Along with the first look at a VR input controller from Oculus, today’s leak shows a front-facing camera on the consumer version of the headset as well as a redesigned positional tracking camera.
Since the Oculus Rift DK2, Oculus has used an ‘outside-in’ positional tracking approach—placing a stationary external camera pointed at the headset in order to track its position through 3D space. The opposite approach, ‘inside-out’ (a headset on the camera to track the environment) has been demonstrated by others, but never publicly attempted by Oculus.
Newly leaked photos show what appears to be a wide-angle front-facing camera on the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, though it isn’t clear if its intended use is positional tracking.
A redesigned positional tracking camera is also shown in the photos. It’s possible that Oculus intends to use both inside-out and outside-in as a hybrid solution for positional tracking, or the front-facing camera may be intended for pass-through vision, allowing users to see outside of the headset when needed (a feature already included on Samsung’s Gear VR headset).
Oculus recently acquired Surreal Vision, a computer vision company that uses technology to interpret the real world in a way that can be visualized and interacted with within virtual reality. Thus another potential use for the front-facing camera may be environmental mapping.
There’s also the possibility of hand-tracking from the front-facing camera. Leap in particular has been encouraging such use, and Oculus made several acquisitions in 2014 which brought them more computer vision expertise.
Oculus founder Palmer Luckey took to the Oculus section of reddit shortly after the leak warning that, “This is an old placeholder concept image that we accidentally leaked. Everything in it is ancient, certainly nowhere close to final (as evidenced by the GPU specs and the game named ‘war’). Enjoy checking it out, at this point, but don’t expect everything to carry through to the [Step into the Rift event] on the 11th.”
Curiously, more recent photos of the Oculus Rift CV1 don’t show any front-facing camera. In the Rift DK2, Oculus has hidden the IR-LED’s necessary for positional tracking under the unit’s shell. If the camera shown in the leaked photos for IR detection, it’s possible that they’ve hidden it as well, barring a full removal.
A concept render from even further back in the Oculus timeline showed what appeared to be a stereo camera on the front of the device.