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Getting Started with the Valve Index

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Valve Index
HMD
ValveIndexThumb.jpg
MSRP
USD $999
Sellers
Valve

The Valve Index is billed as a top-of-the-line VR system, with a high-resolution HMD, controllers with individual finger tracking, and two base stations.

On the other hand, it costs over $1,000 USD, isn't widely available outside the US, and even in the US there's a two month-long waitlist. On top of this are issues with the controller joystick wearing out quickly.

Before you Buy

  • If you're farsighted or have astigmatism, you will need to order lenses. VR Optician seems to be the most well-established and liked, and they ship all over Europe and the US. Lenses cost $69, with additional fees if the lenses need additional work. They take two weeks to prepare to ship, and ship from Europe.
    • You can wear glasses under the visor, but it's difficult and any weight on your nose will be extremely painful after an hour of play.
  • Orders take an extremely long time to get going, as demand is currently high and Valve appears to be selling them right off the assembly line. It took N3X15 about two months to receive his after ordering in December 2019.
  • The controllers can have issues where the joystick starts to drift. Be prepared to RMA if this happens. Thankfully, Valve seems to have a good stock of controllers, but even RMA'd controllers have issues.
  • You will need a spare DisplayPort and three USB3 ports with plenty of amperage to spare. I recommend a dedicated charging hub for your controllers, since they take a fair amount of amperage.
  • The base stations update via radio, so ensure your play area is relatively free of EM noise.
  • Stands for your HMD and controllers are recommended.
  • Your base stations need to be placed in opposite corners of the room, as high as possible, and take standard CCTV/photo camera screw mountings. If you need any special camera mounts or tripods, order them ahead of time.
  • Order and use cable pulleys, like the Kiwi Designs V2 Pulley System. They're cheap, and they protect the cable, which is a proprietary type and permanently attached to your headset. **If you fuck up your cable, you must RMA the entire headset.**

OH GOD IT JUST ARRIVED OH GOD

Congratulations, you are now the owner of a very expensive set of gear. The instructions are kind of shitty, so here's a clearer guide:

  1. Before opening, examine the box and take pictures of any damage to the exterior. You want ammunition if you need to RMA for shipping damage.
  2. Preload SteamVR while you unpack. It'll install drivers for you.
  3. Always treat your Index gently, as it is fragile and the lenses are made of glass and not easy to replace. This is not something you should be sleeping with, either.
  4. Unpack everything carefully
  5. Each controller takes USB-C cables to charge. Go ahead and plug them in so they get a chance to charge. A red LED means they're charging, white means they're charged, blue means they'e on and linking, green means they're on and linked.
  6. Each base station needs to go at opposite corners of the room, as high as possible. The bases can be screwed into walls if needed, and they take standard camera mounting screws, like you might see on a tripod or security camera mounting. Base stations should point at the center of the floor in your desired play area. Each base station takes power via an AC adapter. Ignore the micro-USB ports in the back, they only exist to confuse you. Remove the protective film on the front or they won't be visible to the HMD.
  7. Disconnect the inline breakaway connector and then hook up the USB-3, DisplayPort, and AC connections.
  8. When you're satisfied on which ports to use, plug in your headset to the breakaway connector, but do not put it on yet.
  9. Install the safety lanyards onto your controllers like they show on the back of the pamphlet. In case it's not clear, you wrap the thin part around the base of the controller's vertical stick, then pass the fat part through the small part's loop so it locks on.
  10. Put the lanyards on, then put the controllers on, adjusting the strap as shown in the diagrams on the back of the pamphlet. The strap should comfortably rest just behind your knuckles when you release the controller, and be firm enough so it doesn't move, but loose enough that you are comfortable.
  11. Ignore the HMD fit instructions for now, since we haven't set it up yet.
  12. Start SteamVR by pressing the little recessed button (the system button) on one of the controllers, then follow the instructions until it gets to putting the headset on.
    • If SteamVR says something about updating firmware, do that first. You will have to plug the controllers into your computer to update them. Do not plug your base stations into your computer, they flash over radio.
  13. If you have lenses, you should install them now. Keep the OEM lenses as backups.
  14. Fit the HMD as shown on the back of the setup pamphlet.
  15. Finish the tutorial, and you'll be dropped into SteamVR Home. This is a good time to walk around and get a feel for VR in general, and Home has some physics objects on shelves you can pick up and throw around, and UI to interact with.

Hotkeys

These aren't explained at all, and for some reason, SteamVR shows HTC Vive controls that aren't even remotely close to what's actually bound on the controllers.

Known Hotkeys
Combo Effect Notes
System Key (once) Open SteamVR menu
System Key + Trigger (on the same controller) Take screenshot
System Key twice (quickly) Toggle passthrough Requires passthrough cameras to be enabled.

The Passthrough Cameras

The Valve Index has two full-color RGB cameras on the front and SteamVR can process the images into various different representations of what's around you. This is great for seeing what you just stubbed your toe on, checking your phone, or just screwing around when you're waiting in a loading screen or lobby. Be aware that slower computers may be bogged down, and that each camera "eye" is further apart than your own, so it will feel weird, and distances will be fucked. For this reason, cameras are off by default.

  1. Open the steam menu by pressing the System Key.
  2. Enter the Settings overlay (Usually the right-most circle at the bottom).
  3. Select the Camera tab.
  4. Enable cameras.
  5. Enable Room View
  6. Select the Room View Camera Mode you want (see below).
  7. Restart SteamVR.
TODO: Gallery of all the different modes

You can now view roomview in the system menu using the new icon at the bottom, or by pressing syskey twice quickly.