Virtual reality could spell the end of the traditional home cinema, and it’s easy to see why. VR is both better at immersing viewers in the action, while simultaneously being available at a much lower cost. There’s also no need to dedicate masses of space to enjoy the technology, while its diversity means users can play games, watch movies or even learn real life skills. So how does one build the ultimate VR cinema?

Building a VR cinema isn’t without its drawbacks. Unlike a traditional home cinema, it’s unlikely that VR is going to be particularly social. That means those who love socialising and having their friends around for a movie night, VR is probably not going to be the ideal solution. It does have the advantage of allowing users to interact with each other remotely, however.

So what exactly is needed in order to get started with a VR cinema? Well, read on and find out…

What Sort Of Room Is Needed For A VR Cinema?

Unlike a traditional home cinema, a massive amount of space isn’t required to build a VR cinema. In fact, users who want the essentials will only need room for one comfortable chair. That means it’s not always necessary to dedicate an entire room to VR experiences – although by not doing so, it severely limits the things that can be achieved. For example, this setup would only enable seated VR experiences, and not offer the ability to move around freely or play games.

So what sort of size would be required to enable room-scale VR in which the user can walk around and play games? Well, anything up to 3m by 3m is recommended for the HTC Vive, with a minimum play area of 1.5m by 2m required. Rooms with traditional home theatres often eclipse this size – easily. In fact, the minimum size required is around the same size as the average UK bathroom.

It’s not just about the area of the room either. For a decent VR room, height also needs to be considered. HTC requires users to mount the motion trackers diagonally and above head height, with a recommended height of above 2m. That should be relatively easy in most homes.

The type of furniture in a VR room heavily depends on what sort of set up users want. There are a number of accessories that users can acquire to maximise their enjoyment of VR, although none are necessary. In fact, VR often works better in a completely bare room – as it means users won’t be constantly bumping into objects. If it’s a movie that a user wants to watch, then simply a comfortable chair should suffice.

What Headset Is Needed For A VR Cinema?

Thanks to VR being the current hottest trend in the technology industry, consumers are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to hardware solutions for their VR room. There is a distinct gap between many of these solutions, however. Some require high-powered PCs and an array of sensors, while others simply require a smartphone and a VR headset. Here are our highlights:

HTC Vive

The HTC Vive is probably the most compelling choice for those who want a cohesive VR experience. That’s because it enables large, room-scale tracking, allowing users to freely move around a 3D space, and translating that to the virtual environment. It also offers motion-tracked controllers, allowing users to interact with on-screen objects with ease.

Unfortunately, those looking to dip their toes into the world of VR will unlikely be enamoured by the high price of the HTC Vive. It’s currently one of the most expensive mainstream VR headsets currently on the market.

Some impressive technology comes with that high price, however. That includes two 1080p displays (one for each eye), two motion controllers, and two base stations. The screens will not quite be a high enough resolution to ensure users can’t see individual pixels, but the Vive is currently the highest resolution VR headset on the market.

To get the HTC Vive working, users will need to also acquire a high-end gaming PC. That’s another significant cost that should be budgeted before embarking on a VR cinema. HTC does have the backing of Valve, however, meaning access to games and apps should be relatively easy.

Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift is likely the name everyone has heard of in the VR space, and that’s because it’s the company that made VR cool again. Now owned by Facebook, Oculus has aggressively expanded its offering since the initial launch – with motion-tracked touch controllers now available, alongside a solution for room-scale VR. Unfortunately, some of its achievements have been less well received than the headset itself.

The room-scale VR solution has largely been branded a ‘mess’ by pundits, with the sensor being criticised for its complicated set-up and limitations when compared to what’s on offer from the HTC Vive. Oculus’ solution is also more limited in terms of room sizes, with the larger rooms exclusively reserved for the HTC Vive.

That’s not to say the Oculus Rift doesn’t have its advantages. Those wanting a premium VR experience will find countless games and apps available for users to enjoy. It also costs significantly less than the HTC Vive. Like the HTC Vive, users will still need a gaming PC in order to get the headset up and running, however. Adding yet more to the cost.

Samsung Gear VR

Powered by Oculus technology and a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, the Gear VR is a completely different kettle of fish to the previous two VR headsets. That’s because it doesn’t require a gaming PC, and it doesn’t require a significant outlay – with the headset often on sale for under £100.

Unlike the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the Samsung Gear VR requires users to buy a Samsung Galaxy smartphone – with varying degrees of quality based on the phone purchased. Those who purchase the new Galaxy S8 will likely experience the best quality thanks to the display’s 2960 x 1440 resolution. That’s still not quite as good as 1080p in each eye, meaning pixels will likely show up when utilising the system.

Samsung recently updated its Gear VR offering, and while it’s still powered by Oculus’ VR technology, the new headset is lighter and has no need for wires – something users will need to bear in mind with both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

The most significant new feature of the new Gear VR is the remote that users will now find in the box. The controller is similar to that of the Touch Controller offered by the Oculus Rift, and greatly enhances the functionality of the Gear VR. Now users can play a wide variety of games, as well as enjoy an array of apps and experiences.

Google Daydream View

Google’s entry into the world of VR began with Cardboard, although those building a VR room are likely going to want something a little more sophisticated. That’s why last year the company debuted a new VR platform dubbed Daydream. It also launched a new headset called Daydream View.

Like the Samsung Gear VR, Daydream works by slotting a smartphone into the VR headset and launching the app. Users will need a compatible Daydream phone in order to get started, however. Currently, just four phones support the platform – the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, Moto Z, ZenFone AR and Axon 7.

Due to its relative infancy, the Google Daydream platform lacks many of the apps and experiences that are available on some other VR platforms. Despite that, there are several must-have apps available, including Netflix, YouTube, Google Street View, Google Play Movies, Jaunt, Need for Speed, and Danger Goat.

PlayStation VR

Those looking for the halfway house of VR headsets need look no further than the PlayStation VR. This VR headset doesn’t require an expensive gaming PC, nor is it powered by a smartphone. Instead, to use the PlayStation VR users will simply need to own a PlayStation 4 – which over 53.4 million people already own.

The PlayStation VR has been particularly well-received for its affordability and functionality, with it offering many of the benefits of the more expensive VR headsets, such as head-tracking and immersive games, for a lot less money.

Like all of the VR headsets on this list, users can interact with the virtual world through dedicated motion controllers. On this occasion PlayStation is using its Move controllers – which were launched to combat the Microsoft Kinect many moons ago.

PlayStation VR doesn’t offer the room-scale VR that can be had from the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, but for those who want to access a wide range of games and have a short stroll – it could be the ideal solution.

Due to its affordability, the specs aren’t exactly top of the line. The headset is more comfortable for long-term use than the Gear VR, but its resolution is 960 x 1080 per eye – a far cry from the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive’s 1920 x 1080.

Setting up the PlayStation VR is a doddle, however. It requires just a single PlayStation Move camera positioned so it can see the front of the VR headset. Despite an easy set-up, like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the PlayStation VR still suffers from the problem of cables.

What Gaming PC Is Needed For A VR Cinema?  

For those wanting either an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, a high-end gaming PC will be required. While there are literally countless options to choose from, users will need to bear in mind that their PC will be required to support VR gaming – something that is only supported on the highest end of the spectrum.

In terms of specification, HTC recommends a minimum specification of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 (or better) for the GPU, an Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 (or better) for the CPU, and at least 4GB of RAM.

That’s the minimum specification, so in order to future proof, it’s recommended to go all out. Currently, the recommended graphics card for VR and 4K gaming is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, which costs upwards of £400. Add a top-of-the-line CPU, such as the Intel Core i7 7700K, then just two components can cost users over £700. Other components that will be needed include RAM, motherboard, PSU, case and cooling – all which add to the overall cost.

What Accessories Are Needed For A VR Cinema?

To get the most out of VR, users will want to consider acquiring some key accessories to go inside their VR cinema. These can include everything from a flying simulator to a simple box for enabling wireless connectivity.

DisplayLink Wireless VR

The most important accessory that Oculus Rift and HTC Vive users are going to want to purchase is the DisplayLink Wireless VR. Both of those headsets require connecting to an HDMI port on a gaming PC through long wires – but with the DisplayLink Wireless VR, users can simply plug the HDMI cable into a wireless box that attaches to the back of the headset, and not have to worry about long cables.

A gaming PC is still required, but the DisplayLink Wireless VR simply has a transmitteR and a receiver. The receiver box attaches directly to the back of the headset and enables ultra-low latency gameplay without being tethered to a giant machine.

To ensure users don’t experience motion sickness, which typically occurs when latency becomes greater than 20ms, DisplayLink’s technology ensures a latency of between 2-3ms. That’s pushing a 2160 x 1200 90fs video feed directly to the headsets, with 4K 120fps HDR compatibility planned for future generations.

Unfortunately, DisplayLink Wireless VR isn’t yet available on the open market. The company recently demonstrated its technology at CES 2017, although it has no plans to ship until the second half of 2017.

Virtuix Omni

Those looking for something unique to pair with their VR headset need look no further than the Virtuix Omni. This all-in-one motion platform allows users to walk, run, sit, strafe and go backwards without ever having to worry about walking into a wall. Users simply strap into a harness and walk on the constantly moving platform – it’s like a treadmill, but a little more sophisticated.

The Virtuix Omni only works with a few games for now, and it only works with the HTC Vive – but it’s one of the most unique accessories for those wanting to get the most out of their VR headsets.

For such a unique product, users would typically expect to pay thousands. Fortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, the Virtuix Omni can be picked up for $699 – not bad for the fully immersive VR experience.

Birdly

While there are countless VR accessories on the market, the one that will interest the majority of people is Birdly. That’s mostly because it’s absolutely bonkers, but also because it satisfies the childhood fantasy many of us have had – the ability to fly.

Birdly is a contraption that users can simply strap into, put on their VR headset and then simulate the experience of flying. Thanks to the dedicated fan, users can feel the breeze through their hair, while the contraption itself tilts to give the sensation of flying.

Unlike the Virtuix Omni, Birdly works with both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. It’s not the most practical of accessories, however.

Which Software Can Be Used In The Ultimate VR Cinema?

Software is going to be an important aspect of the VR cinema. If users want to watch movies, then it’s likely that they want to access a media server or streaming service like Netflix. If they want to play games, then what are the key games currently available on the various platforms?

Plex

Plex is one of the most popular pieces of media server software on the planet right now, and it’s easy to see why. The software can handle movies, music and TV shows for streaming almost anywhere in the world, and thanks to a wide array of apps – on almost any device.

Unfortunately, there’s not yet a dedicated app for VR users, but that hasn’t stopped some consumers from getting the company’s software running. Using one of the many web browsers available on all the VR platforms, users can simply head to Plex’s online interface and enjoy all of their media content from the comfort of their very own virtual world.

CE Pro Europe has reached out to Plex to see whether it is considering a dedicated app for VR platforms, although it has yet to receive a response. An update will be made to this article upon receiving a response.

Netflix

Netflix is one of the earliest adopters of VR, with its dedicated VR app offering a virtual living room experience in which to enjoy movies and TV shows. Currently, Netflix is limited to just the Oculus Rift, Gear VR and Google Daydream platforms. Meaning those who want to simply watch media content, will probably be better off with those headsets.

Despite no official app being available for the HTC Vive, there are plenty of alternatives for watching movies and TV shows.

Jaunt

Jaunt is a company dedicated to creating VR content, and that’s why its app is available on pretty much all of the major VR platforms. That includes the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Gear VR, Google Daydream and PlayStation VR.

Inside the Jaunt app users won’t find movies or TV shows, instead they’ll find extended experiences based on popular titles, such as Star Wars and Mr Robot. In fact, Jaunt currently has hundreds of experiences that are bound keep users occupied for months.

Tilt Brush

The beauty of VR is that it doesn’t have to be solely about playing games or watching content, in fact one of the best apps on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift isn’t one where the user consumes any kind of content. That’s because users create content instead.

It’s called Tilt Brush, and it’s a 3D drawing experience developed by Google. Tilt Brush can be used to create unique artwork and has consistently been one of the most popular pieces of software available on any VR platform.

Job Simulator

While there are many games available on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR – one of the most unique is Job Simulator. The game revolves around a comical approximation of real-world jobs and has users tackling tasks such as filing and burger flipping.

Job Simulator has consistently been one of the most popular VR games and for those looking for a great place to start, this is definitely it.