We heard recently about the new HTC Vive Valve VR Headset. But also of great significance is the Valve VR tracking solution called ‘Lighthouse’.
Positional Tracking Problem
First, a little background. There are basically two kinds of tracking: rotational tracking, and positional tracking.
Rotational tracking means the tracking of your head when you rotate your body and look up and down. This is the sort of tracking found on the Gear VR.
It is an amazing effect, and it has become easily technologically to do. Most smartphones sold nowadays have built in sensors which can do pretty good rotational tracking. And specialized sensors like those developed give almost perfect rotational tracking.
However, if you were to stand up and walk around your virtual world with your Gear VR, you would quickly notice that this action is not represented in the VR world. This is because this requires positional tracking.
No positional tracking not only limits the VR experience, it can also make you feel sick. This uncomfortable feeling can happen whenever your real world actions are not represented in the virtual world.
Positional tracking has been a much more difficult problem to solve. Oculus used an IR camera solution for DK2 which I have found to be severely lacking.
Valve has shown us an ingenious solution to the positional tracking problem which they call ‘Lighthouse’. You simply place two of the Lighthouse base stations in the corners of your room, and they give you full positional tracking in a large area.
Valve has not released too many details on exactly how they work. But the basic idea is that they send out invisible light which see the sensors on your devices to track them.
It can track an unlimited number of objects at a time. And you can see those objects in game.
The USB of VR Tracking
Valve not only created this amazing technology, they also announced that it will be free for all to use. The idea is that it will become a standard like USB. Some day we may soon be seeing VR-ready stickers on everything.
Gabe Newell, the legendary head of Valve, put it this way:
“So we’re gonna just give that away. What we want is for that to be like USB. It’s not some special secret sauce. It’s like everybody in the PC community will benefit if there’s this useful technology out there. So if you want to build it into your mice, or build it into your monitors, or your TVs, anybody can do it.”