How to Start with SteamVR

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How to Start with SteamVR

Virtual Reality (VR) has transformed the way we experience digital content, and SteamVR is at the forefront of this revolution. Developed by Valve Corporation, SteamVR provides a platform for a wide range of immersive VR experiences, from VR gaming to creative applications that use VR. SteamVR is one of the most accessible platforms to use PCVR. If you're eager to dive into the exciting world of VR using SteamVR, this guide will walk you through the essentials to get started.

More reading: Best SteamVR headsets

Hardware Requirements

Before you begin, ensure your PC meets the necessary hardware requirements for a smooth SteamVR experience. The specifications can vary based on the complexity of the VR applications you intend to use. Generally, you'll need a powerful graphics card, a capable processor, ample RAM, and compatible VR hardware such as the Pimax Crystal.

Read more here about 'Is my PC ready for VR?'

System requirements for SteamVR:

Setting Up VR Hardware

The first step is to set up your VR hardware. This involves connecting the VR headset, trackers and controllers to your PC. Each VR system comes with its own setup instructions, so follow the manufacturer's guidelines and software carefully. In the case of Pimax, you'll need Pimax Play to link to the PC to run SteamVR.

Installing SteamVR

If you don't already have Steam installed on your PC, download and install it from the Steam website ( Once Steam is installed, follow these steps to set up SteamVR:

a. Open Steam: Launch Steam from your desktop or Start menu.
b. Navigate to VR: Click on the "Library" tab at the top, then select "Tools" from the drop-down menu.
c. Install SteamVR: Scroll through the list of tools and find "SteamVR." Right-click on it and select "Install Game."

Getting VR Content

With SteamVR set up, you're ready to explore the vast library of VR content available on the Steam store. To find VR games and experiences:

a. Open Steam: Launch Steam on your PC.
b. Browse and Purchase: Explore the selection of VR titles, read reviews, and purchase the content that interests you.

You can find your VR titles in your library by using this checkbox:

Launching VR Experiences

Once you've purchased VR content, launching it is straightforward:

a. Put on Your Headset: Wear your VR headset and make sure it's properly connected and tracking.
b. Use the Dashboard: While in VR, use the dashboard to access your library and select the game or experience you want to play.
c. Enjoy: Follow the in-game instructions to start your chosen VR experience.

You can also launch games from your desktop or from SteamVR home (inside your headset). More on that below.

SteamVR Home

SteamVR Home is designed to serve as a central hub for SteamVR users, providing a customizable and interactive VR space where users can launch VR games, access their Steam Library, and interact with various features and content.

SteamVR Home allows users to personalize their VR environment by creating and customizing their own virtual spaces. Users can decorate these spaces with virtual objects, furniture, artwork, and other items that they can unlock through achievements in SteamVR games or by purchasing them from the Steam Store.

In SteamVR Home, you can invite friends to join you in your virtual space, and you can interact with them through avatars and voice chat. This creates a social aspect to the VR experience, allowing users to meet up and interact with each other in a shared virtual environment.

Basic Setting Up of SteamVR

With SteamVR installed, it's time to configure the settings:

a. Launch SteamVR: You can do this by clicking on "Library" and then selecting "SteamVR" from the tools section.

b. Follow the Setup Wizard: SteamVR will guide you through a series of steps to calibrate your VR hardware, including headset and controller tracking. Ensure that your headset is properly detected and tracking is smooth.


c. Set the VR safety zone or Chaperone system. With the Chaperone system, you can set and view the boundaries of the space available in your room and remain aware of that space while you're immersed in VR.

d. Show the VR view: SteamVR's 'VR View' does offer screen mirroring or casting functionality which you can see the VR view on your desktop monitor.

VR Dashboard

Once you're in the VR environment, you'll have access to the SteamVR Dashboard, a virtual interface that lets you access games, settings, and more while you're in VR:

a. Dashboard Menu: Press the menu button on your VR controllers to open the dashboard.
b. Navigation: With the touch of a button access the SteamVR dashboard to quickly switch games, browse the Steam Store, and interact with your PC desktop at any time. The dashboard brings all the features of Steam to your virtual worlds and launching VR Experiences

C. Using SteamVR, you can create a virtual screen inside your VR headset and see the contents of your computer's desktop on this virtual screen. This feature is useful for presentations, demonstrations, teaching, or multitasking. You can browse the web, view files, watch videos, and even play non-VR games on the virtual screen within the VR environment.

More advanced settings & features

You can adjust graphics quality, rendering resolution, and brightness to optimize the VR experience.

Motion smoothing:

In VR applications, when graphics rendering falls short of the required frame rate for the VR headset, issues like image stuttering and choppiness can occur, leading to motion sickness or discomfort. Motion Smoothing addresses this by interpolating frames in motion to smooth out these stutters. When performance drops, it creates additional interpolated frames to achieve smoother animations, thereby improving the user experience.

For example, if the application's target frame rate is 90 frames per second, but it can only achieve 45 frames per second, Motion Smoothing will generate interpolated frames to create smoother visuals while reducing motion-induced discomfort.

However, in certain cases, Interpolated frames might introduce slight visual artifacts or distortions. you can manually enable or disable it in the SteamVR settings.

Manage Controller Bindings

SteamVR's "Manage Controller Bindings" feature allows users to customize and configure the input mappings and interactions for their virtual reality (VR) controllers. This feature is particularly useful for adapting VR games and applications to your personal preferences, comfort, and playstyle.

(This is something that has to be often done for controllers of most brands, not just Pimax.)

Advanced Frame Timing

"Advanced Frame Timing" in SteamVR is a feature designed to help users analyze and optimize the performance of virtual reality (VR) applications. This feature provides detailed information about frame rates, frame intervals, and other performance metrics. Based on the provided performance data, users can identify performance bottlenecks and take appropriate actions to optimize their VR applications. For example, users can attempt to lower graphics settings or optimize code to improve frame rates based on frame timing data.

Why SteamVR is great

SteamVR opens the door to a world of immersive virtual reality experiences that range from heart-pounding gaming adventures to artistic creations. It's one of the most user-friendly ways to try PCVR, without any modding required.

By following the steps in this beginner's guide, you'll be well on your way to enjoying the exciting possibilities that VR has to offer. Remember, as you become more familiar with SteamVR, you can explore advanced settings, customize your VR environment, and experiment with the diverse range of content available on the Steam store.

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