Prototyping with current generation tech.

It's easy to forget sometimes when you're wrapped up in the emerging world of consumer VR that it's very much in it's infancy, it's still extremely early days. There are no commercial devices on the market really suitable for input devices; it's a problem that the likes of STEM, PrioVR and ControlVR hope to fix but apart from a select few developers, we're all still keenly waiting for our devices as shipping delays inevitably take hold.

So when we're looking to capture full avatars and build an experience that is natural we've been looking to current tech to prototype.

Our prototype setup.

When setting out with these tools, we know they're not going to be with us long term and perhaps not even see out the year. That doesn't stop us however from being able to approach and work with a lot of the challenges that we'll need to engage with along the way.

We've got a four piece setup, which is a little niche and goes against our accessible experience ethos though it's never been intended for the end user. The first two parts are obvious and in it for the long haul, the Oculus Rift HMD (to experience it in VR and track head direction) and a classic headset with mic setup for being able to deliver verbal communication. 

The Kinect

This has been a controversial choice for skeletal tracking and with good reason, hence why it's a short term prototyping solution; for this reason though it has been a powerful asset.

It's not a perfect tool by a long shot; the latency isn't as bad as you'd expect though when you start to smooth out errors this rapidly rises so a balance must be struck. You also have line-of-sight and space requirements which make it awkward for a lot of users. That said, it allows us to engage with locomotive motion in the real world mapped to the virtual which we've found which those who often experience motion sickness on the DK1 haven't suffered at all on our tests due to natural motion relevantly negating any vestibular disconnect issues.

The Razer Hydra

This piece of hardware found life in the VR community that it lacked elsewhere. It's a great bit of kit, providing you can get hold of one. In our setup we're not using these for position hand tracking though but merely to fill in the orientation of the hands that the Kinect can not detect. It's also great to have traditional controls in your hands for other input though we've minimised reliance on this where possible. 

Migrating beyond.

While developing with these tools we've learnt a lot and been able to work in such a way that means we can rapidly work to integrate new devices when they land and smooth out the experience with those quickly.

So does the prototype have tech that's bad for a solid VR experience? To simplify... yes. Does it stop us from learning and moving ahead? Not at all.