Yesterday, the Oculus Rift received an update to its firmware and to it’s content platform, Oculus Home. The 1.6 update brought automatic app updates and bandwidth limits to Oculus Home. On the firmware side, the differences seemed negligible, until one eagle eyed Rift owner discovered that, after the update, it was possible to connect up to four Rift tracking cameras simultaneously.
— RealityCheckVR (@RealityCheckVR) July 15, 2016
The ability to connect multiple cameras may seem like a somewhat random feature to VR newcomers, but to the established community this will make plenty of sense considering what the remainder of 2016 has in store for the Rift. Later this year Oculus is planning on releasing Oculus Touch, finally bringing hand-tracked VR controllers to the Rift. These devices transport your hands along with you as you enter the virtual world — creating more immersive and active experiences than a gamepad can provide.
Multiple cameras will be required to properly utilize this upcoming technology. It’s already been confirmed that Oculus Touch will ship with this additional camera in the box as well, so two cameras is the expected setup needed if you want to use both the headset and controllers.
Two cameras is all well and good then, but four? The additional cameras might could conceivably allow Oculus to compete more directly with its chief rival: the HTC Vive. The Vive’s two major claims to fame are: hand tracked controllers, and “room-scale” experiences. Room-scale is the term given to VR Experiences that let you walk, jump, crouch, turn around, and otherwise explore a digital environment to your heart’s content.
As of today, the Rift is incapable of delivering room-scale at the same level as the Vive, with the main problem being occlusion. To put it simply, it’s easy for a single camera to lose track of where a headset or controllers are in a room. Each additional camera you add can increase the size of the room that can be explored in VR. At the same time, the additional cameras help decrease the chances either the headset or the controllers are ever in a position where they can’t be located by a camera. This would be an enormous step toward fostering parity with the Vive.
However, this remains in the realm of theory until someone actually hooks up four cameras at once and tests them out alongside the Oculus Touch controllers.