It was almost exactly a year ago, at CES 2016, when we first saw the VicoVR, a Kinect-like full-body motion tracking system for mobile VR. Now, the device is about to go into production and should be available right around CES 2017 time (in just a couple of weeks), and we have more information on the specifications.
The idea behind VicoVR is that it significantly augments what smartphone-based mobile VR can do. By adding positional tracking and body tracking, you can get (sort-of) 6DoF tracking, and it will track your limbs for games, too. You need the VicoVR HMD, a smartphone, and the separate motion tracker. The motion tracker does all the heavy lifting--it captures and processes all the sensor data on-device and then pipes it to your phone via Bluetooth.
The first round of units will be small, and the company (3DiVi) told Tom’s Hardware that they’d be primarily for “platform partners (for testing) and developers.” It’s unclear when mass production for the consumer market will commence.
Presently, there are 14 VR games for VicoVR, although 3DiVi is talking with other mobile HMD makers about possible bundles.
For such a device, it will likely be crucial to have Daydream support, and to that end, 3DiVi said that adding positional and full body control to a title can be done in as little as five minutes. The company also said that it’s added access to point clouds in the Unity SDK, which ostensibly enables VicoVR to work with applications in both AR and VR. It’s also now MFI-certified by Apple, so you should be able to connect it to iPhones and Apple TV. Further, VicoVR supports Unreal Engine 4 and works with Samsung’s Gear VR. That’s a fairly robust support system.
The company further stated that it’s made improvements to the tracking device itself. Since we first saw it, we were told, “We significantly improved the quality of skeletal tracking [and] added RGB point cloud.”
The exterior of the final product looks quite similar to what we saw a year ago. It’s a smallish rectangle on a little stand. 3DiVi has not disclosed final pricing, but we imagine that, based on what we’ve told in the past, it will run in the $200-250 range for the whole kit. You’ll have to bring your own smartphone.
There are many different ways to achieve 6DoF and body tracking with mobile VR, but it’s proven to be a tough nut to crack. The most elegant solution is HMD-mounted inside-out tracking, such as what we’ve seen (on the inexpensive mobile side) from Dacuda and Impression Pi. On the high end, we’ve seen the same from Microsoft HoloLens and Sulon Cortex, among others. Oculus seems to believe that this is future (see Project Santa Cruz), and Intel is all-in on this sort of tracking with Project Alloy, too. This is not to mention Leap Motion’s intriguing new mobile tracking technology.
By contrast, VicoVR’s technique uses a standalone tracker. Further, whereas the above technologies effectively result in room-scale (if not world-scale) positional tracking, VicoVR is limited to a room-size range of about 15 feet. That’s not say there’s no room for it; remember that VicoVR can track two people at once, so you and a friend (or your offspring) can compete against one another in VR in a living room, basement, gaming room, or what have you. In terms of fun, casual, VR gaming, that sounds like a compelling prospect.
I'm part of a project at Immotionar (www.immotionar.com) to abstract all these sensors and let the developer produce full body VR in an easy way and for all devices... currently we support Kinect, but are planning about VicoVR because it can successfully substitute it. In our setups usually we use more than one sensor, since using only one Kinect (or VicoVR) usually can't give you 360 degrees avateering and so it's bad for natural interactions (you can walk and interact only in forward direction): using 3 you should achieve 360, but the price of the hardware solution increases a lot.