Vive Tracker Features & Functions
The Vive Tracker opens up a world of possibilities. For starters, you can bring your feet and hips into a game, along with your head and hands for a more full-bodied VR experience.
ISVs have had almost a year to create clever applications. One particular innovation is the notion of full-body avatars. Cloudgate Studio, for example, created a full-body tracking system for its dinosaur hunting game, Island 359. We tried a pre-release version earlier this year and found it to be impressive. A couple of weeks ago, Cloudgate Studio released the Virtual Self update for Island 359, which not only enables foot and hip tracking, but also allows a third-person spectator view for live-streaming gameplay. The Virtual Self update supports one Tracker for hip tracking, two Trackers for foot tracking, and three Trackers for hip and foot tracking together.
Strange Company’s Left-Hand Path has a semi-hidden feature called External Camera mode, which also enables a third-person view for spectators. Left-Hand Path’s External Camera mode isn’t part of the game's standard release, and we’re not sure if the beta version is available publicly. But the capability exists, and we expect it to be made available in a future update.
Island 359 and Left-Hand Path are the only two games that we know offer some sort of third-person spectator view. But there are several games that support the full-body and foot tracking, including Final Soccer VR, Climbey, Holodance, Redfoot Bluefoot Dancing, VR Monster Awakens, and High Fidelity. Some games, like The Path of Greatest Resistance, even use full-body tracking to offer a new locomotion method where you run in place to move forward.
The Vive Trackers don't include hardware to attach them to anything. If you want to use full-body tracking, you need to purchase or fashion a mounting system. HTC recommends a set of Rebuff Reality's Trackstraps so that you can attach the Trackers to your feet. The Trackstraps feature Velcro to secure them and a quarter-inch thread for the tripod mount on the bottom of each tracker. They're long enough to wrap around your feet, and should fit around most shoes.
HTC doesn't sell the Trackstraps on its website, but you can pick them up directly from Rebuff Reality. The company asks $15 for a single strap or $25 for a pair. Every Trackstrap purchase also includes a code for Rebuff Reality's Redfoot Bluefoot Dancing game.
Vive Tracker Peripherals
Because HTC just released the Vive Trackers, there aren’t many peripheral options available yet. We do expect more in 2018, though. Several HTC partners demonstrated product concepts alongside the initial announcement: pistols and rifles, a fire hose, and a novel virtual camera, for instance. Manus VR showed off its VR gloves with Vive Trackers attached. Although we saw a small selection of weapon peripherals at CES back in January, none of them are available yet.
There are currently two peripheral bundles available for purchase: the Hyperkin Hyper Blaster pistol and the Racket Sports Set, which includes a tennis racket and ping pong paddle with Tracker attachments.
The top of the Hyper Blaster features a quarter-inch mounting screw and stabilizer post to mount a Vive Tracker to the gun. Hyperkin took advantage of the Tracker's pogo pin connection to map Hyper Blaster button inputs. In addition to the obvious trigger, it has a trackpad where a gun's hammer would be, grip buttons on both sides of the handle, and a menu button on each side of the barrel. The mapped buttons let you replace one (or both) of your controllers with a Hyper Blaster in games that support it.
Naturally, a Hyper Blaster adds unprecedented immersion to Stress Level Zero’s Duck Season, since the peripheral is a physical representation of Nintendo's light gun knock-off featured in the game. Hyperkin did design its Hyper Blaster specifically for Duck Season; however, the peripheral works with other games too. You can use the Hyper Blaster to improve your target shooting prowess in Practisim VR, or use the controller to better simulate the arcade experience of Operation Warcade VR. Soon, you’ll be able to use the Hyper Blaster in Tactical AR and Samurai Punk’s The American Dream VR. Vertigo Games also embraced the Hyper Blaster; it has an update planned for Arizona Sunshine, which you can try in beta form today.
The ping pong paddle and tennis racket in HTC’s Racket Sports Pack are more specific tools because they accurately represent the weight and feel of their real-world equivalents. Both items share the same overall design. They're made of a rigid grey plastic material, and both include tracker mounts surrounded by hollow space instead of paddle or racket surface.
The ping pong paddle appears to be standard (real) size. Meanwhile, the tennis racket features a full-sized handle and much smaller head than a real racket. More than likely, the smaller size limits whatever damage might come from whacking something in the real world on accident.
The Racket Sports Set includes a code for Virtual Sports, which offers tennis and ping pong games that support the respective peripherals. Three other ping pong titles already support the paddle, including Paddle Up, Eleven: Table Tennis, and Racket NX. A trio of tennis games extend support for the racket as well, including Blobby Tennis, First Person Tennis, and Selfie Tennis. HTC told us that Pitch Hit VR supports the racket with a Tracker; however, we couldn't enable Vive Tracker mode in the game. We later learned that the build needed for Vive Tracker support isn't publicly available yet.
More Tracker Ideas
Beyond those existing examples, Logitech recently revealed the upcoming Bridge developer kit, which should let developers create virtual overlays for Logitech keyboards with attached Vive Trackers.
Triangular Pixels, the creators of Unseen Diplomacy, experimented with a pet tracking system that it called Tracker VR. In short, you strap a Vive Tracker to your furry friend, allowing you to see whenever it wanders into your virtual playground. Development of the Tracker VR software appears to have stalled out, so we’re not sure if it will ever be available.
Finally, we've seen some mixed reality green-screen setups at various trade shows where the Vive Trackers are the tracked object for the in-game camera. Early on, HTC offered Vive Tracker Roll Switcher software that tricked SteamVR into treating the Vive Trackers as a Vive wand. Once the Trackers hit the consumer market, HTC pulled the link to the role switcher software from its forum, but you can still request a copy if you have a use for it.
MORE: Virtual Reality Basics