Developers Showcase Incredible Full Body Tracking With Vive

by Ian Hamilton • February 6th, 2017

We have yet to see a solution for full body tracking that is affordable, easy to use, and can work in a wide range of VR experiences. That’s not keeping developers from forging ahead anyway though.

The prize for developers creating virtual worlds and implementing full body tracking is a more immersive experience overall. You’d have an experience in which your shadow on the ground, reflection in the mirror and arms and legs when you look down all accurately represent the movements of their real-world counterparts. Other companies specializing in motion capture, like IKinema, might also be able to put together products and services that are more accessible to a larger group of creators.

One method of tracking full body movement is by wearing a suit that takes a lot of time to put on and calibrate. A pair of videos released in the last few days, however, show how Valve Software’s promising tracking technology is usable for the same purpose.

We covered the first test by Steve Bowler at CloudGate Studio, developer of Island 359 [Early Access Review: 8/10], and now Bowler released a second experiment showing just how good the movement capture works with the HTC Vive when you have six points of data to collect. The first test didn’t track the hips, but now Bowler is putting a Vive controller in a tool belt at his waist in addition to the ones on his feet and his hands. When combined with the head’s position via the headset itself, these six points provide an incredibly realistic real-time body capture system.

Here’s Bowler:

We’re pushing to get an incredibly robust fullbody awareness commercial system out to our Island 359 players. It should scale with how many tracked points we see when they boot up the game, so that if players only have the HMD and Controllers, they should still be able to look down and see a torso, arms, and hands. If they own two trackers, they’ll have legs, and if they own three trackers, they’ll see even more robust body tracking. This way people don’t have to invest in trackers at any set level if they don’t want to, but places with a bit more capital like VR Arcades could offer the fully tracked experience easily, without a ton of complication. We’re also in the process of devising a “templating” system to make sure that the user doesn’t have to do any technical work to make the full body magic happen. Once we have the trackers, they should just be able to attach them to their shoes/belt, do a quick template check, and be playing with full body awareness.

Bowler is far from the only one attempting this. IKinema is also developing a solution for “low-cost, full body mocap from HTC Vive hardware.” The latest video from IKinema, embedded at the top of this post, uses six tracking points as well.

There is still a lot of work to be done before we’ll start seeing these types of solutions in a lot of VR games. HTC has just started distributing Vive Trackers to developers, which would provide a slightly more ergonomic solution for this sort of tracking than buying extra controllers. We’re also still waiting for revelations from hundreds of partners which are working with Valve’s SteamVR Tracking technology on what would likely include even more ergonomic solutions built for this specific purpose.

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  • marald

    The motion capture looks amazing.. and real time & no calibration… vicon should be worried 😉

    Full body awareness is very welcome in VR.

    I’ve done some expirements a few years ago using real time markerless motion capture using 24 cams and a dk1 strapped to a backtop. And just walking around and interacting with an entire body in a virtual environment is already so much more immersive compared to current possibilities with the vive so I would like ikima’s or cloudgates solution as an Unity asset please 🙂

  • Stewart Gill

    take my money i need it now

  • Superfluous

    How does it know the HUD is above his eyes and he just doesn’t have a stupidly shaped head?

    • Ian Hamilton

      I haven’t asked but I’m guessing they programmed their capture specifically for the headset in that position.

    • Jukka Muhonen

      Maybe it was calibrated while it was there.

  • DougP

    For capturing your actor for video (incld 3D) or for replacing your actor with an avatar with virtual/mixed-reality…the potential
    for cheap virtual/mixed-reality environments for story creation, presentation &
    communication (& collaboration) is phenomenal!

  • Patrick

    We are going to need a glove-like but fingerless haptic Vive controller so fingers/thumbs can be free to be precisely tracked. That plus eye and full body tracking are going to allow for insane possibilities. Right now we’re holding clubs like cavemen, but it’s early so that’s cool.

    Think about Unity HUD options with eye tracking technology alone. Eye-tracked raycasts will be the new “your head is the reticle”. The level of intimacy this will allow is insane. Social interactions.

    Game developers are going to know and have event triggers based off more realistic human behavior, that’s terrifying and exciting.

  • GodMk2

    Also check out Talaria VR who are working on foot tracking so we can get locomotion sorted for once and all!

  • Jukka Muhonen

    I think companies which are making wireless adapters, and motion captures will not be very big or last for long. For me it seems that HTC is going to develope very wide scale of products to support Vive headset. This is not bad thing tho because this is the way program developers will have HTC qualified sets which they can make their programs for.

  • lildub

    Don’t you have to the dongles to get it to work with unity? how do i get these dongles lol? I’m working on similar things but I’m using neuron(possibly the rokoko) would rather use the controller track systems any suggestions?

  • this is very elegant looking and SUPER exciting… very interested.