View your surroundings while in VR via a customized virtual window to the real world.
While disconnecting from reality has its perks, some things just can’t be accomplished from outside the confines of the real world. Whether it be eating, typing on a physical keyboard, or simply picking up real objects, that headset will eventually need to come off at some point when interacting with the reality.
SteamVR has provided its own tools to avoid breaking immersion, such as its Matrix-esque “Room View” mode or their handheld “Dashboard” camera, which provides a small color feed permanently attached to the right motion controller.
Both of these options, while helpful, are simplistic answers to a more complex problem. Room View provides a distorted view of reality that, while fun at first, looses its charm as soon as you attempt more specific actions, like typing or picking up smaller objects. The dashboard camera, while clearer, is locked to your controller, forcing you to manually hold it in the direction you wish to view. Not to mention both of these tools can only be accessed while the Home menu is active, interrupting any experience in which you’re currently engaged.
This is where FragmentVR comes in. Available at the end of the month via SteamVR, FragmentVR is a utility application for the original HTC Vive that allows you to “draw” custom VR windows into the real-world with total control. Using the Vive controllers, users can trace fixed windows of any shape or size in which to view reality; all of which captured using the Vive’s front-facing camera. Position tracking provides a sense of depth as the perspective of the objects on the other side move as if you were looking through a real window.
Here’s how it works: simply point your controller where you’d like the first corner of your window to be placed and pull the trigger. From there, trace your box by placing three other corners in the shape and position you’d like and boom! You now have a personalized window to reality that will remained fixed in place for you to reference at any point.
“I first realized that there was a problem when I opened up BigScreen for the first time, looked at my in-game screen with a browser window open and then instinctively looked down at my keyboard only to see my virtual feet,” spoke the developer, Alex, in a Reddit post. “I tried for a bit using the built-in room view but being so invasive it was either see in virtual reality or see your surroundings, never both. That’s where I got the idea for FragmentVR, a way to include parts of your surroundings without it getting in the way of your virtual experience.”
While the image quality leave a lot to be desired (the front-facing camera has its limitations), the tool could still prove immensely useful for those looking to perform simplistic real-world tasks without interrupting their immersive experience.
According to the applications Steam page, users can expect significant improvements and new features in the near future, such as multiple overlays, higher camera frame rates, greater UI functionality, as well as support for external cameras, the Vive Pro, and a variety of other head-mounted displays.
FragmentVR is currently in early access on Steam with a full release scheduled August 31st.
Image Credit: FragmentVR