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October 23, 2021

5 Reasons You Can’t Use Your VR Headset Outside (And How To Overcome Them)

Note: This is not me recommending that you attempt to use your VR headset outside. You probably shouldn’t.

When I got my Oculus Quest 2 it seemed like the perfect thing to take outdoors. But, virtually all headset manufacturers strongly recommend against doing that. So I wrote this post to explain why they advise against it, and some ways you could maybe overcome those obstacles if you were dead set on it.

1) The Lenses on Your VR Headset Can Damage (Melt) The Screen

You should be careful to avoid letting your headsets lenses come into direct contact with sunlight. The lenses can magnify the suns rays and permanently damage the screen on the inside of the device. Just how “melty” the lenses are depends on the type of lens the manufacturer used, but I wouldn’t go around testing which lenses can melt their screen the fastest.

Magnifying Glass Sunlight

It can effectively ruin your VR headset and it’s probably not covered under warranty. This is likely the #1 reason why most manufacturers don’t want you taking the device outdoors.

2) Tracking Won’t Perform Well in Direct Sunlight (or Darkness)

I wrote an entire post about fixing tracking issues with the Oculus Quest 2 (which renders your Guardian / hand tracking useless). The gist of it is that the headset uses its four cameras to set up the guardian / tracking system, and the cameras struggle to function in very bright or dark conditions.

You might be able to get the tracking working outdoors if you were in a very shady area, tried it on an overcast day, or at dusk/dawn. But, direct sunlight is definitely not the optimal environment for the tracking system and they don’t exactly make ND Filters for the Quest’s 4 tracking cameras.

You could try to use it outdoors at night, but then you have the opposite problem of needing to bring some lights with you as the tracking cameras will also struggle in the dark.

3) Risk of Serious Personal Injury via Tripping

While there’s nothing like a good VR personal injury story, we probably shouldn’t seek them out.

You probably don’t think about how easy it is to trip in a yard. It can easily be caused by small changes in elevation, stumbling upon a small hole, a tree root, the neighbors dog, etc. And in VR you’re effectively blindfolded when you fall (and slight elevation change in your yard can give a false perception of where the actual ground is).

You can seriously injure yourself this way! I once broke my leg in college simply by tripping on some ice and falling awkwardly. Elderly people die by falling (a lot).

If I were attempting this (and this isn’t an endorsement), I’d want to do it in a tennis court or somewhere that I was confident that the ground was perfectly flat. The problem with a tennis court being that there’s no overhead shade.

4) Wifi Access / Needing to Be Tethered to a Computer

If you’re still using a PCVR headset then going outside becomes dramatically more complicated as you’ll need to bring your laptop with you. In my opinion taking it outside makes no sense if you’re in this camp.

That said, I see the appeal on a wireless device like the Quest 2. But, one of the problem with the Quest 2 outdoors is most of the games you’ll want to play require a decent Internet connection. So you’ll either need to be in range of a wifi router. Or my personal solution to this problem is set up a wifi hotspot with your iPhone and leave the phone in your pocket.

The problem with using your iPhone as a wifi hotspot is that it may not be a fast enough Internet connection depending on where you are.

5) Device Overheating

I haven’t heard many stories of people’s Quest 2’s overheating. That said, I haven’t heard many stories of people taking their Quest 2’s outside on a 100 degree day either. It’s questionable whether the fans on these devices would be able to keep up if you exposed them to direct sunlight on a hot day.

Shaun Poore worked as a professional software developer for 15 years before transitioning into content creation and digital product businesses. Shaun's currently focused on providing as many people as possible with actionable advice and tools they can use to succeed online, without the fluff or BS that too often plagues this industry.