What is Outside-in Tracking?

In the world of virtual reality, keeping track of individuals and objects can be quite a challenge. The last thing anyone wants is making the player hit objects or walls while experiencing virtual reality. Outside-in tracking is one way to counter these potential repercussions. It is a method mainly used by the major VR headset manufacturers, including Sony, Oculus, and HTC.

Outside-in Tracking Has Its Merits

To put the concept of outside-in tracking into perspective, it revolves around using an external device to track your headset and accessories. For example, when using a VR headset together with dedicated controllers, it is important to keep track of all of the hardware. In doing so, the app or game can respond to user interactions accordingly. Various manufacturers use this technology, including the “big three’ companies selling non-mobile VR headsets.

For example, the PlayStation VR achieves outside-in tracking through its PS VR camera. The Vive uses lighthouse sensors to achieve the same goal. One does need to place the camera or sensor in the room and work out the optimal positioning. It needs to be able to determine the position of your headset in relation to the environment. That means a top-down view for the camera or sensor is optimal, as it can capture an overview of the entire “playing area”.

There are advantages and disadvantages to outside-in tracking, a sis to be expected. Advantages include having a fixed solution, rather than moving around the tracking hardware all the time. One can always increase the number of sensors to improve accuracy if needed. Moreover, outside-in tracking is far better when it comes to latency. This means players relying on this method will be less susceptible to simulator sickness and nausea, which is good to see.

Unfortunately, no technology is absolutely perfect right now. Outside-in tracking suffers from occlusion. For example, if you were to hide behind an object – inadvertently or on purpose – the tracking hardware will have a hard time finding you again. Plus, the cameras can only track a certain field of view. Moving beyond this perimeter will break the immersive experience. People with limited room for their VR setup will greatly suffer from this drawback.

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