Warehouse-scale VR? One company's system will soon plug straight into game engines
On the outer reaches of today's VR sits room-scale VR (currently exclusive to the HTC Vive), which lets you walk around room-sized spaces while inside virtual reality. Someday down the road, though, you may take your kids to an arcade where you'll stroll around a warehouse-sized VR space with other headset-wearing cohabitants. One company is trying to make that a reality on a game engine level.
Intel-backed WorldViz isn't new to VR or to wide-scale motion-tracking – the company's Precision Point Tracking (PPT) system has been around since 2002, using cameras, headset sensors and controllers (which look like more primitive versions of the Vive controllers) to track VR with supposed "sub-millimeter" accuracy.
If you haven't heard of WorldViz before today, you aren't alone: its products have been limited mostly to academic and enterprise customers for research-based uses. The company is now trying to cast its net wider, though, with upcoming plug-ins for its tech baking straight into game engines Unreal and Unity – while using just about any mainstream VR headset.
The shift will come this June, when the PPT plug-ins for Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 5 arrive. Any headset that supports those engines will then do the trick, including the Vive, Rift, Gear VR, PSVR and Google's Daydream.
To be clear, though, a developer-level engine tweak doesn't suddenly make these headsets ready for far beyond Vive tracking; to use the warehouse-scale VR they'll still require WorldViz hardware, including cameras (that capture position data at 240Hz), sensors that attach to your headset and those wand-like controllers you see below. This is about making the headset part of a WorldViz setup, rather than the plug-ins magically transforming the capabilities of these headsets on their own.
It's too early to say exactly how this will be used, but expanding the company's reach in academia and enterprise will likely be a big part of it, in addition to the much more exciting prospect of warehouse-size VR arcades – as the system can track multiple people within the same space. Maybe we'll one day use the acronym MML VR: Massively multiplayer local virtual reality.
If you're planning a VR arcade of your own (or something much less interesting), the company's system starts at US$15,000, "depending on the number of cameras, sensors and installation support needed."
You can check out the video below for a peek at the tech.