Wednesday February 08, 2017

Constellation Tracking Could Be a Long-Term Mistake for Oculus

The Oculus method of tracking it's headset and controllers through a room is called Constellation as it is a series of markers placed on the devices to mimic a constellation. Constellation is having a really hard time tracking the HMD and controller devices within the 3D space they occupy in a room, as it is inevitable that obstructions such as a desk will block the markers. These obstructions occlude the tracking sensors from seeing the markers on the device it is tracking.

If enough markers are blocked, then the sensor no longer has the ability to track the device. The Constellation system is dependent on the tracking sensors seeing these markers frame by frame to create the VR experience. Adding a third sensor didn't help as sometimes the view of the sensor is still obstructed from the markers on the devices. Without proper tracking, the VR experience is ruined, and users have been complaining of this for quite awhile even after recent patches to remedy the situation. The addition of room scale via a software patch made the situation significantly worse as the sensors are now stretched out across the room.

This calls into question the long term feasibility of the Constellation system. Will this issue plague the system for the entirety of its life cycle? Did Oculus choose the right 3D space tracking system for their product? Should they have gone with a system like the HTC Vive?

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Ever since Oculus released Touch it has allowed its users to create an experimental "room-scale" setup with three total Sensors placed strategically around the play space. What this should do is make it so no matter where you’re facing, at least one of the Sensors is able to see enough of the infrared markers on your headset and both Touch controllers. Instead, these larger Sensor formations have led to reports of tracking issues.

This issue seems to be centered on the software powering Constellation itself. In an effort to help with these issues, Oculus released a patch (1.11) but that patch has yet to fully alleviate all of the tracking problems. In fact, for some people it seems to have created new issues. With major content launches inching ever closer, the clock is ticking to restore the Rift’s tracking viability.