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Oculus CTO John Carmack Teases Progress With Mobile Position Tracking

Oculus CTO John Carmack Teases Progress With Mobile Position Tracking

The holy grail of mixed reality technology right now is a wireless headset that knows precisely where it is in a given room. Both Facebook and Google make no secret that some of their most talented engineers are attempting to solve this problem so future VR systems can go fully wireless, while still giving people the freedom to move around a virtual space.

We also know Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack wished someone spent all of last year on the technology and that, after last September’s developer conference, he turned his focus to solving the problem. Now, a few weeks before Google is set to reveal its latest VR technology at its own developer conference, Carmack has sent out a series of tweets indicating he is making progress.

In case you are unfamiliar, there are essentially two ways to track a person’s location in a room: inside-out and outside-in. Right now the Rift, for example, uses an outside-in system where an external camera detects your position. Microsoft’s HoloLens seems to use inside-out tracking where the $3,000 system essentially maps the room around it using a series of on-board cameras.

Carmack is essentially trying to bring that latter inside-out technology — which makes HoloLens completely wireless — to a completely mobile VR headset. If Carmack is able to do it in a cost-effective way that doesn’t drain battery power too quickly before Google, Apple, Microsoft, or Amazon, then it’s feasible that some of the best things about the Rift and the Vive may be possible sooner rather than later with a completely mobile headset.

Here are Carmack’s relevant tweets:

There’s a good chance at least one more new VR headset will be released this year powered by Oculus because late 2016 is the right time for Samsung to release the Note 6, which would actually be the third generation of that phone to work with the Oculus platform. We’ve heard rumblings Samsung is likely to release a new Gear VR with the phone too. Carmack’s tweets seem to suggest future Gear VR-like phone holders could have specialized cameras, or possibly that future mobile VR headsets might ditch traditional phone functionality.

Unless we hear more evidence, it seems unlikely Carmack’s approach to solving position tracking would make it into a device this year. I could be wrong, though, and we’ll be sure bring you the latest on this subject as it develops.

Post updated with additional information. 

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