Hands-on: Ximmerse Offers Mobile VR Tracking Starting At $99

by Jamie Feltham • January 11th, 2017

By the time I reached my Ximmerse appointment at CES this year, I’d already been taught a lesson in skepticism. Kwik VR’s wireless add-on kit had underwhelmed me, and we’d seen one disappointing standalone demo from Intel. I won’t lie: I wasn’t expecting much from this meeting either, but the Chinese company’s tech actually ended up being one of the highlights of CES for me.

Ximmerse is working on two tracking technologies right now, and they’re both worth paying attention to.

ximmerse-2

The outside-in kit

The first is an outside-in solution for mobile headsets like Gear VR. It consists of a camera-based sensor system that the company says offers a 120 degree field of view (FOV) covering a 3 x 3 meter place space. The system tracks three LED lights, two of which are fitted to the end of remote-like controllers with back triggers, circle pads, and grip, menu, and home buttons. They look a little like someone took the PlayStation Move’s light and fitted it to Google’s Daydream controller along with some added buttons from the Vive wands.

The third light, meanwhile, is fitted to the headset itself which, for the purposes of this demo, was a Gear VR. This light also contains a piece which receives tracking data from the camera over a 2.4GHz wireless connection. These elements combined provide a positional tracking system similar to what can be seen on PlayStation VR, except it is wireless.

I played a Fruit Ninja clone in which my two controllers were swords and I could swing to cut up food thrown in front of me. It was a simple but effective demonstration of what the tech could do; the controls were responsive, with a small amount of latency that didn’t seem to impact my performance in the game. The headset’s positional tracking, meanwhile, worked without any perceived latency. It felt like it was running on a normal Gear VR with no added delay between head movement and image displayed. The only drawback is that occlusion could become a problem for some apps — especially when your hands block the headset’s light — limiting the freedom mobile VR gives you.

That’s especially true considering the outside-in kit will require you to play in front of a camera you’ve set up. That said the system seems adaptable; we played in two different spaces in the booth and the camera was simply picked up and placed elsewhere with no calibration.

The inside-out kit

The inside-out kit

Still, as is the case with all VR headsets, outside-in tracking is a stopgap on the path to inside-out, and Ximmerse is working on that too. The company’s solution is very similar to the outside-in kit, only this time you stick the camera to your headset, replacing the third light. This time we tested it with a Qualcomm reference headset. I was told that the Ximmerse sensor was only tracking my controllers, while Qualcomm’s device was doing the inside-out headset tracking.

This time I tried software much like Tilt Brush that gave me an entire world in which to walk around in and paint. Luckily it was a Sunday at CES so the crowds had died down and I was able to walk along one of the halls of the convention center (with a guide) to test the system out. Again, I found tracking to be very accurate with minimal latency. I didn’t notice any drift. At one point a member of the Ximmerse team took one controller and painted a line for me to follow, which was a unique way to demonstrate the benefits of inside-out tracking.

Still, I have a lot of questions about the inside-out kit and how capable it will be when a consumer version comes out. Ximmerse says its outside-in kit should be shipping in March for $99, but its inside-out kit is a little further out than that. Though the latter device is the more important of the two, I was impressed with both as a means of bringing positional tracking to headsets that are sorely in need of it.

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  • Mourz

    Cool stuff!

    I disagree with this sentence though:
    “Still, as is the case with all VR headsets, outside-in tracking is a stopgrap on the path to inside-out…”

    Outside in will always deliver better then inside out. Inside out has advantages and may be good for some applications, but for others outside in will be better. I have 0 interest in inside out, AR, or merged reality thank you very much.

    • elev8d

      I think it’s possible for inside out tracking to get to levels of lighthouse precision, it’s just going to take a while. Especially when you add tracking elements to accessories that can communicate with the hmd.

      • Full_Name

        It’s hard to see absolute perfect controller tracking with inside-out, at least in terms of occlusion, unless you have a 360 camera mounted on a pole on top of your headset and looking down and to the sides to catch any crazy arm movement.

        • Lukimator

          Inside-out on the controllers too. Fixed

  • Jeremiah

    It’s good it’s cheap because if it’s as “accurate” as the move controllers then it’s a big step down from the Vive and Rift. It seems like the product has merit though.

    • Full_Name

      My thoughts exactly. I doubt it is better than Move – in which case it is of 0 interest to me.

  • unreal_ed

    Sure, but when will someone start working on a middle-out solution?