Keep one foot in the physical world with a mixed-reality Vive setup

When we tell people about room-scale VR with the HTC Vive, it can be tough to explain exactly what that looks like. Put the headset on, and it immediately makes sense as the physical world around you gives way to a virtual one, but on a video it’s just someone swinging their arms. By using a third controller and some creative software work, the HTC team was able to turn a gameplay video into a mixed-reality extravaganza.

On the surface, the process is actually pretty simple. A green screen setup, with the necessary lighting equipment, provides a backdrop that’s easy to cut out of the video. A camera, with a Vive controller on top, records the raw footage, and relates its position back to the system processing the image.

Mixing them back together in real-time takes a significant amount of computing power, not to mention video-editing skills. Green screens aren’t cheap either, and they require lights and plenty of room to ensure proper chroma key recognition. The third Vive controller is also a stumbling block. HTC has said an accessory shop will be opening sometime soon, but until then, you may have to find a friend with a Vive and borrow one of their controllers.

It’s also currently only available in a handful of games. Stationary shooters Jeeboman and Space Pirate Trainer, as well as physics-based puzzler Fantastic Contraption, all have it as a built-in option, with varying degrees of support. Hopefully that list will expand soon, or third-party software will help bridge the gap so users can try it at home.

Until then, you’ll just have to settle for spotting the green screen at conferences like Computex, CES, and E3, or checking out the video above to see mixed reality Space Pirate Trainer in action.

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