You may have experienced a taste of high end virtual reality at the AATA conference, Best Buy, or Microsoft Store and have interest in acquiring a system for your art therapy practice. It can be daunting to know where to begin and what questions to consider. Here are five essential factors to keep in mind:
Choosing a HMD
There are two high end Head Mounted Displays on the market: Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive. It’s similar to the personal computer market where you have Apple and Windows. There are several reasons I prefer the Oculus Rift including the all in one form factor, more streamlined and accessible hardware / software, and overall more user friendly from setup to technical support.
Choosing a Computer
Running VR is very resource intensive and you need a computer with a lot of memory and processing power, especially graphics wise. Unfortunately, Apple / MacOS is not known for powerful graphic processing units (GPUs) and although this is changing there is currently no official support for Mac from Oculus Rift.
My recommendation for a PC / Windows based system at the best price is to have it built. You can visit pcpartpicker.com to see the best prices by component. They also show specific builds for VR. By searching your local Craigslist you can find reputable computer builders. Feel free to contact me for my personal suggestion in the Front Range Area.
Besides the HMD, sensors to track your body’s movement and hand presence controllers are other essential parts that make up your VR rig that you will need. The best value is to purchase the Oculus Rift with Touch bundle which includes all the above. You also receive Oculus Medium and Quill art apps with this purchase. I have added a few other peripherals to my setup, however they not necessary to start.
Choosing an Ecosystem
There are two primary places where you purchase and download VR applications; Oculus Home and Steam. If you are familiar with iTunes or Apple’s App Store they are very similar. There are some apps that are only available on Steam so I use both. Once you install Steam, purchase an app, and launch it, the app will show up in Oculus Home. This makes it convenient to run everything from Oculus Home and keep it in one place.
This last consideration is more of an advanced topic and is worth exploring once your up and running. The primary application that I utilize is called Oculus Tray Tool. Running the OTT allows for resolution, speed, and performance improvements. Since VR is so resource intensive, any boost in these areas is most welcome.