Customizing your VR experience with Google’s VR Profile Generator

So, you’ve got your new VR headset and had some fun exploring the demo apps like flying around Google Earth, visiting the Palace of Versailles, or playing a few games you downloaded. Impressive, right? Well, that depends on how well calibrated your VR profile is. In a nutshell, a VR profile is simply all the settings your smartphone uses to adjust the two-dimensional image on the screen and split it into two images to be viewed through your headset. This includes the screen-to-lens distance, the inter-lens distance, tray-to-lens distance, and a bunch of other settings.

When you received your VR headset you probably noticed a QR code (the weird square blocky black and white barcode) printed on the packaging or in the instruction booklet (if it came with one). You then scanned this using a QR code reader app and saved the profile, so the next time you put your headset on it gave you an optimized immersive experience (well, optimized for your device at least, which depends on how good your VR headset is to begin with, of course).

However, you might have found that the manufacturer settings weren’t quite right for you: things might be a tad out of focus, there might be a bit too much geometrical distortion, or you might be too close to things when you’d feel more comfortable (and less nauseous) if you were a little bit further back from the action. Well, if any of these issues resonates with you then you’re not alone. Fortunately, however, Google are aware of this and allow users the option of creating their own custom QR code to tailor their VR experience. In this short article I’m going to show you how to create your own custom VR profile for your device and save it as a QR code for you to use on your device and (should you wish to) share with others.


Step 1: Firstly, your smartphone will already need to have the Google Cardboard app installed, and you’ll need your VR headset at the ready too. You’ll also need a laptop or desktop ready. This is because you’ll be adjusting the VR settings on your smartphone using another computer that’s connected to your smartphone via the internet. So when you tweak one of the many settings on your laptop/desktop you’ll then notice a corresponding change on your smartphone screen.


Step 2: Open the Google Profile Generator page on your laptop/desktop. Scroll down the page to the ‘Getting started’ section. You’ll then see a link and a QR code in the centre, like in the screenshot below.


N.B. The small QR code is actually the same as the shortened google link above it, but just in QR form. This URL will be unique for your session using the Google Profile generator so only your computer will communicate with your smartphone. To see this, if you open the Google profile generator page with another browser then you’ll notice that the URL is slightly different.


Step 3: After scanning the unique QR code with your smartphone (using whatever QR code reader app you’ve got installed) a new webpage should open that starts with followed by a long string of seemingly random characters after the slash. Firebase is a backend service that helps developers build real-time apps for iOS, Android and the web that can store and sync data instantly, and it was recently acquired by Google. Firebase is what allows you to instantly tweak settings on your smartphone using your desktop/laptop.


Step 4: If you’re using an Android phone then make sure the screen rotation isn’t locked as you’ll need it in horizontal mode instead of vertical. Once that’s checked you’ll see a message telling you to tap the screen. After tapping the screen a new one should appear that shows a cube-like room with a grey floor and green/yellow walls, like in the screenshot below.

googe not red1


Slot your smartphone into your VR headset, and now you’re ready to tweak the settings.


Step 5: On your desktop/laptop scroll down the Google Profile Generator page (yes, the same page you opened earlier that had the QR code you scanned with your smartphone) and you’ll see the settings available for you to adjust like in the screenshot below.

You can enter your company and viewer name here. This will be important later on so you can save the profile you’ve generated and give it a name, but you don’t have to do this yet. What’s most important are the settings: whenever you change a value on this page you’ll notice a corresponding change when you look through your VR headset.

If you’re not sure what each setting means then don’t worry, as Google will show a small illustrative diagram and explanatory text on the RHS of the computer screen when you click on each field.

Just play around gradually adjusting the settings for each field, but ignore the advanced ones at the bottom of the page until you’re happy with the main ones. It’s all trial and error. You should notice a tiny red dot. If you’ve got the settings wrong then this will either disappear or you’ll see two of them. You need to only see one little red dot. You also need to ensure that you can’t see any red in your peripheral vision when looking through your VR headset. Here’s a screenshot that shows I’ve clearly made some bad adjustments as a red border is visible.

google red1

Tweak the parameter settings until the red disappears.

You’ll know you’ve calibrated the settings as best you can when the following three conditions are met:

a) The grid walls of the cube room you’re in are as well focused as possible and with as little geometrical distortion as possible;

b) You can’t see any red in your peripheral vision;

c) You can only see one red dot.

Once you’ve achieved all three of the above then that means you’re finished calibrating and are ready to save these settings as a new profile!


Step 6: To save these settings you need to fill in the company and viewer name sections first. Enter whatever you like in these two fields. N.B. Google won’t let you save your profile if you’ve left the two distortion coefficient fields blank. Once you’ve filled them in as well you can scroll down to the bottom of the page and click ‘Generate profile’. This will bring up a new page with a QR code that contains the profile settings you just made. You can then download and save your custom QR code as a PNG or SVG file. However, at this stage your smartphone hasn’t actually saved your new VR profile. To do this you need to scan your new custom QR code and save those new settings.

And that’s it. Congratulations: you’ve just created your own custom VR profile! You can now share this with others, if you wish to, by sending them the PNG file you created.

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About Anatoleya 9 Articles

Anatoleya is a London based photographer and videographer.