Hands-On with IndoTraq: Bringing Room Scale Tracking to Gear VR
The Samsung Gear VR head-mounted display (HMD) has seen its fair share of success since its Innovator Edition launch through to its consumer iteration in November 2015. Used by global companies and institutions alike to showcase virtual reality (VR), the headset has seen numerous videogames, apps and 360-degree video experiences become available. But the Gear VR is lacking in some of the more immersive aspects of VR which its bigger cousins like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will be able to do, and that is room scale motion tracking. The mobile HMD can head track but doesn’t allow any other forms of movement, now IndoTraq is bringing this feature to Gear VR.
IndoTraq LLC has developed a wireless indoor tracking system for use across multiple applications not just VR. The system was launched during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016 in Las Vegas and enables full movement not previously available to the Gear VR. IndoTraq is comprised of four parts: a unit attached to the HMD itself, a stand that has one block of sensors with a further two modules able to be placed in the same area or even on the other side of a wall.
When handed the headset the first visual que stands out straight away. The module attached to the top strap looks like a sharks fin, merely designed that way to appropriately fit the circuitry housed inside, but a neat elegant finish.
A VR experience has been created by the company to give an idea of what can be achieved using its technology. The basic videogame puts the player in the middle of four houses, with enemies walking about as well as rabbits popping up in the windows, all of which can be shot with a press of the touch pad. But its movement that is key and the IndoTraq does impress.
Walking up to the buildings you could crouch and jump, strafe targets and manoeuvre backwards freely and unencumbered due to the wireless design. And critically all without any noticeable lag. The company states in its specifications that it has an update rate of 200 Hz, giving a smooth, fluid feel, and by all accounts its does just that. How well the system works with a more demanding VR experience remains to be seen but it worked well on this trial.
While moving about in the virtual space there is always the issue of bumping into real world objects depending on the area used. IndoTraq had an easy way to stop this by simply putting up a bright yellow hand, now this will probably depend on the individual developer but the system worked effectively that no collision happened within the small show area of approximately 2.5m x 2.5m. The company has claimed an effective indoor area of 100m x 100m, with an outdoor range of 300m x 300m, making the prospect of running around the garden in VR highly tantalising.
There isn’t a bad word to say against the IndoTraq system as it stands, with movement being accurate and as fast or slow as you’re willing to move. The real test will be when developers get their hands on the kit in March, to see what IndoTraq can really do.