How to Use HTC Vive Without Sensors

Can you use Vive without base stations?

What to Know

  • You can't use an HTC Vive without Lighthouse stations, but you can get by with just one.
  • With one sensor setup, you can use forward-facing, seated experiences.
  • You'll need two sensors for most 360-degree, standing, or room-scale VR experiences.

This guide will look at how to set up your HTC Vive with just one sensor if you don't have the time or space for two and why you cannot use the HTC Vive with no sensors at all.

Can I Use VR Without Base Stations?

There are many different types of virtual reality headsets. Some connect directly to a computer; others are more standalone. Some headsets, particularly early generation headsets, are designed with external trackers. Some more modern, often standalone headsets, work with "inside out" tracking, where the cameras on the headset provide the tracking.

Examples of headsets with inside-out tracking include the HP Reverb G2 and the Meta (Oculus) Quest 2.

However, the HTC Vive is a first-generation VR headset and requires external sensors to work at all.

Can HTC Vive Work Without Sensors?

No. The HTC Vive headset uses Lighthouse laser sensors which detect the trackers mounted on the headset to place you in the virtual world. Without those base stations, there is no way to check your position in the world accurately, and the headset will show a grey screen, just as it does if it ever loses tracking even when the sensors are set up correctly.

What you can do, though, if you're short on time or space, is set up the Vive with just one Lighthouse sensor. Some forward-facing games and experiences will work just fine with that, but you will be limited to around 180-degrees turning, and there may be some difficulty in tracking controllers in some positions.

Man playing on an HTC Vive with flight stick and throttle controls.
A single HTC Vive Lighthouse sensor is just fine for seated experiences like racing games and flight simulators.

Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

To set up one Lighthouse sensor, follow the usual HTC Vive setup steps, but you power up only a single sensor. You'll also need to select Set up for Standing Only in the setup wizard.

Do You Need the Sensors for HTC Vive?

Yes, absolutely. One sensor is fine for some games and experiences, but if you try to use the Vive headset without any sensors, it will simply display a grey screen.

Two sensors offer the most accurate tracking, but you can use just one sensor for a seated, 180-degree VR experience.

Can I Use Vive Without Controllers?

Some experiences within VR don't require any input at all, and those will work just fine without controllers—you'll have to start them outside of VR on your monitor. Some games work with head/gaze control, and those should work fine without controllers.

However, for most games and experiences that require input, you will need either the Vive motion controller, an Xbox controller, or an equivalent gamepad.

  • How do I set up the HTC Vive?

    To set up the HTC Vive, clear space for a play area, then mount the Lighthouse tracking sensors in opposite corners with about 6.5 feet between them. Next, download Steam, log in to your Steam account and install SteamVR. Connect your headset to the link box, connect the link box to your computer, power on your controllers, and follow the prompts.

  • Where can I try out an HTC Vive?

    To find a place to try out the HTC Vive, go to the Vive Store Locator website and enter your address. You'll see a Google Map displaying the locations of stores that have the Vive set up for demonstration.

  • How much space do you need for an HTC Vive?

    Vive recommends that your play area is big enough to allow movement in a diagonal area of up to 16 feet and 4 inches (five meters). For a room-scale setup, a minimum area of 6 feet 6 inches x 5 feet is needed. For standing and seated experiences, there is no minimum space requirement.

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