App lets you configure your VR viewer

Google Cardboard-compatible viewers are a great choice for people who want to experience VR but don’t want to shell out the hundreds of dollars that the big-name headsets cost. In fact, these viewers can start at just $5, and are pretty good for watching VR videos and playing casual games. Plus, they work on most late-model smartphone, so you don’t need a new computer or lots of wires. Check out our list of 10 best VR viewers under $100 and 10 super-cheap viewers for trying out VR.

However, one big problem with many of these viewers is that the smartphone has to know what lenses the viewer has, and how they’re positioned. Since the viewers are dumb — they’re just lenses in a plastic or cardboard case — you normally do this by scanning a Google Cardboard QR Code. And many manufacturers don’t provide that QR Code. Maybe they’re lazy, or maybe they want you to just use their app, and not any of the thousands of other VR apps in the app stores.

This is what a Google Cardboard QR Code looks like. Note the outline of a VR viewer in the center.

Whatever the reason, this is a big headache. We have a list of QR Codes here, but we don’t have a QR Code for every single headset out there. Plus, new ones keep popping up all the time.

What to do? You can randomly try other codes to see if they’re close enough. Or you can use Google’s own QR Code generator, though it’s a little tricky.

But now, there’s a new, easier option.

Sites in VR is a virtual tourism app, but it also comes with its own QR Code generator. I tried it out, and found it relatively easy to use and quick to configure my own VR viewer, Play VR.

It wasn’t instant and automatic. It took about ten minutes total, and I had to customize the inner and outer distortion, field of view, chromatic aberration, lens separation distance, screen to lens distance, and the interpupil distance. But once I was done, I had the perfect QR Code for my headset.

I configured the PlayVR viewer using the Sites in VR application. (Image courtesy David Kariuki.)

Plus, the app already comes with a selection of ready-to-go QR Codes, in case your viewer is  the official Google Cardboard headset, or a Daydream View, SmartVR, Virtual Vizor,  Homido, Homido Mini, Dscvr,VR Fold, Wearality Sky, Vrizzmo Revolt, Mattel View-Master VR, Merge VR, Durovis Dive 5, ColorCross VR, Soyan, Geeach, Gear VR, Cardboard V2, Bobo VR Z4, Ant VR, Baofeng Small Mojing, Baofeng Storm II, VR Box, Leap-HD or Ritech 3D. (And even if your viewer isn’t one of those, sometimes one of the other QR Codes works well enough, anyway.)

How to create your own custom QR Code with the app

If your viewer isn’t on their list, and you want to create your own QR Code from scratch, start by downloading the app for free on the Apple or Android app store. Then touch the little icon of a viewer, then on the “viewer settings” icon.

 

Now you should be at a screen that lets you adjust all the techie configuration settings for your customer viewer. That includes the distortion, field of view, lens separation distance and the interpupil distance.

You can also use this to modify the settings for a QR Code that was provided by the manufacturer, but doesn’t look right to you because either the manufacturer made a mistake, or it doesn’t work with your particular smartphone for some reason, or if you have weird eyes.

The custom viewer settings screen of the Sites in VR app.

 

I tried out the process of adjusting for field of view and other features, following the online instructions.

I recommend starting with the ruler setting. This allows you to set the screen size. You will need to go and find an actual ruler for this one.

If you don’t have a ruler, you can set it for your phone’s official screen size, but be warned that the official specs might not be exact, and, as a result, the virtual reality view that you get might be slightly off.

This is the ruler calibration screen. Put an actual ruler on top of your phone, and use the arrows until the the screen’s rulers match your own. (Image courtesy David Kariuki.)

For all the other settings, your phone will switch to a virtual reality view. To calibrate those settings properly, put the phone inside your virtual reality headset, then move your head until the picture looks right.

Then hold your head still for a couple of seconds to save — you will see a little indicator, a circle filling, that will show you that it’s saving.

Customizing for inner distortion. (Image courtesy David Kariuki.)

 

 

When at the main settings menu, go to a new setting by looking in the direction of the icon — a little blue circle will appear to help you with the selection — and pause until it activates.

Then you go back to the viewer settings screen, but this time in virtual reality mode, so you can configure the other settings without taking your phone out of the headset.

Here is the custom viewer settings screen in virtual reality, side-by-side view. You can see the little blue circle that is the selection cursor floating just above the “Field of View” settings button. (Image courtesy David Kariuki.)

It seems to switch into that mode automatically — if you need to switch back out to the regular phone view, take the phone out of the viewer, touch the screen, then touch the little cardboard viewer icon at the bottom of the screen.

To go back to the virtual reality mode, just select any calibration setting again.

Now you can work your way through all the other settings.

Adjusting the lens separation distance. (Image courtesy David Kariuki.)

The lens separation distance is how far your viewer’s lenses are from one another. Again, tilt your head up and down until the picture looks good to you, then pause to save.

Normally, if you were creating a custom viewer code manually with the official Google viewer profile generator tool, you would need an actual ruler or calipers to measure this. So the Sites in VR app is a big time saver here.

Adjusting for screen to lens distance. (Image courtesy David Kariuki.)

All in all, it took me about ten minutes to get through everything and create a working viewer profile.

To see whether you’re done, click on the “Test View” button and you can see a little preview of what it all looks together once it’s put together. To go back to your settings selection screen, look for the little gray circle with a square inside of it — that’s the “back” button in this app — and look at it to activate it.

The Test Room screen of the Sites in VR app.

Once you’re all set, you can go try out your new custom viewer settings in another VR app. Once you’ve set up your custom viewer, your phone will remember it until you change it.

You can also check out the rest of Sites in VR app itself, since the main purpose of this app is virtual tourism. The viewer calibration feature is just an added bonus.

Select the destinations according to country, city or desired group of attractions such as nature or museums. (Image courtesy David Kariuki.)

Sites in VR has about 1,700 tourism destinations from around the world, grouped by country, city or type of destination.

Bursa New Thermal Spring bath in Turkey. (Image courtesy David Kariuki.)

 

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David Kariuki

David Kariuki is a technology journalist who has a wide range of experience reporting about modern technology solutions. A graduate of Kenya's Moi University, he also writes for Cleanleap, and has previously worked for Resources Quarterly and Construction Review. Email him at [email protected].

  • amanieux

    i see there is also a chromatic aberration setting which is not part of cardboard, is the cromatic aberration correction only running on this app ?

  • Carlos Loff

    Is everything ok with you Maria ??? I visit twice a day and miss new articles, snif snif

    • Busy at my day job and with other writing projects… also, not much happening. Except for the Virtec thing, and I’m editing David’s story now.

      • hmmmm, we need to generate some stories then…do they have to be truthful???

        • If someone says a big lie, that’s a big story right there. For example, if a grid owner announces that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie both have avatars on their grid — and that you are having secret, torrid affairs with both of them, and that drama is about to erupt and destroy that grid… I might think about covering it!

          Sure, the grid might be potentially inviting lawsuits, but that’s the price you might have to pay for the publicity. Undeserved, negative publicity, but still — people will be talking about you!

          But really, the thing I care about most — and I think that most people are — is whether there’s any progress creating either a web-native or a VR-native viewer for OpenSim. I have a feeling that there are a lot of people out there that are just going through the motions now, and unless something happens, will just fade away from OpenSim.

          Frankly, I might be in that category myself. Which reminds me — I planned to write an article about that.

          • “If someone says a big lie, that’s a big story right there. For example, if a grid owner announces that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie both have avatars on their grid — and that you are having secret, torrid affairs with both of them, and that drama is about to erupt and destroy that grid… I might think about covering it!”

            Crap…I had heard a similar rumor in Metro!! you spoiled it! (this is a lie)

            Seriously though, there is still a lot going on in Opensim. You might pick up issues of VisionZ and read it sometime-) (I assume you do but ya never knowz).

            There is always people coming and going…mostly I see coming, even your stats indicate this.

            Some people are saying doom and gloom stuff but it’s just not true at all. I ignore it mostly.

          • Carlos Loff

            Many people have big plans for OS right now and exactly as it stands now on tech – I see many folks motivated – Space is bigger and cheaper but not many big ready-stuff products for sale – My god if I could afford many SL Sims I could build whole functional cities 3 days eith my 3K Inventory and the suoer market there is – That brought up a new paradigm for project starters – The problem is not anymore how to pay next week SL tiers, the problem is now – How can I quit my job and work 10h/day to fill 10 VARs and bring community in to keep it all going – So Time and not Money

          • Arielle

            I see more interest in easy to set up and run, home based standalones and mini grids. That is where the future will be for Opensim. Add in some better inworld building tools and materials like voxels, while maintaining hypergrid capability and I think we will see some great growth. Let Space, Sansar and HF pursue the web based viewer and professional creator market while Opensim focuses on a niche of the amateur, hobbyist builders and creators.

          • Talla Adam

            It might be a bit quiet at HB but G+ Opensim Virtual continues to see it’s daily share of news, views and promotions. In fact since HB went a little silent on Opensim Metaverse OV has enjoyed some interesting discussions on Opensim technology and particularly security here https://plus.google.com/+RameshRamloll/posts/RuLyJXQ38rn and here https://plus.google.com/+stevelAFP/posts/dqJ5DVyyiDc

            For my part I remain heavily invested still in both Opensim and Second Life although I admit to not blogging very often now. None the less I am really quite interested in High Fidelity and Sanar and, of course, What goes with Halcyon and MOSES.

      • You can always write about the new version of KokuaOS. Perhaps not super exciting, but some people might like it.

        Release notes for 4.2 and 4.2.1 are at

        http://team-purple.sourceforge.net/wiki/Kokua:Release_Notes/KokuaOS_Release/4.2.0.38988
        http://team-purple.sourceforge.net/wiki/Kokua:Release_Notes/KokuaOS_Release/4.2.1.39007

  • james harrison

    Hey, thanks for writing this guide, but I’ve run into an issue: when I use Sites VR I can customize my QR code, but I can’t figure out how to save it. When I look at the icon to create the new code … nothing happens. The other ones work but not that one?

    Any ideas?

    • I’ve asked the developer to make this less confusing. Meanwhile, folks have been sending me screenshots of QR codes they created, so there must be a way to do it. Make sure you have the latest version of the app, though.

      I went through and played around with it, but I now can’t remember what I did.

      I do have to earn you ready some buttons have different actions depending on whether you tap them briefly or for a long time. This is very weird and I haven’t seen that anywhere else, and I’ve complained about it . I do have to say, though, that the developer was really good at getting back to me quickly and making fixes, so keep an eye out.