Vive Dev Shows How Trackers Can Provide ‘Full-Body Presence’ In VR

by Jamie Feltham • January 20th, 2017

From fire fighting simulators to local multiplayer shooters, developers are already getting inventive with the HTC Vive’s new Trackers, and now the creators of Island 359 have something impressive of their own to show off.

CloudGate Studio this week posted a video demonstration of its ‘Fullbody Awareness’ experiments in VR. The system brings a player’s entire body into the virtual realm, in this first test using four Vive controllers. Two are held in hand as per usual and another two are taped to President and Co-Founder Steve Bowler’s feet as he walks through the demo. Such a system wouldn’t be viable for consumers but, as Bowler points out on Twitter, replacing the bottom controllers with the Trackers may yield interesting results.

Still, what’s here right now is impressive. Using the system the developers were able to create what Bowler describes as “a pretty good facsimile of a human body in VR”. That includes torso, legs and arms, and not just the floating body parts we’re used to seeing in so many VR experiences right now. While not perfect, Bowler is able to accurately replicate a wide range of motions in VR like lifitng a leg up and even touching his toes.

The developers are even able to portray the player’s shadow within VR, and Bowler puts it to the test by dancing around before he starts to kick items in the virtual world. He also mentions that a third Tracker could be placed around the hips to more accurately track crouching, which he describes as “pretty good” in its current form but ultimately just “guessing”.

“Think about what this would look like for multiplayer, for social aspects, for everything, right?” Bowler says as he stares down at his virtual self.

It is an enticing thought, remdinding us of the Perception Neuron MOCAP system to an extent, which places multiple markers around the user’s body. The Vive trackers aren’t exactly designed to be worn on a user’s feet, though, so we do question just how useful this solution could ultimately be.

Bowler, however, doesn’t seem to be phased. Over on Twitter he suggested that the company might have “a plan”, possibly for special shoes that would fit the Trackers. “It’s easier than you think,” he said.

It’s certainly an option developers could start to provide to VR enthusiasts once the trackers start shipping in Q2 2017. Would you strap three extra Trackers to your body to fully dive into VR?

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  • Nicholas

    That looks incredible! Exactly what I hoped devs would start doing with the new Vive trackers.

  • Joan Villora Jofré

    Great! I only hope they make the ‘Vive Trackers’ cheaper with the new sensors.

  • koenshaku

    Yes bring forth the HTC vive slippers! I don’t know what is taking them so long to release the trackers anyway they’re just controllers without the controls… Just stick them on slippers already everyone likes having legs =)

  • Unspoken

    I have to agree with him. That IS really cool. VR is going to be soooo cool in few years.

  • Roy Childress

    Wouldn’t it have been easier to use a Kinect?

    • Adrian Meredith

      Unforuntately kinect would interfere with the sensors because its based on projecting infrared light into the room.

  • unreal_ed

    It’s funny, I never thought about this till now but… for a lot of games it might be weird! The thing is how it ties in to locomotion systems. Coz in VR games you’re often standing in place and using teleportation or full locomotion to move around. But in those cases (and especially full locomotion), your real feet barely move!

    Imagine Onward with this this system. Your character would be sliding just sliding all around the place. Maybe you can turn off the tracking when other players see your feet during locomotion, but it might end up looking goofy when going to and from locomotion feet position to real feet position. Strange new world, strange new problems.

    That said, now I’ll be able to tap dance in VR, and I’m pretty hyped for that

  • jimrp

    That what i said you can use them for. Now developers get me to walk and run. (Roomscale or run in place). To a healthier New Year.

  • Kevin Walker

    On Tested they said the Vive HMD can only connect with 2 wireless devices (2 controllers / 1 controller and 1 tracker / 2 trackers), which is probably why they said they used 2 Vives in this video. Not saying it won’t be possible, but you would need maybe a USB dongle to connect more devices. I can’t this happening this generation, but looks cool none the less.

    • John J

      This may be part a software limitation but BT networks do indeed have a max of 8 devices due to the 3bit MAC address based protocol it uses to make a piconet. 1 Is the master hub and it can have 7 slave devices. Slaves can only talk to masters not other slaves so they are star topology networks. It can store as many device pairings as it has memory to store them in its internal controllers memory but can only talk to 7 at the same time. Others can park idle when not talking to allow others to talk. Time sharing the hub would not work for this application to get more sensors since they all have to constantly send tracking data to be useful.

      Also keep in mind the hub in the headset also talks to the lighthouses as when I did firmware upgrades I did not plug them into the PC like the wands, it did it over BT. They sync together via BT if you do not use the time-sync cable. So in theory if they did not use a cheap trimmed down BT module for their hub you could add 3 more sensors with software upgrades. That could work. 2 on the feet and one on the belt but in back so it does not get occluded when bending over. IK gets easier/nicer the more real points you can input.

      BT also has a second non-standard capability that has not been explored much because there was no real compelling application until now perhaps called scatternet. A BT device can be a Master of one piconet and a slave on another and act as a network bridge/router making a mesh of star networks that can allow multiple piconets to act as one larger network. This would be limited by noise free radio spectrum, bandwidth, and hub CPU speed to determine it’s max scale.

      In theory the HMD could hub to a tracker that also acts as a hub to add more trackers. I would keep the amounts of hub low maybe just 1-2 bridged hubs to the HMD to keep radio noise and delay down across the network. If implemented well in a low radio noise environment you could have 10-17 tracked devices at the same time providing ample tracking targets for hi-res body mo-cap or multiple VR props at the same time.

      Sorry for long rant I have been looking into building lighthouse tracked devices for a while. I had similar ideas to this story’s developer but had some of your concerns too as I went along in my research.

      • Kevin Walker

        Wow, that was a long rant. Someone on Reddit said that the pucks will come with a dongle and allows up to 16 tracked objects, so maybe it won’t be an issue anyway. This was an interesting read though.

  • Already thought about it… the problem with all this solutions is that require the user to wear something… that’s why we at Immotionar use Kinect… because so you have full body without wearing anything.

    Their solution is interesting (had the same idea with 4 trackers, but I didn’t implement it… so kudos to them), but I don’t get completely the business:
    – Pro companies (e.g. training) would prefer more professional solutions;
    – Consumers are surely not interested because it’s a maker thing.

    I see it as a great technical experiment, but not a great business idea. Hope for them that I’m wrong