To anyone familiar with VR, positional tracking has become a practical “must have” in achieving a sense of bodily presence in a virtual space. Oculus and Valve consider it integral to a quality VR experience, and both address the issue with external optical devices that track the wearer of their headset from a fixed vantage point. While this works rather well in the context of a dedicated space, it presents a challenge for mobile VR, since fixing a camera somewhere stationary to track your movements isn’t exactly conducive to mobility.
This obstacle is currently being tackled through a new partnership between SoftKinetic, an innovator in 3d vision technology, and Vrvana, the manufacturer of the Totem headset, which features novel attributes, such as onboard cameras, on-board hardware acceleration and integrated binaural audio. Together they’ve been working on a new embeddable camera module called DepthSense, which will enable positional tracking without the need for an external optical device.
Instead of an external camera gauging the position of the headset by calculating its location relative to the camera, DepthSense uses the embedded camera to determine position relative to the observable real-world environment. With this method, SoftKinetic and Vrvana are claiming they can enable free-form positional tracking for mobile VR and, due to the availability of pass-through from the cameras, AR applications as well.
Both companies will be debuting DepthSense as part of the newest iteration of Vrvana’s Totem headset. If it works as advertised, this could be a promising forward step for making positional tracking a basic expectation for mobile VR platforms.