Students Hack Positional Tracking onto Gear VR with SteamVR Tracking


In a reverse engineering exercise, two students at Utah State University have hacked positional tracking onto a Gear VR headset using SteamVR Tracking technology. Mobile VR solutions like Samsung’s Gear VR currently employ rotational tracking only.

The popular forms of mobile VR headsets, such as the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View and Cardboard, are currently limited to rotational head tracking, meaning that you can look around comfortably from a single vantage point, but movements of the head through 3D space (like leaning forward or backward) cannot be tracking. Positional tracking adds not only comfort but also immersion to virtual reality, and is a feature of all major tethered VR headsets. However, achieving the same on mobile VR has proved challenging.

As a highly desirable feature for mobile VR headsets, positional tracking has been a priority for Oculus’ internal development for a long time, and various alternative solutions such as VicoVR and Univrses are beginning to appear. While the future points to self-contained, ‘inside-out’ tracking, already found on Microsoft’s Mixed Reality headsets and Google’s Tango technology, Utah State University students Brady Riddle and Sam Jungertat have created a positional tracking solution for Gear VR that uses Valve’s well-proven SteamVR Tracking system.

gear-vr-positional-tracking-hack-steamvr-trackingThree infrared sensors, detecting the flashes from an HTC base station (Lighthouse technology), are attached to the front of the Gear VR headset and connected to a microcontroller, which collects the timing data. The data is sent to a computer via UDP packet over Wi-Fi, and the results are displayed using the game engine Unity, as shown in the brief demonstration video heading this article.

Since Valve opened SteamVR technology to third parties for free, it has become easier to create tracked peripherals and other hardware. While it would be possible to create a product that provided positional tracking for the Gear VR in this manner, the student project was used to learn the technology, in a reverse engineering exercise. A detailed breakdown of the project and its inner workings is available here.

SteamVR Tracking HDK Now Available for Anyone to Buy

Though this project was academic in nature, it does point to one potential solution for positional tracking on mobile VR headsets—a system which would use rotational tracking as a baseline, but then be able to add positional tracking via the SteamVR Tracking technology when at home and near base stations.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.

  • Sponge Bob
    • GodMk2

      Don’t feed the trolls.

      • Lucidfer

        Screw you for using the term “troll” in 2017, go back behind your filter bubble.

        • GodMk2

          How about that I got the original message with the original wording which was uncalled for. I wasn’t even talking to you idiot. I was replying to a different post from spongebob who said “WTF cares about SteamVR”, likely to start a flame war, so I’m reminding everyone don’t waste time on the usual.. what games is it going to run, is it an actual product you can buy yet etc etc. Learn some manners you ignorant toss pot. I’d suggest deleting your post as no one needs to read this. Maybe you are such a fan boy on this vrtracker kickstarter you can’t help yourself raging at someone. Whatever.

          • Lucidfer

            1. “flame war” is not a term you invented. This is however a great way of stating what kind of person you are and thought process you have.
            2. “I’d suggest deleting your post as no one needs to read this”, ditto…how could I be so on point with the liberal filter-bubble comment…
            3. “Maybe you are such a fan boy on this vrtracker kickstarter” you don’t know who you are talking to…I’m constantly criticising the state of VR companies and the conceptual non-sense and unpracticability of VR or tech start-ups.
            4. I just legitimately simple hate people like you using terms like “don’t feed the troll” whom are responsible for Trump’s election and exploding rejection of censors like you.

          • GodMk2

            LOL. Sad. you started this. You can end it. I’m just a bunch of words you know nothing about me either. I’m not even American so don’t blame me for Trump. But every Rift/Oculus post degenerates into a flame war. I fully expected to see someone saying WTF cares about Steam VR to go the same way. That’s not about me, thats about everyone else. I’m saying what’s the point don’t feed the trolls. And you reply telling me to fuck off. That says more about you. And to call me a liberal. LOL. Have you heard of UKIP or The Conservative party? Apparently according to a who I should vote for website survey, I was an 87% match on one, and 88% on the other. you can have the last word if you wish. Or we can just delete this as it has nothing to do with VR.

          • Lucidfer

            But the initial discussion HAD to do with VR. “WTF cares about SteamVR” can either mean “aren’t they more important things to fix about VR” or “SteamVR is a platform with lots of problems”: this is an invitation to discussion, criticism or argumentation.

    • Lucidfer

      This is an ultra-cheap solution compatible with already set-up Lighthouses. That’s what.

  • Lucidfer

    Look, another student nobody doing the job of corporations!