While the Rift and Vive VR headsets are similar in many ways, they differ in one critical aspect. The headsets use dramatically different tracking systems. The Oculus Rift needs a camera connected to the PC to track your movement while the Vive uses laser base stations at either end of the room. The laser boxes don’t need to be connected to the PC, making it easy for HP and Alienware to think up completely wireless backpack PCs that work with the Vive to let you walk freely around large spaces in VR.
The Rift, though, needs some other kind of tracking system to be really feasible in that kind of a situation. One enterprising hacker put together the craziest VR rig I’ve seen yet. He turned to KNEX, the children’s toy that’s kind of like a plastic Erector Set. He used them to encase a ball that rolls along the ground and tracks his movement in a Rift development kit. He walks around a parking lot while immersed in the classic games Doom and Quake.
The rig started off as a kind of cart you push around in front of you.
He eventually developed a waistline docking mechanism to drag the unit behind him as he walked. I emailed a few questions to Axel Wolstenholme, who posted the video, to learn more about the project. I’ll update this post if I hear back.
His YouTube description for the rig describes it as “slightly cumbersome,” which is a bit of an understatement I think. It says he used a laptop, wireless mouse, KNEX, giant tennis ball and a tripod. As far as the benefits, it cost him almost nothing to build and it’ll work on any surface that a soccer ball can roll on.
This isn’t the wireless Rift we’ve been waiting for, but it’s nonetheless pretty cool.