This Is What A $100,000 VR Setup Looks Like

by Joe Durbin • April 29th, 2016

Noitom is a Chinese company with one very big American dream.

The organization behind the Perception Neuron motion capture system announced during an address at SVVR this year that it will be making a social VR product, called Project Alice, available for purchase to US clients for the very first time. Noitom also hinted that the price for its ambitious rig would be “around $100,000.”

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Alice combines a series of motion tracking cameras with multiple VR headsets and custom hand tracked controllers. All the headsets run on separate PCs (in this case, powerful laptops) that handle rendering to the headsets. Those laptops then flow toward one central server that is creating the actual shared VR space.

The demo that the company has been displaying at SVVR, and other notable tech shows like GDC, involves one Noitom employee walking five participants through a series of virtual lessons. These include blowing up balloons, shooting lasers, and tossing tracked objects back and forth to one another. 

A laptop computing for an Oculus Rift DK2

A laptop computing for an Oculus Rift DK2

Each person in the demo is displayed to the others as disembodied hands and heads. Hands are tracked using jerry-rigged Nintendo Wiimotes (the final product will use completely custom controllers), and real-world objects like basketballs can also be brought into the experience simply by adding a few markers for the cameras to reference.

Project Alice also adds accelerometers and special reflectors to each item in the system’s area. These backup motion capture pieces help ensure every element remains tracked throughout the experience.

Noitom's custom built hand tracked controllers.

Noitom’s custom built hand tracked controllers.

The applications for this type of large-area social VR platform are many and varied. Roch Nakajima – Noitom’s director of marketing for new territories, spoke with us from the SVVR show floor to explain in more detail what exactly ALICE can do and why it commands such a hefty price tag.

“We have four key areas that we focus on with ALICE,” Nakajima explained. “Low latency, multi-user, large space, and low cost.”

Some may balk at that last statement, but Nakajima is adamant that $100K is a steal for an industry wherein an “entry level commercial motion capture set up can currently run customers up to $200,000.”

A basketball and trash can that are being brought into VR by Project Alice.

A basketball and trash can that are being brought into VR by Project Alice.

“That money will get you the 30×30 multiplayer VR experience that includes: around 8 cameras, all the servers all the computers, five high-end VR headsets, Noitom’s custom motion tracking elements, and 10 proprietary controllers.”

The cameras themselves, according to Nakajima, are “agnostic” and can be any of several popular brands depending on the customer’s needs. The setup on the show floor was using OptiTrack cameras.

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The demos Noitom has been running of Project Alice currently use 5 Oculus Rift DK2s. However, Nakajima said that, “we are still deciding whether we will use the consumer Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive” when the product releases in America.

Alice is a business to business product and will, in most cases, not be something one would find in a personal home. Auto dealers, theme parks, and arcades are some of the American customers currently interested in acquiring a setup, according to Nakajima.

Noitom is hoping to install its first Project Alice VR system in the United States by the end of Q4 2016.

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