Can you bodge virtual reality?

This article is about the usability of mid-budget VR and thus not directly connected to the FireSim Software.

In this article i want to want to share my personal experience with the HDK2, a Head Mounted Display (HMD) as well as some insights about my newest addition, the NoloVR tracking system.

The headset

The HDK2 is the Hacker Development Kit developed by the peripherals company Razer.

Its a well build and somewhat modular HMD.
With a resolution of 1080 X 1200 per eye, running at 90fps, so its specifications are in the same order of magnitude like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

 

 

However there are two distinct differences:

1.) Software

The HDK2 is part of the OSVR ecosystem.
OSVR means Open-Source Virtual Reality and provides an intermediate layer between the application and the headset.
This layer provides interoperability with SteamVR and OpenVR so a huge number of games and other application is available – no modification required.

2.) Tracking

Positional tracking is provided via infrared LEDs in the faceplate of the headset.
With this technology some lateral movement is possible, like moving your head out of a car’s window.
While tracking is very accurate within this boundaries, its lacking to capture the movements of the hands. With hand tracking Virtual Environments are easier to traverse and interact with, not to mention the increase in fun.
NoloVR promises to provide a full SteamVR experience for a fraction of the cost. Can they deliver?

 

 

NoloVR

The NoloVR tracking solution is developed by a
chine based company and launched originally via Kickstarter.
Its an add-on for various VR-solutions, including even mobile VR-Systems.

This set shipped a week ago, so i had around 2 days for testing this product yet.
The functionality and accuracy is ok. My only main struggle with this product so far was the setup process.

Individual Nolo Parts
Individual Nolo Parts
One of the two small handcontroller
One of the two small handcontroller

Conclusion: Is mid-budget it usable?

It works well and smooth. The smaller tracking area and higher latency are not suited for fast paced actions games. But Application which focus on exploration and environment are fun to use.
While you experience some drift from time to time a quick recalibration can fix that.

The downsides lies in the way to accomplish this experience: the whole setup to get there is quite difficult.
Its not plug and play but more like read an try.

Gathering information and troubleshooting for both produces can be daunting.
The community is helpful but due to low adoption of these products its a rather small community.
This is the term “hacker” describes the situation qute well: you have to search and read all the related information.
So as a Developer/Hacker you get a good understanding of the limits and inner workings of the underlying technology.

Finaly lets cover the cost of this hardware.
If you buy The HMD and tracking system separate you have to spend 400$ on the Headset and 200$ for the NoloVR System.
Given the current drops in price for the Oculus Rift, this above mentioned combination is sligthly overpriced.
All in all i am very happy with the combination of the HDK2 and NoloVR – but keep in mind that your experience can vary, deepening on your specific needs.
On a side node: because the Hardware and Software aren’t a “all-in-one” solution, the question of futureproffnes remains.
Since we are in the first generation of consumer head mounted display I expect that hardware and software will improve over the next years an that force me to upgrade because of some not-backwards-compatible features and lower prices.