This sensor can add body tracking to mobile VR – but it's probably better to wait

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Two parts of the VicoVR system, with headset and sensor

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Once you've used PC-based VR with full-body positional tracking, like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, you start to look at mobile VR, which only tracks head rotation, a little differently. Namely, the high-end tracked stuff makes mobile VR look pretty watered-down by comparison. A crowdfunding project is trying to fill in that tracking gap on mobile VR, but until the big players add tracking of their own, don't expect this kind of thing to go far.

VicoVR is the name of the new sensor, headset and motion controller combination for smartphone-based VR currently trying to woo backers on Indiegogo. In theory, this sounds like the mobile VR magic bullet we've been waiting for. External sensor (looking suspiciously like a Kinect) that tracks leaning, standing, crouching and walking, along with a wireless gesture controller (looking suspiciously like a Wii nunchuk) to track hand movement and object manipulation. And it will support the upcoming Google Daydream VR, the consumer successor to Google Cardboard.

But don't expect this to be the spark that shifts today's no tracking from the neck down mobile VR into something more like the Vive. First, with no hands-on demos, we have no idea how good (or awful) this product's tracking is. If a huge company like Sony can launch a consumer VR headset with borderline unusable motion controller-tracking, we aren't holding our breath for an indie company running a crowdfunding campaign to do better. Watching the pitch video (embedded at the bottom of this article), you'll notice that the actors demoing VicoVR's tracking are making very slow gestures. PSVR taught us that VR that requires you to adapt your natural movement to accommodate the tech is, well, VR that's going to feel incredibly unnatural. It's the tech's job to adapt to natural movement.

And like Daydream's reference design controller, the VicoVR's system appears to use a controller – singular – with no visible support for dual controllers. Prepare to be one-handed in every tracked game.

Even if the tracking is acceptable, developers will need to adapt their existing mobile VR games to support the positional tracking. This industry-wide shift will come at some point, but it's hard to see that happening until the Gear VR or Daydream officially support their own positional tracking hardware (either internal or external) ... at which point, this sensor will most likely become irrelevant. It's a bit of a Catch 22, as many crowdfunding campaigns face when trying to add features that the big players haven't yet added.

VicoVR says it does support Unity and Unreal Engine 4, so who knows, perhaps widespread dev support won't be quite as impossible a peak to scale as it appears to be. Just extremely unlikely.

The VicoVR system is now funding on Indiegogo, with a $219 pledge getting you the full system, with sensor, headset and controller. Separate components can also be had for lesser pledges (and you can use it with other Cardboard/Daydream headsets). If all goes well, the estimated ship date is this November. At the rate virtual reality is progressing, though, there could already be spatial tracking options from the big companies by then.

Product pages: VicoVR, Indiegogo

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