Getting fit in VR doesn’t have to be a bore. When you play with enough space around you, you can let yourself loose and ‘lean’ more into the pace of the action rather than stand in one spot with the rigidity of a mannequin.
The only question is, how much dedicated VR space do you need in order to play VR fitness games comfortably? The answer is: It depends.
Every headset has a different style of tracking, and each hand controller is equally different. Furthermore, each VR game demands a different amount of play space. There’s something to be said about the variety of VR fitness games out there, and while it’s easier than ever to choose the right game for your fitness needs, it might not be as simple to choose the right headset for your play space.
How Much Room Do I Need for VR Fitness Gaming?
For most VR fitness games, you need at least a few square feet (or meters) to stand with your legs apart while allowing your arms to have a full range of motion without hitting anything. That said, you want to make sure any area you play a VR fitness game in is clear of other objects, pets, and people.
Inside-Out vs. Outside-In Tracking
The concept of inside-out and outside-in tracking is fundamental to understanding how each of the different VR headsets fundamentally ‘work’ when you play VR fitness games inside of them.
Some newer VR headsets like the Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift S, Vive Cosmos, and all of the Windows Mixed Reality headsets are equipped with their own cameras on the headset unit itself. This is called inside-out tracking, and it lets the headset see what you’re doing and where your hands and head are located at all times – just as long as you provide enough background light and keep your hands out of any blind spots, where the camera can’t see the special tracking lasers on your hand controllers.
Inside-out tracking means that you don’t have to place any additional hardware around the room, and it also means that you theoretically get more freedom to move around in your play area as a result. In some cases, inside-out tracking enables you to play in VR in massive spaces that would otherwise be impossible to cover with a traditional outside-in tracking solution.
On the other hand, you have classic outside-in tracking. You know you’re using an outside-in tracking style when you need to put cameras or base stations around your room in order to get a tracking signal out of your headset and hand controllers.
Technically, the HTC Vive/Pro, Valve Index, and the SteamVR base stations that support them use a version of inside-out tracking where they shoot some arbitrary number of lasers around the room, which cameras inside the headset and controllers pick up as you move around. This isn’t a particularly important distinction for simple VR fitness gaming, but for all intents and purposes, we’re categorizing the HTC Vive/Pro and Valve Index with the other outside-in tracked headsets (because of their reliance on stationary base stations for tracking) for the remainder of this guide.
Outside-in tracking is also what the original Oculus Rift (CV1) and PlayStation VR use. In the case of the Oculus Rift CV1, you need at least two Oculus Sensor cameras placed around your room to pick up lights on your controller and headset, and in the case of the PSVR, you need a single PlayStation Eye camera that accomplishes essentially the same thing.
Outside-in tracking is usually valued as being the more precise of the two, where exact camera placement that covers every potential blindspot makes it nearly impossible for you to lose controller tracking, no matter where your hands are. This comes at the expense of freedom of movement beyond what the stationary cameras are able to see, and you can’t easily take an outside-in tracking setup anywhere else without the hassle of tearing down and then setting up your cameras and trackers in a different room.
Recommended Play Areas by Headset
If you want to play fitness games in VR, you’re going to have to consult your headset manufacturer for guidelines on setting aside the proper amount of play space. You definitely don’t need to have a dedicated VR space that’s huge — the corner of an apartment or small bedroom can work, given that your headset supports that, and some headsets don’t — but you do have to satisfy the minimum space requirement set by the manufacturer. For some tracking systems, there’s also an upper limit – a certain amount of space that you can’t exceed.
For example, if you use a Valve Index, you’ll rely on SteamVR 2.0 base stations. This type of tracking system requires an open play area of at least 2 x 1.5 meters, which is approximately 6.5 feet x 5 feet after you round it out. If you have two base stations, you’re capped at 4.2 meters x 4.2 meters, or 13.7 feet x 13.7 feet, but you can add a few more to extend that range. We’ve explored SteamVR 2.0 a bit more below.
Anyway, here are the different recommended play areas for each major headset.
HTC Vive is still a great choice for VR fitness gaming. There are a few different models available now, including Vive Pro and Vive Cosmos, but HTC recommends the following play area regardless of which Vive model you own:
“Movement within a diagonal area of up to 5 m (16 ft 4 in) is supported. For example, a 3.5 m x 3.5 m (around 11 ft 5 in x 11 ft 5 in) space. For room-scale setup, a minimum play area of 2 m x 1.5 m (6 ft 6 in x 5 ft) is required. There’s no minimum for seated and standing experiences.”
Oculus Rift and its mid-generation update, Oculus Rift S, is still one of the most popular PC VR headsets available. There’s no minimum required play space for you to operate the headset, and you can turn off the Guardian boundary system entirely if you’d like to. Granted, Oculus recommends the following play area:
“We recommend a play area of at least 3 feet x 3 feet, and 6.5 feet x 6.5 feet for room-scale. Rift S has a longer cable than original Rift (5m vs. 4m) so you’ll be able to take advantage of all that tracking space!”
Valve Index is the flagship VR headset from Valve, the company that produces Steam and SteamVR. As such, the Index relies on second edition SteamVR 2.0 base stations to track the movements of your head and hands.
We already mentioned that you need at least 2 x 1.5 meters (6.5 x 5 feet) to get anything out of your Valve Index, but the benefit of using two enhanced SteamVR 2.0 base stations is that you can play in large play areas, up to 13.7 x 13.7 feet. By adding two more base stations (totaling four), you can go up to 10 meters x 10 meters, which equates to 33 feet x 33 feet.
PlayStation VR, or PSVR for short, is the VR headset that taps directly into Sony’s PlayStation 4 console. You set up the PSVR by placing a PlayStation Eye camera in front of your dedicated play area. Sony recommends that you do the following during setup:
“You need a space of at least 3m x 1.9m. Place your chair directly in front of your PlayStation Camera about 2m (6’) away. We recommend that you stay seated while playing, but if you are playing while standing, clear any tripping hazards from the play area and a buffer zone around it.”
As with the Oculus Rift and Rift S, you have control over the Guardian boundary system in your Oculus Quest. You can even play fitness games in stationary mode, which draws a circle around your immediate vicinity, and which is fine for a game like BoxVR.
That said, Oculus recommends that you give yourself at least 6.5 feet x 6.5 feet to spread out and move around in VR when you play in an Oculus Quest. Note that the Oculus Quest is entirely cable-free (when not plugged into a PC through Oculus Link) and can be taken anywhere. We recommend that you take your Oculus Quest into an open space, like a shaded outdoor area or a gymnasium, to take advantage of the vastly expanded freedom of motion afforded by it.
Now you understand how much dedicated space you need to play VR fitness games comfortably. Check out more of our fitness gaming guides, and let us know in the comments if we missed anything.