We recently upgraded our mobile HTC Vive demo kit with one big change that has made a massive difference in the ease of setup and simplicity of demos when we take the VR equipment to a prospective customer’s office.
For those of you who have ever set up a Vive for a demo in an unfamiliar environment, you’re familiar with the challenges. You bring light stands, and extra extension cords for the base stations just in case. You spend the first 5 minutes in a room just trying to figure out where to place all of your equipment. You may spot the optimal place to locate a base station light stand, only to realize the nearest plug is too far away. As you setup, a potential customer watches and thinks, “Wow, this is cumbersome and complicated. Will I ever be able to do this myself?” Because we’re early adopters, and evangelists, we’re willing to go through these steps to make progress and keep spreading the interest and adoption.
Somehow, I made it through hundreds of these demos before stopping to think, “What is the single biggest change I could make to improve this process?”
When I finally took the time to consider this last week I knew the answer was in the Base Stations. Everything else is relatively simple. Everything else could essentially be plug-and-play out of a case, if thoughtfully considered. What if these base stations could run on battery packs? We charge our cell phones all the time from pocket sized battery packs. Why not run the base stations the same way?
Some basic googling and digging on Reddit led me to the answer - It can be done!
2 days later, thanks to Amazon Prime, our demo kit upgrade had arrived. Below the line are links to everything you need to make this same upgrade.
The difference, starting the next day in our first demo with this kit, was night and day. This was the first demo where I was in the door and setup in under 5 minutes. But more importantly, this also reduced direct friction with the customer. There were half as many wires, and the customer never even noticed the base stations. (Ultimately I pointed them out. The conversation had progressed far enough that I saw a potential deal on the horizon and wanted to set expectations around the setup we’d do on their behalf in their offices). The customer even commented that he had seen VR before but had been turned off by the complexity, and that our system seemed much more simple.
I arrived with a carry-on containing the entire kit. In the carry-on, each base station was already plugged directly into a battery pack. The switch was off. The battery pack was velcroed to the base station. The base station was on a tripod screw, capable of 360 swivel, on a suction mount (usually a window mount for cars). Instead of unfolding and telescoping the light stand, screwing on the base station, finding a plug, and plugging it in, I simply pulled the bundle from the case, flipped the switch, and stuck the mount to a conference room wall. The other mount stuck to the table top. The remainder of the setup was complete in minutes.
Of course, we can’t wait for headsets that are completely wireless, with inside out tracking to the same accuracy as what we can currently achieve with base stations. But until that day, we now have made a single change to our demo kit that will transform the way we give demos on the road. I hope this is helpful to others who have faced the same struggle!
P.S. I tried running the battery dry to see how long it would last, but after 2 hours the charge status was still on 4/4 lights. If I ever do complete this full test on battery life, we’ll be sure to update the post.
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