Developers behind Chicago-based studio CloudGate and their dinosaur hunting game Island 359 have been working for months on a full-body tracking solution that uses limited data points including the head, hands, feet and waist to raise immersion levels.
Most VR developers only represent the hands and head of a person immersed in a virtual world because those are the only things that can be tracked accurately with current consumer tech. It can break your sense of presence in a virtual world to see your arms represented in a position they aren’t actually in. Instead, in VR you’ll usually see your hands floating in front of you but no arms. If you look down your body is missing. It’s a very hard technical problem to accurately represent the myriad ways your body can move with only data from a few points being tracked.
Jeremy Chapman and Steve Bowler at CloudGate are trying to solve this problem. With an update to Island 359 today you can strap Vive Trackers to your feet and/or waist and get a pretty convincing full body avatar. The software update also represents your full body without Trackers too, but you can’t do things like kick dinosaurs in the face unless you have the Trackers.
I tried out an early build of the solution using Rebuff Reality’s TrackStrapsto put a pair of Trackers on my feet. It was a really cool moment to see my full body represented in VR. I could lift up each of my feet one at a time and I could see those movements reflected accurately in a virtual mirror.
What I tried wasn’t a final build so I did notice some hiccups. CloudGate, however, plans to continue updating the solution and eventually license their “Virtual Self” technology to other developers. Overall, though, there were some very cool moments where I could feel an increased sense of presence in the virtual world. Even seemingly little moments, like reaching out to open a vehicle’s door, offered a notable increase to my sense of immersion.