September 26, 2017

5 Best Accessories for the Oculus Rift

No matter how good computer and gaming hardware is, it can always be improved with the right accessories and peripherals. This is as true of Virtual Reality headsets as any other electronic gadgetry and as true of the Oculus Rift as any of its competitors.

So in this review, we take a look at the five best accessories for the Rift, including a spare sensor, a headset stand, foam implants for the facial area, a ceiling-based cable management system and a tension clamp for attaching the sensor to a shelf or door.

As with any cross-section of useful accessories and add-ons, we have tried to give you a fair assessment of the pros and cons. There is no one, single perfect solution for any of the problems that these accessories seek to address. But we have found them to be good overall and believe that in all the examples below, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Oculus Sensor

Oculus Sensor

Oculus Sensor

This is a third sensor for the Oculus Rift that offers 360 degree and room-scale tracking. It requires an additional USB 2.0 port or higher, however the makers note that these features are experimental and “not all experiences may work as expected.”

It comes with a 5 meter USB extension cable (although it appears that some customers have complained of not receiving the cable with it). It is identical to the sensors bundled with the Rift, but some customers have complained that it is screwed onto the base rather too tightly and not easy to unscrew.

As an additional sensor it works well, enhancing the gaming experience as you move around. It eliminates blind spots and facilitates a larger playing area, or “room scale tracking” as it is called (sometimes shortened to room scaling).

Buentek VR Stand, Universal VR Headset Holder & Cable Organizer

Buentek VR Stand

Buentek VR stand

When you have a car you want a guaranteed parking space. If you buy a guitar, you like to put it on a guitar stand when not in use. And when you have a VR headset you also also want to store it somewhere that it is safe, but easily accessible.

That’s what the product is for. It is stores the headset in a way that leaves it easily accessible to you. And it also provides space for organizing the cables. Made of ABS plastic - the same material that lego bricks are made from -  it is not exclusively for the Oculus Rift, but can - as the name implies - store any of the major VR headsets.

It arrives in pieces and must be assembled. However you will probably have to figure out how to assemble it yourself as the instructions are not clear. Once assembled, you will find that it is designed to sit on a suitable surface, like a shelf or a desktop. It cannot be wall-mounted.

The design is “cool” and stylish. But the plastic is not all that strong. It is not designed to handle rough treatment. It does however carry a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty.

As a headset stand it is quite good, but it has nowhere to put the controllers. Also, the cable management that it offers is not that great. You might find it more convenient to use it just as a headset stand and let the cables dangle at the back. This is good from another point of view because when you wrap the cables on it along with the headset, it has too much weight on the front and can even overbalance and fall.

Oculus Rift Facial Interface / Foam Replacement

Facial Interface / Foam Replacement

Facial Interface / Foam Replacement

These PU foam leather foam replacement masks are designed to offer the user a comfortable alternative to the material inside the headset and also to offer better hygiene. The hygiene comes from the fact that the masks can be easily wiped down with an antibacterial wipe - or indeed a damp,soapy cloth. It is also soft and reasonable comfortable, with air holes that allow the skin to “breathe” - a concept that James Bond creator Ian Flemming exaggerated somewhat in Goldfinger.

The package consists with a solid frame to hold the foam inserts, two PU leather foam inserts themselves and a machine washable cotton cover. The hygiene element can be enhanced by using different foam replacements for different users. The machine-washable cover has the advantage of absorbing sweat, which tends to increase when using the PU leather, as compared to the default Rift headset on its own. If you sweat a lot when wearing the headset, you will be grateful for the added option of the cotton cover. Unfortunately the cotton cover doesn’t wrap around properly except near the proximity sensor, which it then activates. (That’s why it’s called a proximity sensor.)

The inserts are of different thicknesses, with the thinner already attached. This is just as well as the thinner one is a bit more comfortable than the other, which feels just a bit too big.

Midwec 6 Packs Cable Management 

Midwec Cable Management

Better Cable Management Improves Experience

The dangling cable - with its feeling of constant tugging at the back of the head - has been the bane of VR headsets since the first hit the market. It will continue to be so until the manufacturers implement a wireless solution. This shouldn’t be too difficult in this age of Wifi and WiGig. But it seems like there may be a trade off with battery life. At any rate, VR headsets still use cables.

So what do you do when you want to move around and get the full VR gaming experience? The current solution is a cable management system, that holds the cables up by the ceiling. That’s because your feet move around on the floor. You’re more likely to trip over cables on the floor than get strangled by them on the ceiling, so hanging the cables from the ceiling is a logical solution - albeit a compromise.

This this system uses retractable cable holders that can be adjusted to the weight of the cable. The system comprises 6 hooks attached to peel-away stickers (that can be stuck to the ceiling), 6 retractable lanyards and 6 carabiners. The adhesive is strong.

The system works well, with the tension just about right to keep the cables from dangling without the feeling that it is still tugging at the back of your head. But you have to make sure that the hooks and lanyards are not placed too close together, otherwise the cable may get tangled up.

The supplier has excellent customer service and have shown themselves ready to give refunds if customers are dissatisfied. But very often it’s a case of exaggerated expectations. There is no ideal solution to the cable management problem. But this ceiling mounted system works well if used correctly.

Hyperkin VR Clamp Mount

Clamp mount

Hyperkin VR Clamp Mount for HTC Vive/ Oculus Rift

If you want to attach your Oculus Rift sensors to high shelves - instead of having them on stands - these clamps are for you. They have an adjustable ball joint, giving vertical and horizontal freedom. The sensor itself attaches via a one-inch mounting screw. The clamp can expand to a maximum of about 6.5 cm. That’s enough to fit on a door! And of course it’s very easy to release and move to a new location until you’re satisfied that you’ve positioned the sensor in the ideal location.

The tension is very strong and it can support its own weight combined with the weight of the sensor even when upside down.

One minor gripe is that the rubber has a strange smell. That might be due to the type of rubber and should not be a cause for concern. You only notice it when you are close to it - and if you mount the sensors high, then that would only be rarely.

There is also a screw handle for tightening the angle ball-bearing, but in some positions, your fingers are obstructed by the rest of the clamp handle to which it is attached.

The Final Word

None of these five accessories is perfect. But they all perform at least one useful function. Compared to the price of the Oculus Rift itself, their prices are low. You wouldn’t buy expensive cutlery and crockery only to eat cheap food, would you? We believe that these accessories enhance the value of your Oculus Rift and for this reason we give them our recommendation. As always, we welcome user feedback.

Happy gaming!