Google is trying to close the technology gap between its mobile virtual reality platform Daydream and the capabilities of more powerful, PC-based headsets. To do that, it’s launching software support for motion controllers that support what’s known as six degrees of freedom, or 6DoF. That lets you move more realistically through the physical world while immersed in a virtual environment because the controllers help track where you are and how you move based on the position of your hands.
Google is also launching experimental 6DoF motion controllers for the Lenovo Mirage Solo headset, the first of its Daydream-based standalone VR headsets that was launched earlier this year. The Mirage Solo does so-called inside-out tracking, meaning the headset has sensors and cameras that track your external environment as you move through it. When combined with 6DoF motion controllers, Google says you’ll get a cordless VR experience that’s approaching the more immersive and higher-quality PC-based VR you get with products like the Oculus Rift, which requires, at minimum, a moderately capable Windows machine and external cameras to track your movements.
The company says this is a product of both hardware and software advances in the mobile and standalone VR space. “Instead of using expensive external cameras and sensors that have to be carefully calibrated, our system uses machine learning and off-the-shelf parts to accurately estimate the 3D position and orientation of the controllers,” writes Jonathan Huang, a senior product manager for Google’s VR and augmented reality division. “We’re excited about this approach because it can reduce the need for expensive hardware and make 6DoF experiences more accessible to more people.”
In addition to launching APIs to support third-party 6DoF controllers and revealing the actual experimental Mirage Solo controllers it’s handing out to select developers, Google is also announcing a feature it’s calling see-through mode. This will let you see through the cameras of the Mirage Solo, so you can wear a VR headset and still interact with the real-world without bumping into objects or fumbling interactions with other people. It’s possible thanks to WorldSense, the same inside-out tracking technology that allows the Mirage Solo to run VR experiences in which you walk around room as opposed to staying seated in place.
“The combination of see-through mode and the Mirage Solo’s tracking technology also opens up the door for developers to blend the digital and physical worlds in new ways by building Augmented Reality (AR) prototypes,” explains Huang. “Imagine, for example, an interior designer being able to plan a new layout for a room by adding virtual chairs, tables and decorations on top of the actual space.”
Google is also now supporting Android apps in VR on Daydream headsets, meaning you can enjoy any 2D experience on the Play Store in a 3D virtual environment. Huang says this will make it easier to bring Daydream support for existing Android apps without having to start over entirely. Android apps for Daydream and see-through mode are coming soon, the the company says, while developers can apply through Google’s website to try the 6DoF Mirage Solo controllers.