If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already aware of the Valve/HTC partnership where HTC will manufacture the Vive, a virtual reality head mounted display, powered by Valve’s SteamVR platform.
As part of the reveal, one new piece of technology was introduced to the public: the Lighthouse. This is a brand-new-to-VR technology which will be used as part of a system to track the position and orientation of a user’s head mounted display and controllers throughout an entire room.
With Lighthouse, instead of using VR in a chair or standing in place, its room-scale VR feature allows you to use the space of an entire room as a stage to physically walk around in a virtual environment.
This article is based on publicly available information. Be aware that we are trying to explain a system that is unreleased, subject to change, and has very little publicly available information. Some elements of this article may prove inaccurate at a later date.
With any complex system, there are many rules, details, and exceptions to explore. This first article is just going to cover the tech basics (but will still be plenty meaty for many). We’ll consider more detailed issues in later articles.
A Basic Operational Review
The purpose of this first article is to clear up some of the common misconceptions concerning the Lighthouse technology. It will also serve as a starting place for additional articles on Lighthouse and on the various aspects of the HTC/Valve partnership.
By understanding how this one component works, we can understand much more about what HTC and Vive are trying to deliver to consumers. They’re not just cranking out randomly incremental or independent technological solutions here; Valve is running a very deep and highly integrated game plan.
Earlier, I wrote about the concept of the Virtual Home as the center of your activities in virtual reality. It is personal space, lounge, hangout, and launching pad. There are a number of ways to handle the user interface for the Virtual Home.
We’re going to quickly look at VirtualReality.io, cover the concept for the Rift Navigator, and go back and pick up a great Virtual Home that I missed called Anarchy Arcade. After that, the conversation will switch gears to highlight a fundamental problem inside the Virtual Home (and virtual reality as a whole).
VirtualReality.io is a no-nonsense launching pad for VR software. It doesn’t do a lot. It doesn’t have the personal space, lounge, or hangout. What it does do, though, it does correctly. They’ve got the launching pad covered for the novice user.
The user selects an application from a catalog of third party software and it installs it onto their system. When the user selects the installed program, the interface quickly moves out of the way, but returns when the application terminates. There is no need to remove a head-mounted display. At a basic level, a Virtual Home needs to behave similarly. Read More…