When I wander around with VR headsets, I'm afraid of going too far without someone seeing me. The reason is simple: I really can not see where I'm going. The chances of tripping over a chair or table are extremely high.
One company seems to have tried to solve that problem, and I tried the result in the noisy subsection VR / AR of CES in Las Vegas.
Occipital, a company based in Boulder, Colorado, specializes in 3D scanning hardware and depth-sensitive cameras: one of its array of camera sensors Structure works with mixed-reality iPhone headsets and one next robot house . The Occipital team put me some HTC Vive VR headphones, equipped with a development function that allows me to see the room even with headphones on. The technology is called occipital tracking. Its objective is to completely replace the external environment detection hardware, such as the cumbersome Oculus Rift supports or the Vive light emitting light system, in favor of all the headphone accessories.
Track inside out, as in headphones. it's called tracking technology, it's been available at Microsoft VR headsets and upcoming hardware like Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream as well as AR devices like Microsoft HoloLens, but occipital tracking points to make technology even better for virtual reality with much more exploration space.
As much as ARKit from Apple or ARCore from Google can scan a room and detect edges and surfaces using a camera and the phone's motion sensor, the Occipital technician clicked my demonstration space and found bright spots in the space they formed a map. The test demo alternated between the real world through pbading cameras and a completely closed virtual reality world with the edges of the room superimposed. The VR hardware I tried had stereo cameras, but Occipital says the tracking will also work with just one camera. It really looks like ARKit / ARCore for VR.
Like a sketch, I could distinguish the edge of a table, a line and a corner that indicated another obstacle (a chair). I could see the walls and the corners. The profiles faded when I backed up, but I got a definition when I was closer, such as the boundaries of the room that appear slowly with most VR headphones. Here, however, the boundaries were continually redesigned.
Occipital hopes VR headset manufacturers will develop this idea in both hardware and system software. Hopefully the hardware part is not too difficult; all you need, according to Occipital, is a pair of stereo cameras and an IMU (motion sensor) that is already in the headset.
I do not want to trip over things in virtual reality. In fact, it makes me hesitate to use wireless VR configurations like the upcoming HTC Vive Pro .
But maybe, for this date next year, that will change. And if it's as easy to incorporate as the promises of the Occipital team, maybe that means that a portable virtual helmet more sensitive to the room will arrive quickly.
You need it, because the future of virtual reality is not closed. Our world is destined to mix also in him. Even though Microsoft and others promise that mixed reality in virtual reality hardware, it has not arrived yet. Maybe this is another step towards that future.
VR and AR in CES 2018: Evolution in small steps.
HTC Vive Pro, practical: Best hardware is here at last
Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream hands-on: Wireless VR without phone is on the way.