Guides September 14, 2016 by Ben Pateman
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Wearing glasses with VR: Do you need to, and do they fit?

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First things first: 6 in 10 people wear glasses. But do short-sighted or far-sighted people even need to wear glasses when using VR? Surely, because everything is rendered on a flat screen, there’s no actual depth to focus on, and so bad eyesight isn’t really an issue? Unfortunately not. Read on.

Focal Distance

Even people with perfect vision are going to struggle to see a screen clearly if it’s shoved centimetres in front of their face. This is the main purpose of the two lenses in a VR headset: to focus the screen at a further distance. This means that everything you see in VR – regardless of its perceived depth – is actually being focused on at a fixed distance. You’re essentially looking at a flat, stereoscopic display about an arm’s length away.

oculus-rift-cv1-lenses-e3-20151

When you look at something far away in the VR world, and then at something near, your eyes aren’t actually changing focus. Instead, all that changes is their “vergence” angle; that is, you go slightly cross-eyed (just like you do normally when looking at near objects).

In other words, if you’re short-sighted you aren’t going to be able to see nearer objects in VR more clearly than far objects – everything will be equally out of focus. Same deal if you’re far-sighted. If you’re one of those 6 in 10 people, don’t worry: you have a few options. The most obvious is to simply wear glasses underneath the headset itself.

Will my big glasses fit under the headset?

Both the Vive and the Rift have similar measurements, although their exact shape differs, resulting in some frames being more or less comfy in one or the other. Meanwhile, the PSVR offers a considerable deal more space, making it a safe bet for almost all styles of frame.

Width Height Depth
Oculus Rift 15cm 6.4cm 5cm
HTC Vive 15cm 5cm 5.1cm
PlayStation VR 15.5cm 7.5cm 6cm

oculus rift cv1

Ultimately the best thing you can do is to just demo each headset while wearing your glasses. That’s the only way to be sure that your exact frame will be comfortable with a particular model. And remember, it’s not just about comfort – you also want to be sure that the lenses of your glasses aren’t in contact with the headset’s lenses, or you risk getting scratches on them both!

Front to Back

When it comes to putting on a VR headset over glasses, always put the faceplace on over your face before pulling the strap down the back of your head, otherwise you’ll knock your glasses about and be in a bit of a pickle. This is contrary to what non-glasses-wearers tend to do, which is slide the headset on like a baseball cap, but you’ll quickly learn that front-first is by far the better approach if you have glasses. When taking it off. hold the headset itself and lift the back-strap off first, and the faceplate should easily clear your glasses as you remove it, without pulling them off with it.

Are there other options?

Yes, but nothing official just yet. While the Oculus Developer Kits had corrected lenses that could be swapped out for glasses-wearers, the current consumer headsets do not have swappable lenses. They’re all designed for good vision, with the expectation that glasses-wearers can just, well, wear glasses. We will no doubt see more elegant solutions to this in the future, but in the meantime there are 3rd-party options.

We recommend first of all simply trying the headsets on (at a store, for example) while wearing your glasses. In most cases, there will be no problems with comfort or ease of putting the headset on. If your favourite glasses and your favourite headset aren’t compatable, though, then it’s time to explore more options.

The most obvious choice is to simply buy yourself a second pair of glasses. Considering you can completely forgo any thought of fashion or style, you should be able to find something relatively cheap. You’ll ideally want a pair with large lenses but thin/narrow frames, to maximise your clear field of view while minimizing any discomfort that comes with too-bulky glasses. You might even find that your opticians offers discounts on buying a second pair.

Alternatively, VR Lens Lab is currently considered the main choice for bespoke 3rd-party lenses for VR. They are designed specifically for each headset model, and are large enough to cover the entire lens, which means no frames getting in the way of the view. They fit snuggly inside your headset’s faceplate, and can even be left in there if it’s just you using it.

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If you just aren’t bothered with any of the above options, well… You probably wouldn’t be the first person to get laser eye surgery specifically for VR! Perhaps you’ve been thinking about it for a while, and all this talk is tempting you to take the plunge. Go for it!

There are bound to be all kinds of interesting other developments that benefit glasses-wearers in the future, both built-in to the headset as well as additional 3rd party options. We are passionate about VR and – at its core – VR is fundamentally about optics. So: stay tuned for more much information on this topic.

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