HTC Vive Hands-on: MobileSyrup goes down the VR rabbit hole

HTC Vive

Why VR doesn’t make your vision better

By Rose Behar

Having only tried out the lower end of VR previously – Samsung’s Gear VR and LG 360 VR headsets – I had no idea what I was in for when I crammed my head into the HTC Vive.

The first thing I noticed was that everything was blurry. That’s because I’m nearsighted, but I’ve always wondered whether or not I should be able to wear VR headsets without my glasses. After all, the entirety of the action is happening mere millimetres from my eyes. Besides, when I tried the LG headset I was able to see alright, with only minor fuzziness.

Turns out with the Vive, it’s a no-go. My vision wasn’t as blurry in virtual reality as it is in real life, but it was bad enough that I had to tap out and put on my glasses before continuing. Which is unfortunate, because the fact that you can’t see out of all angles of your eyes limits how deeply you can immerse yourself in VR.

Wondering why VR didn’t fix my vision, I turned to my good friend Reddit. Turns out there was already a discussion on the subject: “If I am nearsighted, would I be able to wear a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift and see perfectly, regardless of the virtual draw distance?”

The top-voted answer from a year ago stated that yes, it did work, in much the same way that putting your phone on camera mode and holding it in front of your eyes allows nearsighted people to see distances without their glasses.

That backs up my experience with the LG headset, and one of my nearsighted colleagues confirmed that he doesn’t need his glasses or contacts to use Samsung Gear VR.

So why is the Vive different? One user who had the same issue I did, except with the Oculus Rift, stated that the issue was caused because: “It has lenses between your eyes and the screen, and you effectively focus at infinity.”

Infinity focus is an optical term that refers to a lens forming an image of an object an infinite distance away. Essentially, the Vive and Rift simulate distance so well that it tricks your eyes.

Once I crammed my glasses in the headset and began to play, that higher level of quality over the Gear and LG headset was immediately noticeable. I was transported into other worlds, and even though I knew I was limited by the four grid-like walls that sprang up as soon as I got close to the limits of the sensors, every location did in fact feel infinite.