Owlchemy’s tips for designing room scale for VR

I recently watched the great talk “The Holodeck is here, Designing for Room-Scale VR” by Owlchemy Labs. Referring to their work in VR for Job Simulator, Alex Schwartz (CEO) & Devin Reimer (CTO) gave this presentation in the framework of Unity’s conference that took place in Boston late October. I noticed great tips for developers -specially the ones that work with hands tracking- and I thought of sharing them with you. If you do not have time to watch the talk, I highly recommend to read those few lines, it will take you a minute! I collected some relevant quotes and categorized them in terms of 1-Presence, 2-Tracking, 3-Interactions, 4-Level of Trust, 5-Design & Scale.
Hopefully it will be helpful or relevant for your current projects!


“Presence is when the lower level part of your brain is like “I am in a space, this is real to me” and the upper part of your brain is like “This doesn’t exist, I know that”, but the lower level part is like “I am there!”. This is presence.”

“The passive camp is generally observing, looking around, we think this can sell people on VR but we’re not sold it’s going to be what will bring back people in VR over and over again. We think active VR is gonna do that.”


“When it comes to coverage, the place your tracker works is really important. (…) If you loose tracking it feels like the whole world is falling apart.”

“The other way to set-up trackers is to have two trackers separated by 190 degrees. So that means you have two opposing trackers. If you put one in each corner they prevent almost all cases of occlusion and what is really important is that you have full 360 rotation of both your hands and your head so, no matter where you go, your body is actually not going to block your controllers.”  

“You have to design your place basis to afford the interactions in a solid tracking area.”

“Build spaces that afford the available movement in tracked space, but don’t make the user feel boxed in.”

“Avoid two handed interactions at pure 90 degrees.”

“Floor level interaction is incredibly magical (…) but fatigues the user quickly.”


“Avoid ceiling height interaction.”

“Avoid interactions behind the user.”

“It’s really easy to get lost in VR and to not realize when you actually are in real space.”

“Just turn off the hands when the user grabs an object (…). No one really notices it in VR, I did some research, about 90% of people never noticed that their hand disappeared, the brain is just filling up the gaps.”


“Users in VR, they just having an absolutely fantastic time and going nuts and they don’t have to think “Am I gonna to hit a real world wall, Am I going to hit a chair that someone put there? It’s so far out of their brains at the moment that you need to establish this level of trust that they are safe where they are, they should being not worry about running into wall and possible tracking lost.”

“Establishing trust with the user is really important because if you loose trust, people loose presence, because they constantly have to be in two worlds at the same time.”

 “Generally you don’t have to worry for people to jam their face through the wall to attempt to see what’s on the other side. Although watch out for feeling like it’s a good idea to put some weird *** behind the wall because if someone sees that and then does that, you’re now rewarding the concept of breaking the solid boundaries of the game. And once you’ve done that you can actually break someone’s ability to feel like they are in that space.”


“Arrange your space to encourage movement (…) and make the experience more fun.”

“People can sense if they are slightly too tall or short.”

“In VR anything that is incorrect is obviously incorrect.”

“People understand scale very well so you have to have scales in VR perfectly correct. Your brain is so good at determining if things are off when it comes to scale. They did a study, they took a Coke can and they scale it up down ten percent and humans were able to say "yes, that is completely incorrect something is wrong". So you have to make sure right after starting designing things that you design things to scale.”

“Feel and intuitiveness drives almost every user experience decision.”

“Use the game itself to make something funny.”

“Make sure that you don’t set up a situation in which the user has to lean, in any circumstances.”

“Discourage continuous 360 rotation.”

“In design, you have no clue of what you’re doing until you see it in VR. You have to try everything, even terrible ideas.”

Feel free to comment!



I have a deep background in science, art and technology. I specialize in the areas of philosophy of mind, gamification, human computer interaction and radical empiricism. I am primarily interested in the transdisciplinary intersections among cognitive science, computer science, philosophy of communication and spirituality. After two years researching on intertextualities within the transhuman discourse at the era of the Psychedelic Renaissance, and one year developing serious games dedicated to VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift, I am currently initiating HIGHWAY101, Experiential Technology Community. My interviews and reviews are regularly published on VRrelated.com and InifinityLeap.com under the name Alecz Boulder. You can find my past and recent work here: http://highway101etc.com http://cargocollective.com/diversiond https://confirmezquevousnetespasunemachine.wordpress.com/ https://umontreal.academia.edu/AlexandreGirardeau https://boulderhaze.bandcamp.com/