Lower-priced cameras from long-time motion tracking company Optitrack could slash as much as 40 percent off the cost to track VR headsets and accessories over very large areas. The price cut could accelerate the roll-out of out-of-home VR experiences like The Void.
The Void covers very large regions with Optitrack cameras overhead to find the locations of people, controllers or other objects that are part of the overall story. In The Void’s first public installation in New York, Madame Tussauds offers a Ghostbusters experience that makes visitors feel like they are really catching ghosts throughout a building. Immersion can be dialed up on these “stages” by enhancing the experience with wind, heat or scent effects that tie to the story. Ghostbusters is a particularly smart fit for The Void because you wear a backpack powering the wireless headset that ends up feeling exactly like a proton pack.
When we got a look at the refined Rapture hardware from The Void, co-founder James Jensen noted the controller and headset are no longer covered with external tracking markers.
Typically, Optitrack covers objects or people with lightly-colored reflective balls or dots to track their movements. It turns out The Void is one of the very first systems equipped with Optitrack’s latest “active” system which uses embedded lights covering objects rather than easy-to-break balls. The Void is also now employing a significant upgrade to the visuals seen inside its Rapture VR helmet, and the startup aims to open 20 of its hyper-immersive “stages” this year.
While Valve Software is working on improved base stations for its innovative lighthouse tracking system used by the HTC Vive, we haven’t heard a definitive answer one way or the other about whether the technology might one day be extensible to cover very large regions. Today, a large-scale virtual world like those made by The Void turns to a camera-based tracking technology like Optitrack. IMAX VR, in contrast, equipped room-sized pods with Vive tracking base stations for its VR arcade initiative.
“In 2015, the number of out-of-home VR tracking experiences that we sold into, it was a couple dozen systems,” said Optitrack Chief Strategy Officer Brian Nilles. “In 2016, we probably sold 400 to 500 systems in VR tracking. Some of them are research, some of them are R&D for universities, but a lot of them are out-of-home experiences that are in Asia, Europe and growing in North America as well. So in 2017, it seems like the market is getting traction.”
The Void is just one among a field of companies looking to establish a market for a new kind of destination entertainment mixing elements of storytelling and exploration with paintball or laser tag. A price drop like Optitrack’s with cameras tuned specifically for VR usage could be precisely the boost needed to make these types of locations more common.
From an Optitrack press release, bolding added:
At the core of OptiTrack Active is a set of infra-red LEDs synchronized with OptiTrack’s low latency, high frame rate, Slim 13E cameras, delivering real time marker identification as well as positioning. This differs from OptiTrack’s passive solution, which requires that reflective markers be configured in unique patterns for each tracked object. This can add a great deal of complexity for high volume manufacturing and large-scale deployments of HMDs or weapons. With OptiTrack Active over 100 objects can be tracked simultaneously over areas greater than 100’x100’ (30mx30m)…
The newer Slim 13E cameras are priced around $1,500 while equivalent hardware that used the older “passive” dot-tracking system cost around $2,500. Covering large regions can require dozens of these cameras so the cost adds up very quickly. The image below provided by Optitrack imagines an enormous space with cameras placed overhead evenly throughout.