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Oculus: Positional Tracking on Gear VR is a ‘hard problem’

In some ways Samsung and Oculus VR’s Gear VR smartphone-based virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) bests the Oculus Rift HMD’s second developer kit (DK2). Namely, the Super AMOLED display found on the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S6 phones with which the kit runs beat out the DK2’s 1080p OLED screen. But Gear VR does lack one crucial feature found in DK2; positional tracking. It’s something that Oculus VR is working to fix in a future iteration of the device, though it has recently described the issue as a ‘hard problem’.

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Oculus VR Hardware Engineer Ryan Brown said as much at this week’s ‘Explore the Future of Virtual Reality’ panel at the 2015 South by Southwest Festival (SXSW). Brown called back to Oculus VR CTO John Carmack’s talk at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) earlier this month as he described the work going into bringing positional tracking to Gear VR. “One of the things Carmack also mentioned is positional tracking is something that’s hard with Gear VR and you have to make that with the core, fundamental need to be portable and accessible,” he said.

“That’s the whole of point of that product, to get more people exposed to how awesome VR is,” Brown continued. “So it’s a problem we’re working on, it’s a hard problem to do without compromising portability and accessibility but we don’t have anything to announce at this time.”

There have already been some third-party solutions to bringing positional tracking to Gear VR. Most notable is Sixsense, which is working to bring its STEM System motion controller to the HMD, enabling positional tracking on the device in the process. Oculus VR has stated on numerous occasions that it is working on a more official fix for the issue, but is yet to commit to its inclusion in the next iteration of the device. The company has however confirmed that the next Gear VR will be a ‘full consumer‘ product.

VRFocus will continue to follow Gear VR closely, reporting back with any further updates on its progress.