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Valve’s Lighthouse as USB: Anything More than a Bunch of Spin?


This is the third article in a series on the Valve/HTC Vive Ecosystem. If you you need additional context, please begin with the first article in the series.


Quote from Gabe Newell's interview in The Nerdist Episode 306. Image source: unknown

Quote from Gabe Newell’s interview in The Nerdist Episode 306. Image source: unknown

Introduction

A famous quote from Gabe Newell is about a lesson that Valve learned early-on when dealing with the Internet. You can find it in Episode 306 of the Nerdist Podcast at 00:12:14.

Don’t ever, ever try to lie to the Internet because they will catch you. They will deconstruct your spin. The will remember everything you ever say for eternity. -Gabe Newell

At this year’s Game Developers Conference where Valve announced their Virtual Reality partnership with HTC, and at that time, Gabe made an incredible claim about the Lighthouse tracking technology:

So we’re gonna just give that away. What we want is for that to be like USB. It’s not some special secret sauce. It’s like everybody in the PC community will benefit if there’s this useful technology out there. -Gabe Newell (Valve)

The story which accompanies the interview describes Lighthouse as a way of providing infinite input solutions into Virtual Reality. “As long as tracking is there, anything can be brought into VR, like how USB ports enable you to plug (virtually) anything into your computer.”

What the Technology Brings

In the previous two articles, we’ve dug into the technology itself, and it supports what we’ve been told. Spend perhaps $100-150 for two of Valve’s Lighthouse units and mount them in opposite corners of the room. At that point, you can almost forget about them. But any enabled device that you bring into the room can take advantage of:

  • Rock-solid positional data with high precision and resolution
  • Rock-solid orientation data with high precision and resolution
  • Very low additional power use (passive sensors, undemanding electronics)

Read More…

Representing unknown avatars in high traffic public spaces

Maciej Kuciara: Cyberpunk 2077 trailer concept art

Maciej Kuciara: Cyberpunk 2077 trailer concept art

“The Street.” That’s what Snow Crash calls it. The Street is a shared virtual environment that grew to be used by over a hundred million users. The author eases us into how avatars might interact in the Metaverse by describing a simple problem: how to reach the front door of a famous establishment.

If these avatars were real people in a real street, Hiro wouldn’t be able to reach the entrance. It’s way too crowded. But the computer system that operates the Street has better things to do than to monitor every single one of the millions of people there, trying to prevent them from running into each other. It doesn’t bother trying to solve this incredibly difficult problem. On the Street, avatars just walk right through each other.

You might remember that in a previous article, Griefing and the Metaverse, we touched on some of the issues involved when avatars collide. In an even earlier article, The sci-fi Metaverse is bad, we realized that the science fiction Metaverse is actually an unrealistic blueprint for what an actual Metaverse should be like.

When Snow Crash describes a high traffic public place, I think that they got it more right than wrong. When practical considerations need to come first, the Metaverse does not need to be a faithful simulation of reality. We could stop here and implement a public space with Snow Crash’s description of the Street, but there are additional practical considerations to deal with. Read More…