8 Minutes of the HTC Vive’s Front-facing Camera in Action

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Take a wander into SteamVR’s neon-infused window on the real world whilst in VR, utilising the HTC Vive Pre’s front-facing camera in this video which takes a thorough look at the feature.

The newest iteration of the HTC Vive development kit, the ‘Pre’, was unveiled at CES in January and added a few important features, one of the biggest being a single, front-facing camera with a very wide-angle field of view. Why? To give players an instant view of their real environment – useful for orientation, object location and errant pet avoidance.

We went hands on with the system at CES and, despite the single image sensor not offering any native stereo depth, the implementation of your real world view is very effective. Your real-world view is presented as if projected onto the inside of a sphere, roughly matching your natural field of view and despite the lack of stereoscopy, is a surprisingly accurate representation – meaning you can judge distance and location of objects or people with relative accuracy. The wide field of view video projection comes close to matching the Vive’s perceived FOV.

The video was captured by Zach from Zulubo Productions, lone developer of HTC Vive ‘room scale’ arcade shooter Vertigo.

So why refer to what appears to be a ‘pass through’ camera as merely ‘front facing’? When we spoke to Valve’s Chet Faliszek after my Vive Pre demo, he stated that the camera doesn’t pass a video feed through to the host PC, merely the raw data captured. The reason, in his words:

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See Also: Valve’s Chet Faliszek on HTC Vive Pre, Content Showcase Surprises and Ninja Cats
See Also: Valve’s Chet Faliszek on HTC Vive Pre, Content Showcase Surprises and Ninja Cats

Why we’re so careful about saying it’s a front facing camera over a pass through camera is that we’re not sending the video signal through, we’re sending the data through and that allows us to do things like the edge detection and some other features on there. One of the things you have to make sure is that as you’re sending that data back you’re not adding any latency, there’s no weird motion.

It’s arguable whether the HTC Vive, with its heavy focus on standing and room-scale virtual reality, could have lived without the feature and judging by previous design iterations it was always Valve and HTC’s intentions to include one. By contrast, Oculus’ Rift consumer edition VR headset ships in late March, sans integrated camera, a reflection of the company’s focus on a seated VR experience.

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  • Matthew Lynch

    This is very encouraging and a sign that Valve and HTC are really thinking about Room Scale properly. All this said, I feel like while this camera is a step in the right direction, I cannot help but feel like it is missing what is probably the BIGGEST safety issue…tracking behind you. Once the ViVe is in millions of hands, you better expect someone to get seriously injured or even die at some point with this setup. Imagine you have “secured” your space and are deep in VR for hours in a very engaging game. Suddenly for a whole variety of reasons, a pet wonders into the room quietly and decides to flop down on the floor and chill. As you backup from an intense fire fight you may trip over your pet backwards leaving you exposed to being impaled by something, falling out a window, or falling down some stairs etc. This IS going to happen to someone(s). I am not sure what the solution is here, but there is a urgent need for one before this tech is in the hands of 10s of millions.

    • Cl

      Look behind you. You dont need a camera to show whats behind you without a headset. How about putting your pet in another room? My dog likes to lay by my feet when I don’t know hes there and i trip over him with no headset on… just have to take preventive measures. This kind of reminds me when mcdonalds got sued because their coffee is too hot and there was no warning label saying it was hot.. I’m sure they will have some kind of warning telling you to make sure the area is clear and stuff like that, but its common sense anyway.

      • Matthew Lynch

        Even with preventative measures, doors accidentally get opened (wind, another house guest unaware etc.) and thus there will be accidents. Not an if, but a when. I agree that people must take precautions and I am sure they will, but as they say, S&@t happens. LOL. If lighthouse could also track your feet, it would know where you are and then alert you if there is “other” motion in the chaperon space.

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    There’s no real solution, accidents will happen, but I think Valve has taken all the steps they could. I have to admit this footage is indeed very promising :)