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John Carmack Trying To Solve Gear VR Position Tracking

by Ian Hamilton • February 8th, 2016

Despite hiring dozens of computer vision experts it appears Oculus CTO John Carmack is taking the quest for one of the holy grails of VR technology — mobile position tracking — into his own hands. If solved properly, in a way that doesn’t instantly drain power or overheat a mobile device, the technology would be an enormous step for a mobile VR headset to provide a similar experience as a Rift with the added benefit on not being tethered to a PC. You could theoretically lean, step or walk around a real-world space while immersed in VR without being concerned about snagging a cord with your foot.

When we talked to Carmack at Oculus Connect 2 in September he expressed frustration Oculus hadn’t assigned any computer vision experts to Gear VR and he wished somebody had spent the previous year working on it. He also said it was one of three major directions he was considering spending his time on after the conference. He suspected there were gains to be main using a pair of cameras facing outward from a phone/headset to solve the problem.

More than four months later, and in the face of rising pressure from Google, that may be the exact problem occupying his time, according to a new tweet. Responding to a question about his VR scripting work, Carmack wrote:

Mobile World Congress is a few weeks away and Samsung is likely to unveil a follow up to the Galaxy S7 and Note 5 phones sometime soon. Whether it debuts at the conference, along with new Oculus technology courtesy Carmack and the teams at Oculus, remains to be seen. That said, this will continue being one of the things we’ll be watching closely. 

As a refresher, below is the quote we got out of Carmack at the conference when UploadVR asked him a question about the technology.

“It does not look good for making an inside out tracking system that doesn’t consume a whole lot of battery power…We have like 30 computer vision experts at Oculus from the different companies we’ve acquired and none of them want to just go solve this problem. They’re all working on their esoteric, kind of researchy things while this is a problem that I want solved right now. I wish somebody had spent all of this last year on it.”

And because we know our readers love hearing Carmack talk, here’s a five-minute version of his answer on video: