Oculus Quest might look like a nice compact virtual reality (VR) headset (in comparison to other VR devices) but it packs a lot under that hood. One of its core pieces of technology – which is also used by Oculus Rift S – is Oculus Insight, the inside-out tracking technology that helps keeps players safe without the need for cumbersome external sensor solutions. Today, the company has revealed the story behind Oculus Insight and how it gives players a full six-degrees-of-freedom.
Inside-out tracking was once considered the holy grail of VR freedom so that users weren’t confined to one play space, able to use a VR device pretty much wherever they were, their movements fully replicated in the virtual space whilst avoiding hazards in the real world.
Inside Facebook Reality Labs – previously Oculus Research – an engineering team was put together to tackle the problem. “We wanted to create a system that lets you move and explore a VR world just as naturally and easily as you would in real life,” says Anna Kozminski, Software Program Manager in a blog posting. “With inside-out tracking in the headset, VR becomes as easy as putting on headphones to listen to music.”
So at the core of Oculus Insight’s tracking solution is a technology called SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping). This uses computer vision algorithms to combine multiple sensor data, fixing the position of an object – in this case a headset and controllers – within a digital map which is continually updated.
SLAM was first used in the early Oculus Santa Cruz prototype headset, unveiled during Oculus Connect 3 (OC3) in 2016. But the team needed an even more advanced version of SLAM if they were t achieve the level of precision and efficiency required for consumer VR gaming. To do this team drew upon Facebook’s previous SLAM work for mobile AR whilst experimenting with accurate OptiTrack motion-capture cameras to fine-tune the system’s computer vision algorithms.
The team then tested Oculus Insight with OptiTrack camera’s in a number of settings, exhaustively making sure the system worked in whatever condition thrown at it. And that’s why today, you can go out and by an Oculus Quest, charge it up and start playing VR in your living room, bedroom, hallway, pretty much anywhere with enough space (some people have even tried the headset outside). The solution may also help to provide better augmented reality (AR) experiences in the future.