Since we know from experience that setting up and running a VR cinema at any event or location can be a daunting challenge, preparation is more important than ever. That is why we decided to condense our own experience with these events into this write-up. After reading this, you will be able to set up your own fleet of synced VR headsets for the first time and make them ready for deployment to even the highest traffic and most demanding events or locations.
This blog teaches you how to prepare your headsets, network, and tablet device for our 360° synchronized playback solution and how to test it before you go to a venue, event location or meeting with a possible client. Although set up can seem a little bit repetitive at first, if you do set it up properly it will save you a lot of headaches during deployment on location. After the initial setup, the system is essentially plug-and-play for future deployments. We will be setting up the Headjack Operator tablet app to remote control any Headjack VR app.
Update the headsets and set up a network
For convenience, we are going to assume you will be using roughly 25 Oculus Go VR devices for the event. Other VR headsets require similar steps to prepare and use. If you have significantly more or fewer headsets, adjust the projected set up time accordingly.
Firstly, Go headsets need the latest software updates and need to be cleaned from any unwanted apps. The simplest way to do this is a factory reset.
Hold down the volume down button and the power button for a couple of seconds. You will see a root menu appear in your headset, choose factory reset. Follow the normal setup instructions after your headsets are reset and paired with the Oculus companion app to pull in the latest software updates. After this make sure to go to device settings in the app menu and turn off automatic updates, since there is nothing more frustrating than having to perform 25 app updates on location hours before a VR festival starts or even worse during the event itself.
Because in our case we are dealing with 25 Oculus Gos this task will take us a day easily if you need to do it all by yourself.
Now let’s move over to the WiFi network. It is highly recommended to set up a private wireless network using one or more routers you bring to the event, in order to guarantee a reliable network setup. Plug in a standalone WiFi router and set it up to the following specifications:
- Enable 5Ghz wireless (if available)
- No guest network (devices need to be discoverable over LAN)
- Multicast enabled (usually enabled by default on modern routers)
- High-speed internet connection (only required during first set up)
What type of router to use is highly dependent on how many headsets you would like to use. In our case we can do it with something like a Netgear Nighthawk, which is high-end consumer hardware, but if you want to control well over 60 headsets you are likely going to need a different configuration, with multiple linked routers or enterprise-level networking hardware.
Since 9 out of 10 times you can’t rely on the internet connection at a venue, you want to download all the app data in advance! So when you arrive at the project location you only need to set up your local WiFi network to run the Operator app. So only during the first setup will you need a fast and stable internet connection to download the video files fast.
Now we need to connect all headsets to the WiFi network by going to Settings > Wi-Fi and selecting the desired network.
Downloading or Sideloading the app content
Prepare an app in the Headjack CMS with the Essential Cinema template like you normally would and build your app for the Oculus Mobile platform using Headjack Cloud Build. Then sideload your app onto the headsets by using our VRsideloader tool and run the app from the Library > Unknown Sources menu. Make sure all your videos play if you have chosen the “Use Original” profile by checking the videos in advance with one of our other templates or the Headjack Link app.
Now download and run the Headjack Operator app on your Android tablet or iPad and fill in the 6 digit code you can find on the top right corner of the app page in Headjack to remote control it.
If you have done everything right up until now you should see the first headset pop up in the Operator app. Rename it to your desired name, in our case “Oculus Go 1”, and proceed with the next headset until you have connected all 25 headsets. We would recommend physically labeling the headsets the same as the name given in the Operator app. The green light indicates that the device is connected and it will go red when the device goes into sleep mode. If you wake it from sleep mode it will reconnect again and it will be ready to receive commands from the Operator app. Headjack Operator uses the following status indicators:
- Green dot is ready
- Red dot is disconnected
- Blue dot is syncing
- White animated dot is downloading/loading
- Play/pause icon to indicate playback status on device
We now have two options to get the videos on all of the devices. Firstly, you can send the download command through the Operator app and all devices will start downloading the videos one after another. When you download using the Operator app, the tablet device will also download the app content locally. Alternatively, you can decide to download all videos to only one device and copy the app content folder from that device, to sideload all content to the other headsets.
After you finished downloading/sideloading all the desired video files you can run Operator in offline mode by simply logging in with the remember me function enabled. Then you don’t have to fill in the 6 digit code every time you restart the Operator app and it will continue to work without an internet connection.
Test all headsets at once
For easy testing we recommend you use the always on power setting present in most VR headsets, which essentially prevents the headsets from going to sleep automatically. On Oculus Go this setting is called Auto-sleep and can be found under Settings > See All > Device > Power. Always on is also recommended during the event since it allows you to ditch the Oculus Go controller as it won’t ask you to re-sync the controller every time you take the headset off. This makes demoing to large groups a lot easier and foolproof, trust us! The battery does drain a lot faster of course but fully charged you should get 2 to 3 hours of video playback before needing to recharge. Alternatively, there are several third-party solutions for leaving VR headsets permanently plugged into power during events.
Now let’s do our first test:
- Ensure all devices are connected to the same WiFi network
- Turn on always-on for easy testing
- Launch VR app on all headsets
- Launch Operator app on a tablet
- Verify that all devices are successfully connected to your Operator app (green dots)
- Optionally, pick one of the prepared videos and hit the Preview button in the center of the thumbnail to view the video on your tablet only and verify that it’s playing correctly.
- Pick one of your prepared videos and hit Start
- Verify that all connected headsets correctly loaded the video (counter in Operator popup)
- Press Play to start playback on all devices simultaneously
Check what your viewers are looking at
So now that you managed to play the 360° videos in sync and controlled it with Headjack Operator it is time to check out the device monitoring features available to you. First, let’s check out the video viewer on top of the Operator user interface.
By scrolling through the different video feeds you will get a real-time view of what your audience is seeing inside each headset. This allows you to monitor your users and notify them when they are doing something wrong or which user took off their headset during a session for example. Also, this overview will show you if they are downloading another video or they are syncing with the Operator app. You will also find all the video player controls over here like play, pause, and seek. When you use one of these playback controls, all of the apps re-sync on that command so not a single device should be out of sync when the video is playing.
The device list in the bottom right of the Operator interface is used to monitor mission-critical device info like temperature, battery levels and the connection status of the devices.
What to bring to the event location
We have put together a list of what you should think about bringing to a gig so you don’t run into trouble moving a lot of people through your VR cinema:
- Replace controller batteries (if applicable)
- Fully charged headsets, pre-loaded with app and content
- Fully charged tablet with Headjack Operator installed and prepared
- One or more configured WiFi routers (depending on headset count)
- High-power USB charging station
- Extension cords if necessary
- A lot of USB charging cables
- Solution for headset hygiene
- At least alcohol wipes to wipe off facial interfaces
- Optionally, replacement facial interfaces
- Lens cleaning solution
- Replacement VR headsets
- If you are expecting a noisy environment, prepare to pack and use headphones (wired is strongly preferred over wireless)
Setting up at the event location
Now comes the easy part! If you’ve followed the previous steps correctly the following steps should be a matter of minutes and you should have your VR cinema up and running in no time.
- Power on the router(s) (no internet connection required)
- Switch on Operator app and connect to the WiFi network
- Turn on the headsets and put them in always on mode if needed
- Connect them to the same WiFi network as Operator
- Fire up the Headjack app on the headsets in consecutive order
- Confirm the connection in the Operator app
- Play video in sync at least once to confirm correct setup
- A VR headset is not appearing in the device list in the Operator app
- Make sure both devices are connected to the same WiFi network
- Make sure the WiFi network supports device discovery and multicast
- Make sure to use the app pincode in the Operator app that matches the app on the VR headset
- Make sure the VR headset is on and not in standby mode
- There is no start video button, only a download button
- If you see a big Download button after selecting a video in the Operator app, then one or more of the connected devices does not yet have the selected video downloaded. Connect your VR device(s) and tablet device to a WiFi network with an internet connection (if not already), then simply click the Download button to start downloading that video to all connected devices.
- The VR headsets keep disconnecting (red status icon)
- If your VR headset does not have the always on power setting enabled, then the headset might go into standby mode if it is not being worn for a few seconds. When the device goes into standby mode the headset will disconnect from the Operator app. While disconnected that device cannot receive any commands from the Operator app. So make sure that the headsets you want to control are being actively worn before starting synced playback, or enable always on in the headset.
- Video download fails on one or more headsets
- Please check for any device errors by clicking on it in the device list and viewing the log at the bottom.
- Make sure that each VR headset has enough free storage space to fit the videos you want to download.
- Try connecting fewer devices at the same time and downloading to a smaller group of devices to ensure that the internet connection is not overwhelmed.
- If download issues persist, contact us.
- One of the headsets is playing out of sync
- Reconnect the headset by putting it into standby and resuming it. This will re-sync the device’s internal clock with the Operator tablet.
- I cannot start playing the video because not all devices finish loading
- It can take a bit of time for the video to be loaded on each device, so be patient to see if the devices load eventually.
- Make sure none of the devices got disconnected or in standby since starting the video loading.
- Retry the video loading by pressing Cancel and pressing Start again.
- I don’t want to use a controller with my Oculus Go devices
- If you enable the always on power setting on your Oculus Go devices, then the app can be left running and no controller is necessary. Do take into account the additional battery drain from leaving your Oculus Go devices running for an extended period of time in always on mode.
- VR headsets are appearing out-of-order in Operator app
- The device list in the Operator app is ordered by initial connection time and cannot currently be re-ordered. If you want to ensure a certain order in the device list, connect the devices in that specific order.
- I can’t find the download progress of a single VR headset
- The download progress of each connected VR headset is displayed as a progress bar in the device preview windows in the middle of the Operator app. You can scroll that list of device previews if you have more than 3 connected devices and the preview can be maximized or minimized by tapping it or tapping the cross icon in the top left respectively.
- The video download doesn’t start or fails immediately
- Make sure your devices are connected to a WiFi network with internet connectivity.
- The Operator app does not connect using the app pincode
- Make sure your tablet device is connected to a WiFi network with internet connectivity. The first time you start the Operator app you need an internet connection. If you select the remember me option, then the Operator can run in offline mode for subsequent runs.
- I want to use a different logo in the Operator app
- When using one of the Essential templates, change the top logo template variable of the target app that the Operator will sync with and the Headjack logo at the top of the Operator app should change accordingly.
- Can I use multiple Operator apps with the same VR headsets?
- No, a VR headset will only connect to the first Operator app it recognizes in the same local network.
- Can I use this solution without an internet connection (after initial setup)?
- Yes, both Headjack VR apps and the Headjack Operator app can be launched in offline mode after the initial setup and content download. Make sure to select the remember me option when filling in the app pincode in the Operator app to enable support for offline mode.
- Can I use the Operator app with a different app template than Essential Cinema?
- The following Headjack templates currently offer support for the Operator app:
- Essential Cinema
- Essential Kiosk
- Essential Grid
- Essential All-in-One
- You could for instance use the Essential Kiosk template to allow viewers to choose what content they want to view during an event, but override those headsets with the Operator app whenever assistance is needed.
- The following Headjack templates currently offer support for the Operator app:
- I can’t find the app pincode
- Your app pincode can be found in the top-right of your app page, or by clicking the View App button on the right.