When it comes to mobile VR, like the Gear VR headset, you can enter an immersive 360° world, but you will be limited to just looking around from a fixed position. In comparison, higher end VR systems like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have external sensors, enabling positional tracking and giving you more range of movement to physically move around in a virtual world.
Now one San Francisco-based 3D imaging startup, Sterolabs, is aiming to bring some of the same capabilities of full positional tracking to the Gear VR. In a video shared Tuesday, the company is showing off their updated ZED stereo camera, which is now shipping to developers.
The ZED is a depth sensing camera that can be attached to any mobile VR headset. In the video, the company shows the camera velcroed and fixed on top of a Gear VR. The pair of RGB cameras in the ZED talk to an external GPU and utilize Stereolabs’ custom software to calculate a real-time depth map of your surroundings. This ZED stereo vision can have advantages over technologies you may be familiar with like Microsoft’s Kinect that uses infrared but can often be unusable outdoors.
In the video below, Stereolabs shows off “ZEDfu,” their real-time 3D mapping application for large-scale environments.
When it comes to mobile VR positional tracking, to be able to get up and move around in VR and get closer to objects, has always been an important need that can dramatically increase your sense of presence in VR. Stereolabs has about 20 employees and has been working on this technology for the last eight years. In February, Oculus CTO John Carmack said he was dedicating most of his time to working on solving this need for the Gear VR.
The ZED isn’t entirely new, which currently provides 3D vision for drones and self-driving cars among other things. But with the latest 1.0 SDK update, Stereolabs has their eyes squarely focused on virtual reality.
Developers can grab the ZED camera for $449 at Stereolabs.com.