Centimeter-Accurate GPS System Could Transform Virtual Reality

gps-virtual-reality-system Gear VR

Samsung funded researchers have built a new low-cost centimeter-accurate GPS system that could open the way for huge advances in virtual reality and mobile mapping.

Researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas said the centimeter-accurate GPS-based positioning system is far more precise than the orientation capability currently available on smartphones and could allow virtual reality (VR) headsets to be used outdoors.

Researchers said the advanced GPS coupled with a smartphone camera could be used to quickly build a globally referenced 3-D map of one’s surroundings that would greatly expand the radius of a VR game or experience. Currently, VR does not use GPS, which constrains its use to a limited radius indoors with optical tracking systems.

“Imagine games where, rather than sit in front of a monitor and play, you are in your backyard actually running around with other players,” said Todd Humphreys, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and lead researcher. “To be able to do this type of outdoor, multiplayer virtual reality game, you need highly accurate position and orientation that is tied to a global reference frame.”

The above video shows continuous tracking and output (on the left) of Samsung Gear VR headset’s three-dimensional position worn by the user.

Humphreys collaborated with Professor Robert W. Heath from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Ph.D. candidate Kenneth M Pesyna Jr on the new technology, which they describe in a recent issue of GPS World.

The researchers anticipate that their software’s ability to leverage ($10) antennas will reduce the overall cost making it economically feasible for mobile devices like those used in Samsung Gear VR.

It does appear that Samsung may have future plans for this technology.

Humphreys explained that his team is working with Samsung to develop a snap-on accessory that will tell smartphones, tablets and virtual reality headsets their precise position and orientation. Samsung provided funding to Humphreys’ lab at The University of Texas for the system research and plans to continue funding related basic research.

Not only could this latest advancement in measurement accuracy prove to be beneficial for virtual reality, other commercial uses such as drone delivery and self-driving car collision avoidance would be equally impressive.

Technical Information:

Image/Video Source: Kenneth M Pesyna Jr

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Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder of VRScout.

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