The VicoVR is the world’s first full body controller for mobile virtual reality. Emerging from a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the VicoVR brings 3D motion sensing and full body tracking- previously only available on expensive, enterprise-level systems such as VRcade- to the mobile virtual reality environment.
What is VicoVR?
2016 has brought the world an explosion in accessible consumer virtual reality technology. From the release of the much-anticipated Oculus Rift to major developments with Steam’s HTC-powered SteamVR, 2016 has been a milestone year for VR, bringing tangible, functional technology to eager gamers across the planet.
The primary component in any VR experience is a head mounted display, or HMD. There’s currently a large gulf between the two most popular iterations of displays. HMD’s with in built screens such as the HTC Vibe and Oculus rift are aimed towards dedicated gamers with larger PC systems and deeper pockets.
A newer breed of HMD, however, takes advantage of the high pixel density in newer mobile phones and mounts them behind a set of lenses to provide accessible VR with a lower entry price point than dedicated VR headsets.
One of the key issues with using a mobile-based HMD, however, is interactivity and control. Most current VR games for virtual reality systems based around Android or iOS HMD’s solve this problem with a wireless controller.
The VicoVR, however, promises to shake things up by offering wireless full motion and positional tracking to Android and iOS VR headsets- without a PC, wires, or wearable sensors. Unlike other VR controllers, Vico plans to offer VR enthusiasts the ability to interact directly with the VR world naturally with nearly all the motion control available in the real world.
How Does VicoVR Work?
The VicoVR system is available as either a full standalone VR setup for your mobile phone, or as an additional bluetooth add on accessory for your existing mobile virtual reality head mounted display, such as Samsung Gear or Google Cardboard.
The centerpiece of the VicoVR system is a full body motion tracking camera and sensor that looks very similar to the Microsoft Kinect, albeit in a smaller, more streamlined housing with a few extra bells and whistles under the hood.
VicoVR created the first prototype for their motion tracking sensor in 2015, and over the last year have refined the design to incorporate a wide variety of functions. Essentially, the VicoVR camera uses an extensive sensor suite to view the user while they’re engaged in the virtual reality world, and track up to 19 different movement points to create a comprehensive 3D image of the target in real time.
The camera tracks a user’s movement in VGA resolution at 30 FPS, and then places the tracked movements in the in-game universe in real time, allowing gamers to interact naturally with the game environment.
The visual data gathered by the sensor is process with an on board 3D processor and then sent to your Android or OS device, which reduces battery drain on the device. This method of interaction increases immersiveness in the virtual world, and is able to translate real world movements in game with minimal lag. There are already quite a few games available through the VicoVR standalone game library, from ping pong to archery, bowling, boxing and more.
The genius of the VicoVR design becomes apparent when set up and used to control a game. In the made-for-VicoVR game Moon Bird, players control the flight of a bird by bringing their arms up to simulate wings. Players are engaged to follow a set course, using their arms to steer the bird and avoiding obstacles.
Real world movement is used for various gameplay functions, such as flapping arms to increase altitude, banking left and right, and leaning forward to dive. The sensor suffers from almost no lag and provides a smooth gaming experience, with noticeably less stutter than the Microsoft Kinect.
We wouldn’t advise playing Moon Bird on the bus or train, however- several meters of clear space is required for the sensor to pick up a cohesive image of the player.
The VicoVR even has the enough processing power to track and translate the movements of two separate players, so as long as you’re both wearing HMD’s you’re able to partake in two player VR shenanigans.
VicoVR Design and Construction
VicoVR has come a long way from the first 2015 prototype constructed from off the shelf components. The VicoVR may look very similar to a Microsoft Kinect, but the internal hardware is far from the same.
Originally functioning as a software only developer, VicoVR has plunged into the world of proprietary hardware and developed their own in-house board. The VicoVR board is powered by a Samsung Exynos chip and employs ORBBEC’s Astra 3D module to decipher 3D data observed through the camera.
VicoVR has expressed a desire to remain hardware agnostic, with the goal of bringing full-body motion control to as many mobile devices as possible.
Early on in their development process VicoCR considered using Intel’s Realsense as the 3D processer, but decided on ORBBEC as Realsense is limited by too many OS restrictions, and doesn’t offer full body motion sensing. Sensor module has an effective range of up to five meters, but the optimum range for effective gaming is between 1.5 and 2 meters.
The sensor is housed within a streamlined, ergonomic body. If opting for the entire VR gaming bundle and not just the sensor itself, VicoVR includes both a mobile HMD compatible with both Android and iOS, and a wireless bluetooth controller. The HMD is well designed, with a more robust and rounded cradle for the device, and is created with comfort in mind.
For game developers or more tech-savvy consumers, VicoVR is also offering an SDK kit, allowing consumers to look under the hood and create their own VicoVR compatible games and applications.
Developers can take advantage of Unity3D and UE4, as well as samples and documentation. VicoVR is also compatible with Apple TV, allowing you to control your viewing experience with full body motion tracking.
Expect the consumer offering to retail close to $219 USD for the complete bundle including sensor, headset and bluetooth controller.