HTC Vive’s position-tracked controllers and peripherals have uses that stretch far beyond VR itself.
As revealed by The Verge, scientists at the University of Tokyo in Japan are using the devices, which are tracked by two base stations to deliver accurate positional tracking, to control rescue robots like puppets.
It works exactly how you think it would; one user holds two Vive controllers in their hands and then straps two of the Vive trackers — which are yet to be released to consumers — to their feet and another around their torso. It’s a setup identical to the one currently used to simulate full-body tracking inside of VR experiences. In this instance, though, the user’s movements are directly imitated by a humanoid, life-size robot to an incredible degree of accuracy.
Check out it out below in this GIF from the university itself.
The robot itself is named JAXON and was build by the university several years ago. The robot won’t always directly imitate the user, though, as its software prevents it from shadowing movements that it can’t comfortably pull off. It can walk, for example, but won’t run and jump because, well, it’s likely you’d break what is almost certainly a multi-million dollar piece of machinery.
Still, one day its hoped JAXON and others will be sturdy enough to be sent in for disaster relief, minimizing the risk of human life. Who knows if it will still be using Vive’s tracking by that point, though hopefully Valve’s Lighthouse system with have come far enough to make JAXON capable of even more heroics.