I sort of see the new Vive Trackers as like the post-it notes of VR, in that I want to stick them to absolutely everything. I often walk down the street looking at things you could virtualize by clamping HTC’s new peripheral to them. In fact I probably scare people when they see me contemplating a trash can and talking to myself about what it could do for VR.
Okay, that doesn’t really happen, but the Vive Tracker does open up a new world of possibilities for SteamVR. The kit, which is essentially a piece of plastic that your base stations will track the position of just like they do your headset and controllers, is already shipping out to developers, and we’ve seen a handful of ideas from the community.
But we’ve had a few ideas of our own. Here’s what we’d like to stick the Vive Tracker to when it starts to roll out later this year.
When you think about it, Oculus and Harmonix thought up the basic concept of the Vive Tracker a long time ago, when it stuck a Touch to a plastic guitar and gave us Rock Band VR. We’ll find out how they worked out for the pair in a few weeks, but the Tracker could actually bring our real instruments into VR so that we could play them in front of scores of adoring virtual fans. There’s a lot of potential for a Rocksmith-style VR tutoring game here.
We all know playing VR games can be physically demanding — my shoulders still hurt from my latest round of Paulo’s Wing — so it’s a pretty good idea to stay hydrated throughout. Removing your headset and finding your icy beverage is annoying; why not just have it in the virtual world too? Note that this won’t solve VR’s awkward angles issue where most cups won’t actually be able to tip into your mouth without hitting the bottom of your headset. Forget positional tracking; tell John Carmack this is where the real innovation is needed.
Phones And Tablets
I’ve already seen a pretty cool multiplayer VR game that stuck a Vive Tracker to a phone, but I’m talking about bringing those devices into the virtual world with the user. Smart devices could be incredibly versatile input mechanisms for specific VR experiences. Imagine what it could do for exisiting experiences like Tilt Brush, allowing you to fine tune your creations with greater depth. Plus it would be great to quickly flick through your phone in VR.
Since 1977 humans have dreamed of what it would feel like to hold a real lightsaber and do glorious battle with evil forces. We came pretty darn close in 2016 with Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine but we could come even closer with the Vive Tracker stuck to a plastic sword. Imagine two of these things in the hands of two friends having what felt like a real lightsaber battle with tactile feedback. Okay, better make them out of foam instead. No headshots, either.
We’ve already used the Vive Trackers to bring our own bodies into VR experiences, but what if we put them on our friends? What types of experiences might be possible? Imagine the kinds of co-op games you could make in which friends could work with you and have a real presence in the virtual world. Again, you’re probably dealing with a lot of health and safety concerns, but this is definitely something that games like Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes should consider for future updates.
Some readers with a friendly cat or dog will probably be familiar with the stomach-churning guilt that comes with accidentally kicking them while walking around in VR. It’s all too easy to forget that a four-legged creature might be trotting up to say hello while you’re jumping around in your living room. I would happily pay $100 not to have that experience again and attach a VR life jacket to my pets. This might also be good for babies.
The Tracker might not be the perfect answer but it’s certainly one possible way of achieving a larger room-scale setup for your Rift. As Valve’s tracking hardware continues to evolve it would be great to give Rift owners the option to buy some base stations and a few trackers to get larger room-scale tracking on their headsets.
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