Although we have consumer-grade virtual reality headsets out in the wild right now, that doesn’t mean developers have solved all of the biggest puzzles holding back certain aspects of its use. One of the biggest is positional tracking without the need for external sensors, but positional sensor developer Eonite claims to have solved this problem in an affordable way.
Currently virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive use external cameras or laser sensor boxes to detect where you are in the physical space. They track you moving forward and backward, as well as side to side, while the headset detects pitch, yaw, and roll. Microsoft has managed to do away with the need for sensors on its Hololens headset, but that costs thousands of dollars.
What Eonite claims to have done is something similar, but with off-the-shelf depth sensors that operate at low latency and don’t even require much processing power. Moreover, it’s a software solution, so the hardware used doesn’t matter too much. As long as the sensors can produce depth-data, Eonite claims its system can figure out where you are.
Purportedly it is accurate enough to enable millimeter-scale tracking and is tuned to be able to pick up things like furniture, shelves, doors, and even items on a desk. Eonite is calling the technology “homescale,” because it claims to allow a user to be in a virtual world and walk around their house without danger.
The technology has been in development for some time, with Eonite planning to use it in the field of robotics and drone technology. While it may still find use in those fields though, we can’t help but be excited about its potential applications within VR and AR.
Eonite is currently working on a Unity SDK which would allow for real-time environment scanning and importing into the virtual world. This could allow you to wander your house in VR, while retaining the ability to ghost into the real world as and when needed, or to augment your already existing reality with digital extras.
We won’t have long to wait to test out Eonite’s claims either, as the firm has it that the first product using its inside-out solution could arrive in the first quarter of 2017.
Others may be hot on its heels, though. As RoadToVR points out, Oculus has a working on a Rift ‘Santa Cruz’ prototype with a similar inside-out tracking solution, so it could be that second-generation VR headsets are not only wireless, but let you walk just about anywhere with them on.