VR Full-Body Tracking: for the virtual reality experience
Full-Body Tracking is often considered the Holy Grail for the virtual reality experience. The ability to imitate your real body movement into an avatar is something that greatly enhances immersion in VR as well as provides countless possibilities for new behavior. Just think about how much more practical would be all VR training. How much would it allow a user to sink into the game if his avatar would behave the same as in real life? I believe that when this technology is widely introduced it will revolutionize the perception of virtual reality.
How Exactly it is achievable?
The most common way to achieve tracking is by attaching to the body special markers that are detected by cameras. The more markers are placed, the more accurate is mapping of avatar movement. There are two most used configurations. The first configuration uses 6 markers placed at the head (headset), hands (most often controllers), belt, ankles. The second one adds additional markers on knees and elbows for a better bending experience. To solve the position and orientation of the avatar system uses inverse kinematic.
Solution: Vive markers
The easiest way to enjoy full-body tracking is by adding Vive markers. Those markers are easy to set up and work directly with steam VR or any headset using base stations. Because it is relatively cheap, this solution is used the most. It provides good tracking and works with devices that are already in possession of most VR headsets owners. It’s a go-to choice for non-industrial use of full-body tracking. Pricing is around 115$ for each marker with a strap. Assuming the user already owns a headset with controllers he needs to buy at least 3 of them to make full use of full-body tracking.
For those who are interested in trying full-body tracking with Vive markers follow this tutorial:
Optitrack is a more industrial way of full-body tracking. This solution stands out by high quality, fluidity, and very low delay of tracking. The general principle of operation remains unchanged. Multiple cameras are tracking markers in the space. There are several differences between the Optitrack and the Vive solution. First is that Optitrack can track multiple objects in much larger areas. Because of that, it makes it perfect for multiplayer applications or for capturing precise animations of many objects. The second one is that Optitrack supports two kinds of markers: – active, -passive.
Active markers work exactly like Vive’s. Passive ones are way cheaper and do not need a battery but require unique patterns to distinguish objects from each other for the cameras. The third disparity is that Optitrack requires a specialized room with special camera installation. Additionally, the Optitrack solution requires an external object tracking program called Motive for data processing. Summarizing Optitrack solution is not the cheapest one and not easiest to develop on but provides exceptional quality.
VR full-body tracking – Use cases
Full-body tracking is a technology not only used for entertainment. It is not limited to use just to improve immersion with games. There are many cases of using this technology for industrial purposes. One of them is gathering movement data samples. These samples can be used as references to character movement for movies or animations. Another use for them is in prosthetics and health care. Full-body tracking helps examine body movements for rehabilitation and form correction. Optitrack has specialized software for these applications.
Examples of using full-body tracking:
- VR Chat
- Blade and Sorcery
- Use in prosthetics science
Full-body tracking is a powerful addition to virtual reality. Provides strengthened immersion with minimal burden to the user. In addition to it provides users with much more realistic avatar behavior leading to improved quality of gaming. The use of it allows us to experience virtual reality more deeply. It is a technology that is already available but still not popularized. I’m convinced that soon technology will become a pillar of virtual reality.