How to see what users are seeing in VR demos

by Gianni Rosa Gallina, Friday, January 15, 2016 at 10:45 AM

Hi all! This is a new technical post about Virtual Reality and related technologies. The previous post was a theoretical article about the differences between VR, AR and Contextual Reality. This one, instead, is a (hopefully) useful and short guide to solve one of the biggest problem everybody will face sooner or later: when introducing a friend or a relative to VR for the first time, how can we help and guide the newbie within the immersive world, while assisting him from the outside?

With Oculus Rift is very simple: applications built with the latest SDKs have a built-in mirror option. Therefore, if you are using a Rift, just start the application and you will be able to see what the user is doing in VR on the PC display. If you also need to record the experience, you can obtain optimal results using OBS (Open Broadcaster Software).

Instead, if you use a Samsung Gear VR or a Google Cardboard (with Android) a little bit of additional setup is required, but you can obtain the same mirrored experience. I tried various alternatives but, in  the end, you have two main options to choose from that work quite well:

  1. Use a screen streaming app installed on your Android smartphone. Currently I am using Mobizen: with this app (and its desktop PC companion client), you will be able to maintain an optimal VR experience and a quite good streaming quality. In addition, you will also able to record the VR experience at 60 FPS!
  2. Use a Google Chromecast and stream the smartphone screen contents to a near HDMI display. The VR experience will not suffer too much and the streaming quality is excellent.

Both solutions, to work, require a local high-speed WiFi network (which has to be the same network which your target desktop PC or the Chromecast itself are connected to) and an Internet connection (important note: the mirrored stream does not use Internet bandwidth).

To complete the solution, if you need to record the VR experience on the smartphone, there has recently been an announcement from Oculus regarding a built-in option to record the VR experience also on Gear VR (but it has to be enabled by app developers). In the meanwhile, as said, you can use Mobizen, which works for Google Cardboard applications as well.


To conclude this post, here is what I suggest you based on my experience: if you can, use a Chromecast. You will obtain the best mirroring experience and very little efforts for setup: once the Chromecast is up and running, everything is already in place for smartphone display mirroring. If you use the streaming app Mobizen, you need an additional target PC to receive the streaming and a companion client, but additionally you will be able to record the experience (as a technical note, I need to remark that I experienced some stability issues and the mirror connection sometimes has to be stopped and re-started).

What about you? What do you do to mirror/record the VR experience? If you have alternative solutions or tricks, let me know in the comments below.