OTOY experimenting with Lighthouse tracking on Gear VR

by Will Mason • August 18th, 2015

Featured image is a rendering, not an actual image of the GearVR running with Lighthouse based tracking

Ever since John Carmack tweeted out to the community “If you are considering buying a phone for VR, you might want to hold off until after Oculus Connect for relevant information” the speculation has run rampant. What might the new device be? Will it be a fully integrated solution? Will it have better resolution? Will it have better performance? But perhaps the biggest question is will it have positional tracking?

Read More: Why the time is right for a phone powered by Oculus

It is something that seems unlikely at this point, as Oculus is still collecting computer vision specialists like I used to collect Pokémon cards, always looking for the holographic first edition Charizard (or in this case the person who can unlock the solutions necessary for full inside-out positional tracking, as well as perfect body tracking). So what are developers who are looking for a mobile positional tracking solution to do? Well you can try and build your own, like Univrses is trying to do, or you can try and hack something together using available technology.

OTOY is choosing to go with the latter. Fed up with the inability to move around his incredible lightfield creations OTOY Founder and CEO Jules Urbach decided to hack together his own solution using Valve’s Lighthouse solution and a Gear VR.

“It is kind of impossible to experience this stuff well without those pieces in place so that people who want to have that untethered experience on Gear VR a solution,” says Urbach, “we want to make sure that if the device doesn’t support [positional tracking and hand tracked input] that at least we can use Lighthouse to bridge that gap.”

Lighthouse has always been created as an open system, Valve Founder and CEO Gabe Newell said he wants it to be “like USB” in that respect, yet this is among the first times we have heard reports of developers hacking the system for their own purposes.”You can stick a Lighthouse sensor not just on the Vive stuff but on a GearVR, you can put it on anything,” says Urbach. So how does it work?

Pretty much like you would expect.

OTOY is hacking the lighthouse sensors off of a Vive development kit and putting them on the Gear VR, then using some nifty tricks to get them to talk together. According to Urbach they are also working to get Lighthouse tracked input working on untethered devices, including mobile HMDs like Google Cardboard, as well. This The system is still in development and at the time of print was not yet ready for a hands on, but Urbach says “it’s being worked on.”

“At some point Oculus and Carmack will figure all this out and have it as a part of their stack,” says Urbach. Until then we can rely on developer level innovations like this to peer into the mobile positionally tracked future.

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