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.
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.