Room tracking in VR has come a long way, is the old way still valuable?

Poster tracking

VR headsets has come a long way since the dawn of the first VR-headset. One of the big shifts in VR-headsets was the change from Outside-in tracking to Inside-out tracking. We map out some of the advantages to both solutions

Published 19/08/2020 by Christer-André

With the release of HTC Vive in 2016, we saw the introduction of Valves lighthouse tracking technology.

It was a vast improvement over the tracking that Oculus Rift CV1 offered, and provided out-of-the-box room scale tracking with perfect stability and accuracy.

It has some downsides, like the fact that reflective surfaces would cause tracking noise and required curtains or other types of cover in many cases.
Perhaps the biggest downside though, especially for those travelling with the vr headset - It can be terribly cumbersome and complex to set up.
It requires 3 power outlets , 5 if you want to use the included USB chargers. The base stations need to be mounted, preferably at each end of the room, then configured and calibrated.
This usually requires you to bring tripods or have another plan for mounting the base stations.

The lighthouse technology won’t go obsolete any time soon, as it most definitely has its merits and benefits. There is, however, an alternative and much simpler tracking technology that for all intents and purposes in use with Dimension10 is just as good.

Inside vs Outside

Easier Setup in 1-2-3

The Oculus Rift S , the Oculus Quest and HP Reverb G2 have inside-out tracking based on built in cameras. This means that it's self contained, and everything you need for a full vr experience sits within the headset and the controllers themselves.

No external cameras, link boxes or base stations required.

All you need is the headset, plugging in two cables to your computer and you are good to go.

It will make life much easier in most use cases, and save users a lot of headaches and time.

The Oculus Rift S and the HP Reverb G2 is both very reasonably priced. With the Rift S costing around 5500nok and the Reverb G2 costing around 7500, both of these are great deals.

The reason for the higher cost of the Reverb G2 is that it has higher image quality and much superior sound quality.

HP Reverb Oculus Rift

A few downsides

There are a few downsides worth mentioning, all of which are possible to remedy.

Since the tracking is based on cameras located on the headset itself, all of the headsets using this tracking technology would suffer with over or underexposed image.
This means if the room is extremely bright, or maybe more importantly a dim room - the tracking quality would be greatly reduced.
A good rule of thumb is that if you would struggle to read a normal book in that light, the tracking of these headsets would also suffer.

The perfect condition for the headsets is what I would call a normal office situation without direct sunlight. What would be considered normal comfortable room lighting by most.

In summary, life just got a lot simpler for vr setups, especially when traveling.
For dedicated VR rooms we still want to emphasize that lighthouse based setup can have great benefits. The Valve Index is a great example of higher end headsets that work great in permanent/specialized rooms.