SteamVR Best Practices

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Virtual Reality or VR for short is quickly becoming the next big thing in digital entertainment. Because of this industry wide push to VR, Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) supports a wide variety of VR headsets and controllers without developers having to do anything else besides just opening the Unreal Editor and making sure their VR device is connected to their development PC. One of the newer VR integrations UE4 now fully supports is SteamVR. Unlike other VR integrations the SteamVR integration not only includes code for the new Vive VR headset, it also includes code that helps to power the new Steam Controllers as well as the Steam Lighthouse Base stations. In the following sections we will cover all you need to know about how to get UE4 working with the SteamVR integration.

Currently the SteamVR headset and controllers are not publicly available for purchase. The only way to receive a development kit is to sign up as a SteamVR developer on the Valve website. Also keep in mind that because SteamVR is still currently prototype hardware, images or information contained within this document could abruptly change or be slightly different than what you might have received or are currently using. As things like this happen this document will be updated so make sure to check back from time to time to familiarize yourself with anything new or any changes that might have happened.


Before we can start developing content to use with SteamVR there are a few things that need to be setup first. In the following section we will go over what needs to be setup before you can begin to develop content for SteamVR.

  • Make sure to turn off Windows Aero to ensure that all of your development PC's power is available to use with VR.

  • From the Steam client make sure to download and install the SteamVR tools. You can find and install the tools by doing the following.

    1. From the Steam client go to Library > Tools then in the list of tools look for SteamVR.

    2. Double - Click on the SteamVR entry to start the tools install process and then follow the directions provide by Steam.

  • Make sure to download and install Unreal Engine version 4.8 or later from the Unreal Engine launcher.

  • Have all the required cords and power supplies for both the Vive Head Mounted Display(HMD) and the Lighthouse Base stations unpacked and plugged in.

  • Make sure you have a 15' x 15' (4.5 M x 4.5 M) area cleared of all objects that you could trip over while you have the Vive HMD on.

  • While not required, having a wireless mouse and keyboard will make entering commands easier as you will not have to take off the HMD and then move over to where the development PC is located then input the commands.

What is SteamVR

SteamVR or Steam Virtual Reality is fully featured, 360 degree, room scale VR experience that allows users to experience, interact, and even move around in virtual worlds. SteamVR can be utilized in either an active, moving around the room, or passive, sitting in a chair, setting allowing developers to choose which setting will give the best experience to users. SteamVR also makes use of two wireless single handed controllers whose real world movement, position, and rotation can be precisely tracked and then translated in to VR allowing users the ability to precisely interact with object in VR like never before. If that was not enough, SteamVR makes use of the Lighthouse tracking system which utilizes room scanning lasers to precisely track the real world position, rotation, and movement of the user and then translates that data so that what the user is doing in the real world will match up to the VR world they are experiencing.

How is SteamVR different than other VR devices

While there are a quite a few similarities between SteamVR and other VR implementations, there are also quite a few differences. One of the main differences between SteamVR and other VR systems is that instead of using a camera to track the user's location in the real world and then translate that into the virtual one, Steam VR makes use of laser driven tracking stations to track the users real world movement. These stations, called Lighthouse trackers or Base stations, can more accurately track the position and orientation of the headset and controllers and are optimized for accuracy with low latency. In fact the Lighthouse trackers are so precise you can simultaneously track multiple input devices with sub millimeter precision in just milliseconds. SteamVR is also built around the SteamVR Controllers which are specifically designed to make it easier to interact with objects in VR. Finally, and probably the biggest difference, is that with the SteamVR setup you can physically move around in the room you are using SteamVR in and have that movement translated into the VR world allowing the user to explore or view parts of the world that other VR systems would not be able to achieve due to you not being able to physically move around.