

Audio Lead Extension

During the first few weeks of ownership, my Index was really underpowered in the audio department, which was somewhat disappointing. 

This caused a big loss of immersion, as audio is incredibly important in VR, and living in a busy city I immediately noticed background noise bleeding in where my previous PCVR headset with closed headphones had proven very immersive in the same room.

My immediate solution was to remove the ear speakers and switch to audio headphones to reduce this unwelcome background noise. Removing the ear speakers and using headphones proved less easy as I’d already switched to using a 3D printed wide face gasket.

This gave less clearance for headphone cables, as the audio port behind the face gasket had an awkward orientation and needed a deep jack plug with a sharp right angle, causing many cable plugs and leads I tried to foul the face gasket, uncoupling the magnets and lifting the gasket off the headset mounts.

Eventually, I modded a Logitech headphone splitter cable by removing one lead and shaving down the rubber plug grommet so the cable could clear the tight gap without fouling the face gasket. 

Using the Index with headphones was beneficial in terms of reducing background noise, which is important for City dwellers or at location-based entertainment venues where you don’t want outside music overpowering virtual experiences. 

For quieter applications with little body movement like “The Blu” my Sennheiser and Logitech headphones worked well by removing the noise of my PC and cars driving past my street in London.

Though it became obvious the amp inside the Index was specifically designed and tuned for the BMR ear speakers, as the tonal quality was quite different to when these headphones were plugged directly into my PC or even my smartphone. The headphones also seemed a little underpowered which led to the next finding.

All audio settings were tried during these weeks of quiet audio, until eventually it was tracked down to the Nvidia audio driver feeding the HDMI and Display port cables. The driver was applying minus-6 in the pre-amplification stage dramatically reducing the amount of power available to the ear speakers.

Later, Equalizer APO was installed on my PC allowing me to resolve the lower sounds power issue by adjusting the pre-amplification stage to finally provide full power to the ear speakers, which then truly “came alive” with a huge difference in audio presence.

Once the sound power issue was resolved, I spent most of my time using the BMR ear speakers as their sound quality was very good, though to be critical slightly lacking bass weight when compared to studio headphones. For their tiny size and weight (53 gramme) though, they pack a big punch and have excellent clarity throughout their range including going very loud without distortion. 

The other important reason I stuck with the BMR ear speakers was for the sheer quality of life and comfort improvements of using headset mounted, off-ear audio, combined with their really immersive and open soundscape interacting naturally with the unique shape of my wonky ears.

The only negative has been the reliability of the connection between the ear speaker “pod” and the mounting arm, the plastic joint tends to wear quite quickly, causing a small amount of free slop to develop which can allow the speaker to vibrate at higher volumes. In an ideal world, Valve could redesign the mounting arm to provide depth adjustment and eliminate this free movement.

I wrote on this blog a long deep dive about my experiments with the audio of the Valve Index, and if you are interested, you can find it here.

Valve Index palm boosters

The big disappointment for me of the Index launch was actually the Index controllers, which left me a bit shocked and confused.  They looked very cool and it was definitely a special feeling to handle them after following their development for several years following my purchase of an HTC Vive in 2016.

However, they didn’t actually fit my hands very well, with the controls in the wrong place, the controller body feeling too small in size, and a strange material mismatch between having a fabric strap clamped across the back of my hand whilst the hard plastic body controller pressed into my palm. I started wondering how they could have got it so wrong

Soon enough Valve came to the rescue with their “Palm Boosters” clip-on design released for 3D printing. Straight away I placed an order through Etsy.com and had them printed and shipped to the UK by Printlix in Romania for a very reasonable price.

The Palm Boosters fundamentally changed my fit, control, comfort and material mismatch.

I should mention I have medium-sized hands and wear medium-sized bicycle gloves; it seems the Index controller design offers the “naked” controller as small size and the “palm booster” fitted controller as a medium size.

This leads me to believe that larger handed owners could further benefit from a “large palm booster” with a volume increase compared to the current 3D printed part.  

I liked them so much I bought a spare pair and then wrote an article about it for SkarredGhost, that you can find here, if you are interested.

Studioform Creative VR Apache DAS head strap

In the ongoing search to further improve headset comfort for long VR sessions, I found this Apache DAS head strap from New Zealand company Studioform Creative which was advertised as being compatible with the Index.

This had been originally made for the Vive DAS and so didn’t fit my Index particularly well with the front strap fouling the BMR speaker mount, making fitting a bit awkward.

One benefit was I could reduce the overall strap pressure for the top strap and rear harness, although this could cause a loss of stability if too loose, so it was about getting the tension just right. 

Admittedly I continued to struggle getting the headset sat right each time and didn’t enjoy the extra layer of “friction” from having more straps to fuss with, sometimes I found the Apache DAS straps causing interference and moved the headset from its optimum position. 

It also caused my head to get a little warmer during active experiences like Beat Saber and Pistol Whip, so eventually I went back to using the Index with its standard top strap setup.

VR Cover Valve Index headset Cover

Soon after VR Cover had sent me their Index Face Gasket kit to test, they sent me their new Valve Index headset cover, which arrived with 2 covers in the pack.

This was designed to prevent wear and tear to the rear cushion of the Index headset hardness, as the cushion is not user-replaceable.

I found during my testing it added a bigger benefit of more firmly gripping the rear of my head, which stabilized the headset during active movement. I didn’t notice any additional heat compared to the standard head strap. This accessory was genuinely useful and a great day one installation to prevent your Index headset from getting a dirty or worn rear head strap. 

The full review on this interesting gadget is in this other post.

Soft top strap modification

During my ongoing search to improve comfort for long term sessions in my Valve Index I tried cutting up my Apache DAS strap to make the top strap of the headset more cushioned.

I had never found the standard top strap very comfortable as its thin and unpadded which can be felt on the head especially for bald headed people like myself. I’d noticed some Index users recommending repurposed strap covers from satchels and hand bags, but my DAS strap was sitting there doing nothing…

Whilst this modification added a good degree of comfort, it also increased the heat by covering a substantial part of my head, so I soon removed it when I got back into playing Beat Saber.

Soft tether routing

The standard tether routing on the Index caused my Index launch headset to start sparkling after 2 short weeks of use, after simply opening and closing the headset a number of times had put a nasty kink in the tether which was firmly anchored by 2 plastic mounting clips.

After receiving a replacement headset I switched to modified cable routing which ditched the plastic mounting clips in favor of “soft” Velcro attachments. Initially, I used a 3D printed Index tether belt clip mounted using a Velcro strap above the head strap rotary dial but noticed a crease developing where the tether exited the cable clip.

This led to understanding that the tether is relatively soft and quite easily damaged from being coiled up, badly stored or being stressed whilst being worn due to poor cable routing; additionally any blunt edge (cable clamp) applied against the tether over time starts to crease the plastic cover. 

Talking of storage, its worth looking at videos of “how to coil audio cables” as its very easy to damage the tether from improper storage with the cable becoming internally wound.

Eventually I settled on a “soft” solution as seen in the image above, which firmly holds the tether with large pieces of soft Velcro that stick to matching Velcro strips on the harness. Since this image was taken I have extended soft support for the tether where it comes off the head strap to prevent any crease developing in the tether. 

Used with a “soft” belt clip (Velcro wrap) and shorts/trousers with a suitable belt, this stops the tether from getting easily damaged and should reduce its unwelcome presence felt on your head or back as you move around.

Frunk

Valve designed the Index headset with a “Frunk” (front trunk) which contained a USB port to offer expansion options to the modding community. At the launch event for journalists, Valve had a small display panel installed displaying different messages.

The expectation was that the community could come up with all kinds of cool stuff to bolt into the Frunk, and the community has certainly delivered: at this page you can find the list of all mods created by the community.

Personally I found the Frunk ideal for housing my Xbox controller wireless dongle, or rarely for charging an Index controller with a flat battery whilst continuing to play by plugging it straight into the headset.

It’s neat but non-essential as the Xbox dongle works fine when plugged into my PC, and charging is much quicker using wall-mounted USB mains chargers.

Then a question arises, would removing the Frunk improve the headset design? This could remove a big lump of plastic from the front and provide a lighter/slimmer headset.

Bear in mind the Index is a heavy headset with a bias towards the front, so any reduction in weight, complexity and manufacturing cost would be welcome. I’ve already seen modifications where owners have removed the Frunk cavity and replaced it a 3D printed blank, though warnings exist that this can upset the calibration of the tracking system so is best approached with caution.

Frunk removal would have to be weighed against the benefit that some Index owners really appreciate, the most obvious being the “Chilldex” cooling system that fits neatly into the Frunk, or an Ultra Leap module for hand tracking experiments. For now, I’ll keep using it for my Xbox dongle as it frees up another USB slot on my PC which is always useful. 

Cranial cap with occipital support

After all my experiments with face gaskets, top straps, and rear covers, I looked at a more radical proposal. Instead of adding extra padding and material to solve comfort issues (which just added weight and heat), perhaps a fundamental redesign of the headset mounting would be more beneficial.

I drew inspiration from the Kathryn Bigelow film “Strange Days” where the lead character wears a very cool head-mounted FBI developed device that captures brain waves. This device had a skeletal structure designed to closely fit the skull, and this was my launching point for a “cranial cap”. 

The benefit of the cranial cap is to use the skull itself to support the headset, and remove pressure from the face, perhaps using a soft gasket like PSVR to seal the eye box against light ingress . I stripped down a bicycle helmet and removed its “Mips” safety liner to use as a working model to develop the concept. After rebuilding the liner with attachment points for the headset, I pulled back the Index harness and tried some fitting sessions to check clearance.

The idea seems to work well, with the next step being a 3D head scan so I could build a head model, but as the Coronavirus pandemic unfolded it became a non-option with my booking at a specialist scanning facility in London “put on hold”.

The other option was the old-school route of making a head cast using plaster of Paris, which would provide me with the ability to then plaster cast a physical model of my head onto which I can directly build a cranial cap unique to my head.

The cranial cap design has a with a minimalist structure of wireframe structure with CoolMax contact pads in key places, and an occipital support structure at the rear. Weight, pressure, adjustment, cooling are all considerations. More on this soon…

Closed headphones for BMR ear speaker mounts

Another project I’ve been looking at a while is a “closed headphone” for the BMR ear speaker mounts on the Index headsets.

After my experiments with audio leads, headphones, and ear speaker spacers I wanted the option of a closed headphone for users like myself with noisy backgrounds or using quieter applications/experiences where a closed headphone could be ideal.

This would simply replace the existing “open” BMR ear speaker using the same pogo pin fitting to provide a hassle-free swap-out.

The trickiest part is not physical packaging and adjustment, but working out the best headphone drivers to use which can play nicely with the amp inside the Index headset, as mentioned previously the amp has been specifically tuned for the BMR ear speakers.

Some final thoughts on 1st year of ownership

Framerate

The Index was unusual in being the first headset to offer user-adjustable frame rates of 80 Hz, 90 Hz, 120 Hz, and 144 Hz. The higher frame rates and ultra-low persistence display had big implications for the user’s sense of immersion and virtual presence

Being a “power user” with an overclocked multi-core processor (5.2Ghz) and GPU (2080Ti) I had lots of headroom to experiment, or so I thought…

It quickly became apparent that many VR applications were poorly optimized meaning even a power user may struggle to hit the right frame timing without wallowing in re-projection or having to use motion smoothing.

A handful of less graphically demanding games like Beat Saber, Space Pirate Trainer, Pistol Whip and Superhot ran well at 144 Hz, whilst most of my games worked well at 120 Hz, and some of the more demanding games worked best at 90 Hz.

I even tried 80 Hz for some of the driving simulator applications which are computationally expensive and tend to quickly grind to a halt once graphical settings are increased.

120Hz seems to be the “sweet spot” for most of my applications, giving a fresher, sharper feel than 90Hz but without going into unwanted re-projection. But for certain titles, the benefit of applying “super resolution” outweighed the desire for higher frame rates.

Super Resolution

Often called “super sampling”, Index really benefited from my powerful PC as I could increase the render resolution which is then downsampled to fit the native resolution of the Index display hardware, reducing aliasing and giving amazing clarity.

130% resolution at 90 Hz, 110% resolution at 120 Hz or 100% at 144 Hz were just some of many settings I tried, Index is fantastic in giving the user these options if they have the computing power to play with.

For some seated games like “Aircar” 90 Hz felt very comfortable, whilst increasing super-resolution in-game to x 1.3 gave a big boost to immersion (visual presence) with an incredibly clear visual quality giving a good idea of how much higher resolution displays will benefit future PCVR headsets.

I was surprised how much difference super resolution made for Index, with its minimal screen door effect (partially thanks to the display diffuser) it pushed the display quality to another level, with some really breathtaking moments in the best VR titles.

However, for fast-moving action games like Pistol Whip and Beat Saber, using higher frame rates with regular resolution (for stability) provided a more substantial advantage for game accuracy and body presence.

Brightness

Something not talked about much is display brightness (luminance), but its very important in terms of contrast, visual immersion and feelings of presence.

Its certainly something I noticed when moving from a HTC Vive to an Oculus Rift CV1, which had a clearer display with less screen door effect but seemed to be quite dim with muted colours. Whilst I enjoyed the clearer picture, I never felt “present” in the CV1 partially the dimmer screen and partially the smaller field of view.  

Something noticed by many veteran VR owners using the newer LCD headsets is a big reduction in display brightness with less vibrant colours, and murky or washed out blacks in some dark scenes. The LCD displays operate very differently to the older OLED display, and simply do not provide the same levels of luminance, which can make applications colour graded and lit for the older OLED headsets, less than ideal on Index.

To give some figures, quoted by Redditor “Eagleshadow” who did direct testing on these headsets:

Luminance in nits:

  • Index: 95
  • Vive Pro: 143
  • Vive: 214

As you can see, Index has a relatively dim display compared to the older OLED displays in Vive and Vive Pro. Thankfully, Valve later released a headset update which allows the user to increase display brightness to 160%.

I haven’t seen any measurements yet with the display at 160%, but anecdotal comments put the increase closer to the Vive Pro but not as bright as the original Vive.

As there seems to be a correlation between display brightness and the glare inherent to the dual compound Index lenses, brightness adjustments can be made depending on applications and user requirements/preferences.

Conclusion

Well what can I say about the Valve Index after my first year of ownership? Its been a mixed year no doubt with incredible moments of sheer presence in virtual reality, tempered by the tedium and frustration of often waiting on replacement parts, typically for the Index controllers.

Ultimately I am here using virtual reality purely for the immersion, and the Index offers an immersive experience I haven’t found in other VR headsets so far!

Its been very revealing going to a number of location-based entertainment venues and events over the past year and feeling less than satisfied after using a Rift S, Vive Pro Eye or Samsung Odyssey Plus. I found with the older headsets they simply do not offer the same level of immersion as my Index. 

Valve has certainly created something very special, yes it has some flaws and quirks, but as their first attempt at an “in house” system it’s a great first step and can only get better as further developments improve the overall experience and hopefully reduce the need to regularly RMA parts of the system.

Current pain points

  • Wide face gasket – we need an “official” version as soon as possible, or an aftermarket version with sweat absorbency and skin compatibility;
  • Tether – nothing has really changed since Vive Pre in early 2016, it’s still a nuisance, point of failure, breaks immersion; wireless would be very very welcome. We are probably waiting on the new wireless standard to be approved for domestic use, as the standard was delayed last year. Having used wireless on the Vive Pro, I would happily pay top dollar for an Index wireless module;
  • Controllers – upgraded joysticks are required, as a small increase (1mm longer) I measured in the shaft length of the left stick on my later replacements has not prevented joystick drift from occurring again.   

Going back to a graphic I created in early 2017 after finishing my “Room scale Plus” experiments with the HTC Vive, summing up my thoughts as an early adopter.

It’s very interesting for me over 3 years later to see how many of my wishes have been met and which are still outstanding. It seems even back then, the tether had made itself known too many times!

Thanks for reading! Rob Cole

By immersivecomputing.org

Human exploration of the immersive computing interface

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