Troubleshooting Basic PlayStation VR Headset Problems

If your PlayStation 4 headset won't turn on or won't track you, don't panic!

The PlayStation VR headset.
Marco Verch / Wikimedia Commons

PlayStation VR (PSVR) headset may seem like a toy (OK, a pretty cool toy), but it's actually quite a complicated accessory. The virtual reality experience depends on the headset, the camera, the Playstation 4 (PS4) console controller and your body all working in unison. 

The camera tracks both the movements of the headset you wear and the controller(s) in your hands and then communicates this to the PlayStation 4.

The PS4 then sends corresponding video out to the PSVR's processing unit, which splits this video, sending one to your television and one to the headset.

Most of the time, this process is pretty smooth. In fact, amazingly smooth when you consider it's a fraction of the cost of getting the same setup on a PC. But sometimes, the process runs into a few problems. We'll run through some of the basic problems and steps on how to fix them.

The PlayStation VR Won't Turn On After Initial Setup

Don't panic if everything doesn't power on after your initial setup. Most owners add both the PlayStation VR and the PlayStation Camera required by the VR at the same time. These are actually two different accessories being added to the PlayStation, so it is no wonder it doesn't always go smoothly.

  1. First, reboot the PlayStation. This is a troubleshooting step that works with almost any electronic device. Remember, you shouldn't directly power off the PlayStation 4. Instead, hold down the PlayStation button to bring up the quick menu, choose "Power" and then choose "Restart PS4". This allows the PlayStation to go through the normal shutdown process before rebooting.
  1. If you still have problems, it's time to check the cables. Power down the PlayStation by going to the same Power menu and choosing "Turn Off PS4". When the PlayStation 4 is fully powered down, unhook every cable included with the PlayStation 4 VR. This includes all four cables on the back of the processing unit and the two cables on the front of the unit. The VR headset should also be unhooked from the extension cable. Once you have unplugged every cable, connect them back again and then power on the PlayStation 4.
  1. Is your VR headset powering on? If not, pay extra attention to the cable that connects the headset to the VR processing unit. Remove the extension cable from the equation by plugging the headset directly into the processing unit. You won't have enough cable to play, but this will test the extension cable. There have been issues with the extension cable not inserting correctly into the processing unit. If your headset powers on when connected directly, it's the extension cable causing the problem. Hook the headset back into the extension cable, connect the cable to the processing unit and try exerting a little bit of pressure under the cable pushing up towards the ceiling. This might align the cable adapter correctly and allow the headset to turn on. This might sound like a bad cable, but it is more of a design flaw. 
  2. The last thing you can check out is the HDMI cable. A faulty HDMI cable can cause many different problems including a blank screen, a fuzzy screen or a screen with colors out of whack.  Any and all of this can cause your VR to behave poorly. Luckily, you have two HDMI cable to test already: one that came with the PS4 and one that came with the VR accessory.

    You can do this without powering down the PS4. First, connect the cable from the HDMI OUT of the processing unit to the HDMI OUT of the PS4. This is probably your original PS4 HDMI cable. If it is working, you should see your PlayStation screen on your TV. Now, unplug this cable and replace it with the HDMI cable plugged into the HDMI IN port on the processing unit. Connect it to the TV using the same HDMI port on the back of your television set. You should see the PlayStation 4 screen appear on the TV. If not, you have a bad HDMI cable.

    PlayStation VR Has Problems Tracking You

    If the PS4 cannot properly detect where you are sitting or when you are moving, it can cause problems with your interaction in the game. Sometimes, you simply won't be aligned correctly in the game. Or you might find the PS4 tracks movement that you aren't making.

    1. First, check your distance to the camera. Remember, your distance to your PS4 or the television set doesn't really matter. It's the distance to the camera that is crucial. You should be about 5 feet from the camera with nothing between you and the camera. Generally speaking, it's better to be slightly more than 5 feet than to be too close.  Read more about creating a virtual reality room.
    1. Second, check the camera. You can adjust the PlayStation Camera by opening the PlayStation's settings, scrolling down to Devices and choosing PlayStation Camera. This process will take three pictures of you to help the PS4 recognize you within the frame.

      When the screen first pops up, the square will be on the left side. But before putting your face in the square, check to make sure the camera shows you in the middle of the screen. If you are to the right or left, either move your chair or adjust the camera so that you show up in the middle. After getting your position right, follow the instructions on the screen to adjust the camera.
    2. Next, optimize the tracking lights on the headset. The PlayStation VR knows where you are at and how your head is turned by tracking the lights on the headset. You can optimize this process by opening settings, scrolling down the devices, choosing PlayStation VR and then Adjust Tracking Lights. You will need the headset turned on to optimize the tracking lights. You don't need to wear the headset. You will hold it in front of you to optimize the tracking lights.

      The PS4 will guide you through placing the tracking lights within boxes on the screen, but before you start this process, look for additional light sources showing up on the first screen. If you have a lamp or some other light source that shows up in the camera, try moving it out of the camera's vision before adjusting the tracking lights. This additional light source may be throwing the VR off. You can also go through the same process with your PS4 controller if you are having problems with it while playing VR games.
    1. If you have intermittent problems, confirm your position. You can confirm your position by going into the quick menu, choosing Adjust PlayStation VR and Confirm Your Position. This will show you in the screen. Move the controller into the screen to confirm the PlayStation can see it as well.

    Picture Quality is Poor or Not Aligned Correctly

    The most common cause for poor picture quality is the alignment of the headset itself. You should start any game session by opening the quick menu by holding down the PlayStation button, choosing Adjust PlayStation VR and then Adjust VR Headset Position. Make sure you can read the entire message clearly without moving your head.  And if you normally wear glasses, make sure you keep them on!  

    The headset should rest at the top of your head. And you might be surprised at how far left or right you may need to adjust the headset for the words to become clear. Pay attention to the line at the top of the box. If everything is blurry and the line is lower in the middle, move the headset up. If the line is higher in the middle, move it down. Next, move the headset to the left until the "A" in Adjust is clear. Next, look at the "t" at the end of the sentence and adjust to right right slightly until it is clear. 

    Don't exit this screen just yet. Instead, take in the entire screen. If any portion of it appears unusually blurred, and especially if you see what appears to be streaks of lines made of light, you may need to clean the headset lens. (More on that in the next section.)

    If you are using the cinematic mode to play a non-VR game, you can switch between screen sizes. The largest size will always appear blurry except in the very center of the screen. The medium screen is usually best for playing non-VR games. Even in this mode, the sides of the screen will appear blurry unless you move your head to view them. This blurred effect is done for a reason: it mimics peripheral vision, 

    How to Clean and Maintain the PlayStation VR

    A single fingerprint on the lens of the Playstation headset can be enough to put a blur in the screen, which is why it is important to keep the headset – especially each lens – as clean as possible. Because you are wearing something on your face, it is easy to get that fingerprint smudge. You may often have an itch on your face or need to adjust the flaps of the headset. Any time you reach into the headset while wearing it, you risk putting that smudge on the lens.

    The PlayStation VR came with a cloth to be used for cleaning. If you have lost it, you can use any cloth designed for cleaning eye glasses. You should never use liquid of any kind and avoid towels, paper towels, tissues or any other cloth not designed for cleaning camera lenses or eye glasses. Anything else can leave particles or even scratch the surface of the lens.

    After cleaning each lens, you should do the same for the lights on the outside of the headset. You should use a towel or tissue for cleaning the lights instead of the supplied cloth. You don't want to transfer dirt or dust from the outside of the headset to the cloth you use to clean the lens on the inside.

    Last, you should clean the PlayStation camera using the same cloth you used for the lenses inside the headset. It can be just as important to keep the camera clean as the headset itself.

    PlayStation VR Makes Me or My Child Feel Nauseous

    Most virtual reality experiences have a recommended age limit of 12 or older including the PlayStation VR. This doesn't mean there is any lasting harm for a younger child using the VR. In fact, adults are prone to the same risks, it is just more common in younger kids.

    The most common side effect is motion sickness, which can cause extreme nausea. Motion sickness can occur in any video game, but because the Playstation headset replaces almost our entire field of sight, it can be more of a problem with VR.

    The best remedy is to limit the amount of time spent using VR. You can also try eating a small snack before playing or wearing accupressure bands used for motion sickness. 

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