VR Arcade Open Business Plan: Cable Management

Best Practices

July 2, 2018 | 14 min read

VR Arcade Open Business Plan

Tips for Better Management of VR Cables and Wires

Believe us when we say that you NEED to be thinking about cable management if you are planning on opening a VR Arcade. Tangled customers, twisted cables, broken headsets… it’s a recipe for disaster––and not thinking about it can be an expensive mistake. The most common replacement part for HMDs (other than controllers) is always the cable.

One of the most important pillars for running a successful VR Arcade involves exceeding customer expectations, and part of doing so means keeping all cables out of the way within each play area in order to maintain total player immersion.

VR Cable Management

SpringboardVR, along with some of the world’s leading VR Arcade owners and experts, has collaborated to create a valuable resource for VR operators. Learn from the successes (and mistakes) of each individual’s personal experience, and then take a look at more information on how you can improve VR station efficiency. While not every lesson may be applicable to your situation, it is our hope that you can (in a sense) gain XP points from those who have come before you and have lots to teach around VR cable management.

Tip #1: Focus on the customer experience

vr cable management

Erik Madson of Canada, British Columbia’s Arcadia VR knows all about how to make a customer’s experience run smoothly from start to finish:

“Just make sure you’re not providing a bad customer service experience. Making sure that you’re speaking with your customers. Making sure you know what they want, and not pressuring them into anything they don’t want. [Avoid] immersion-breaking elements that would bring them out of the experience. Because really, people want to go in there to escape.”

vive pully system

Because ceiling height can be a major challenge when keeping players out of tangles, we asked Erik how he manages to deal with average-height ceilings in play areas:

“There’s not a lot of room for that cable to get wrapped up before it starts getting to the point where it starts to cause problems… We’ve now just switched over to a fixed hook system up on the ceiling to a retractable system that allows the cable to retract as far as possible to the ceiling. Basically just trying to get as much height as possible. Before, we just had a cable above the booth at about the eight-foot level. That was where the retractables were. We were able to get it up to about nine feet by doing it the other way… It’s all to do with the tension of the cord, and how much space you have between that first anchor point and the headset. That really, from what we’ve seen, are the two linchpins in how well your cables hold up.”

Tip #2: Get creative with DIY solutions

vr cord management

Jayson Paglow, formerly of Sphere VR, discovered a unique solution for people struggling with VR cable management:

“We actually developed our own system that used badge retractors where basically you could freely move around… It was just two badger tractors, some fish line, some velcro, and it was perfect.”

For those unfamiliar with the term “badge retractors,” these nifty little assets are essentially belt clips with a badge that allows players to move around more freely via fish line.

vr cable management system

“We basically just hung these from from the ceiling with fish line where you couldn’t see the fish line, so you didn’t really even see there was a pulley system. And then from there, it never got tangled. People could drop to one knee quick and it wouldn’t even feel like there was a line on them. It was a pretty awesome solution!”

Tip #3 Find a location that benefits the needs of your setup in a simple way

vr retractable cable management system

It seems that more-often-than-not, VR Arcade operators with larger spaces and higher ceilings have a clear advantage. When looking for space, it is also deemed smart to find something clearly visible to the public. You are much better off in a plaza or standalone location with cars constantly whirring by than you would be hidden inside of a dying shopping mall. Furthermore, be aware of potential competitors in your region. Examine their practices and see what works and what does not work in order to improve upon what others may not be able to offer.

Nick Wallace of FreeSpace VR in Brisbane, Australia offers his insights on the subject:

“We’ve got very high ceilings. They’re just over three meters-“

(that’s almost ten feet, for y’all confused Americans)

“-from the floor, so we’ve got a lot of space to work with, which has given us the ability to be able to get the cables up and away. I’ve also got the benefit of having all of the walls and ceilings concrete, which has made being able to drill into them and being able to add things into them very, very simple. The owner’s very lenient on what he lets me do, and being all concrete, we’re not having to find studs. We’re not so limited on where we go. It’s literally, ‘I want to put a hole here, I’m putting a hole here,’ so it’s given me a lot of leeway to be able to do that sort of thing.”

vr cable management

High ceilings: check. Concrete infrastructure: check. Nick offered up a little more experience for new VR Arcade operators dealing with cable systems:

“The biggest thing I’d say is just to keep it simple. Keep an eye out on what other people are doing with their systems. They’ve got all these systems of pulleys and levers and pivots, and just all this extra equipment to get the cables up and out of the way… I sort of envision a bubble around [a player], which is about their arm’s length, and what you want to do is keep that cable out of that bubble as much as possible… You get more complicated, and obviously, the more expensive it is, the more things can go wrong, the more you’ve got to work out, and yeah, sometimes people just go far too complicated with it.”

Tip #4: Get better acquainted with your tech, VR Arcade layout, and vital power connections

vr cable management

SpringboardVR’s Will Stackable knows cable management from front-to-back after co-founding the first VR Arcade in the U.S. Midwest, and in the process, learning more about the HTC Vive and Vive 3-in-1 cables to maintain operations thoroughly.

“Depending on how high your ceilings are and how far you have to run it from the PC, the cables they give you out of the box aren’t long enough. So then, you have to extend it… and there are [usually] three strands in this cable, and it’s HDMI, USB, and then power. So to extend it, for instance with USB, you can only extend a USB cable maybe to 15 or 20 feet.”

One recurring issue new VR Arcade operators have seemed to encounter is simply not having the right length of cable for players to move freely without having the VR headset dropdown. However, you can provide plenty of walkable space that aligns with your cables at the right lengths- but only as long as you have the right setup to begin with.

Tip #5: Wireless is the future, but technology is still catching up

vive pulley system

While we would all love to have a completely wireless system to mitigate problems with cables today, current offerings are kind of substandard in terms of what a customer expects from a highly-professional VR Arcade, making wires and cables a necessity for right now.

Tony Reale, owner of Edge VR in Wisconsin, shares his insights on the matter:

“Cable management has its advantages and disadvantages. If it’s wireless, you don’t have a cable, but you still have a battery pack. It’s a little heavy extra weight. There’s that to manage. With a good cable management system, the cable isn’t as noticeable to the customer.”

cable management for virtual reality systems

In addition the additional weight of the battery, wireless operations seem to work better in-home than in VR Arcade operations. This reduces issues with lag, and ensures the customer remains completely immersed, without the misfortune of confusion or motion sickness due to unstable tracking.

Will Stackable adds:

“Obviously the holy grail is to get rid of wires… but the main problem with wireless right now is a combo of latency, interference, battery limitations, etc. I’m sure we’ll see a compelling solution within the next 12–24 months, but for now we’re stuck with wired headsets. I do NOT recommend any of the current solutions for commercial usage.”

Tip #6: Network with other professionals in the field for experience-based advice you can rely on

vr cable management

Bryan Severance of Fallout Zones is no stranger to providing next-level indoor entertainment. He’s one of the foremost turn-key VR experts, with experience designing and consulting for laser tag centers, trampoline parks, and VR Arcades, just to name a few. He has built dozens of turn-key VR setups around the United States.

He describes his VR setup in great detail below, so take notes!

“We find that cable management comes down to four major points:
  1. Cable tension on the connection points
    Keep your cable connection safe by adding a stress retention point around 6 to 8 inches from each connection. Alternatively, a wider zip tie could work well as long as it’s not pulled too tight. Place one on the helmet, then give the cable a little slack between the helmet and the zip tie to prevent tension on the connector inside the headset. Give the junction box some extra slack, too. This will make sure that when the cable gets tugged by a rugged player, there will be less chance of the tension reaching the connection.
  2. Running the cable straight from the helmet
    Next, run the cable straight out of the headset connection point, but not directly along the current Vive pulley system cable path. This will make the headset feel better for the player to mitigate problems with players when they dip, sideswipe, or kneel down. Also, don’t forget a zip tie and a way to connect your pulley system; we use steel rings.
  3. Cable height
    Make sure your cable system is high enough for the average adult player, at least eight feet. This will allow players that are 6 feet tall to raise their arms above their head without hitting the cables. Some contact with the cables will undoubtedly happen, but the goal is to limit this as much as possible.
  4. Solid pulley retraction cable
    Use a cable system that can handle the weight of the headset and the constant pulling from the player. We have found that the small pulley systems found online are not strong enough for commercial use. Instead, we used a steel aircraft cable pulley system that can hold up well. Of course, there are a lot of options available to use. Many dog leashes or clothesline systems work very well when installed using the above methods.”

If the thought of creating & implementing a cable management system feels overwhelming to you, reach out to us and we’ll get you in contact with one of our VR turn-key service providers!

Tip #7: Remain open and flexible to changes that may differ from your original vision

commercial vr systems

Hunter Lane of SpringboardVR is all about flexibility in business. From his own experience, being open to change is a huge factor in operating a VR Arcade successfully. He suggests learning from the experiences of others before jumping into your own VR venture.

“You need to go in knowing that you might need to be flexible… It’s a lot better to use the resources available for you… Soak it in, ask questions and stuff like that, and definitely have a plan going in… So a business plan, what games you’re going to provide, how everything’s going to be set up, and then make sure all of that is up and running. Maybe do a soft opening, and then just make sure everything’s going good.”

vr cieling wire management

Hunter also recommends exploring other locally-owned VR Arcades for inspiration and ideas for cord management:

“If there’s another arcade in your area, or 30 minutes or something away, go there. Look at what they’re doing, and it will be pretty obvious whether what they are doing is working or not… What works for one person might not work for the other so I definitely think being flexible is a good quality… See what you like, see what you don’t like. See what you might do or try differently.”

It’s clear that each location and VR play area has unique issues related to cable and wire management procedures. There really is no “one size fits all” solution until wireless tech has caught up with the needs of virtual reality game processing on a certain level, as well as the immersive compatibility between different equipment, co-op platforms, and more.

Lessons Learned (aka Free Wisdom)

htc vibe cable management

When asked what these VR Arcade owners, operators, and experts had to say about the most important lesson they learned in developing a successful startup, many chose to place emphasis on the following:

Always put customers’ needs first by getting to know them and making them feel welcome to the unique and personalized experience your specific Arcade has to offer.

Keep things simple by utilizing important resources like Reddit, along with others who have experience operating multiple base stations.

Whenever possible, seek out a location that offers high ceilings, or at the very least, ceilings that can be easily knocked out or altered for the additional height that works well with your cable management systems.

Save money by trying out safe and simple DIY alternatives to expensive cable equipment.

Take notes on competitors in the area to see how you can greatly improve the experience for consumers.

Wireless isn’t completely feasible for many VR Arcades right now, so make your business better with cables in the meantime. Play around with different setups to see what demonstrates the most success.

Always remain flexible. Technology is swiftly changing every day, and you will want to make sure you’re always on top to provide the best customer experience through ongoing, dedicated research, upgrades, and expansions.

For additional information about how you can better manage your own entrepreneurial VR Arcade operations, take a look at SpringboardVR’s streamlined platform process to see exactly how our software can help you minimize wait times, maximize profits, and so much more.

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