Tracking & Controllers

Image courtesy HP

Reverb G2 is the first WMR headset with four inside-out tracking cameras (up from two on previous headsets); HP tells me that while the number of cameras has increased, the headset uses the same resolution cameras as the original WMR headsets.

The headset will also include new controllers which have a Touch-like design, replacing the original, worst-in-class WMR controllers that every other headset has been stuck with. The new controllers don’t just have a new shape, they also have a new button & stick layout; the trackpad has been dropped, and a proper grip trigger replaces the original’s grip button. All-in-all, these changes move G2’s WMR controllers closely in line with the controllers of other major headsets which is great news for developers and users alike.

Image courtesy HP

HP has confirmed some interesting details: 1) the G2 controllers will be backwards compatible with other WMR headsets, which means users of older headsets will finally have a controller upgrade option. The company plans to sell the controllers separately from the headset, at some point, but tells me that they’re going to prioritize getting them into the same box as the G2 out of the gate. 2) The controllers don’t have any capacitive finger-sensing like Touch or Index controllers. 3) The controllers still use two AA batteries just like the original WMR controllers.

Unfortunately the new controllers weren’t ready in time for my hands-on, so I used the original WMR controllers (though HP says they won’t be compatible with G2 at launch). Even so, the old controllers also make use of the new four-camera tracking setup.

Many assume that the tracking on the original WMR headsets must be bad because they only use two cameras. But while two cameras definitely limit the controller tracking coverage, WMR headsets have always had very good head-tracking and pretty good controller tracking (within the coverage area); you can even jam Beat Saber plenty hard with WMR controllers. It’s controller coverage which has been the achilles heel of WMR headsets.

SEE ALSO
Cosmos Elite & External Tracking Faceplate Review – Better Tracking, Same Core Issue

As such, going from two to four cameras doesn’t make any obvious difference in head-tracking on G2 (it’s as solid as ever), but it’ll be interesting in a longer testing session to see if this increases robustness in difficult tracking situations (like low light or high contrast).

But the hope for four cameras is really about improving controller tracking coverage.

Now, I wish I could give you a detailed breakdown of the G2’s controller tracking performance. But unfortunately I had just a short session with the headset and tried soaking up as much as I could, but I wasn’t able to test it with a wide enough range of content and in enough of those challenging controller tracking scenarios (bow pulling, two-handed weapons, etc) to really feel like I got a good grasp on the tracking coverage.

Photo by Road to VR

It’s clear that the layout of the cameras on G2 (two on front and two on the side) should considerably improve controller tracking coverage on the sides. The headset’s camera layout is very similar to Rift S (which is known to have very good inside-out controller tracking) with one caveat… Rift S has an extra, fifth camera hiding on top of the headset. That gives me pause to think Oculus likely had a good reason for putting it there.

Soon enough I’ll be able to get my hands on the new G2 controllers and do a deep dive on controller tracking coverage to really feel out the volume.

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HP has announced that Reverb will launch in Fall 2020, and the headset is already available for pre-order, priced at $600, which includes the controllers.


Happy to answer more questions about the headset in the comments below. Fire away!

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  • Tummie

    1 question nobody seems to answer: Are the headphones removable??? I need my own over ear headphones to block outside noise of the motion simulator. I don’t need a jack connector, just be able to remove the original headphones would be enough. G1 did this. Does the the G2 does this as well??

  • Alextended

    All these adverticles and still no comment on tracking vs WMR 1.0 and Rift S/Quest…

    • Stew JW

      The two extra cameras on the side will improve the tracking when moving your controllers around but it will still not be as good as HTC Vive/Valve Index base station tracking. I’m personally not a fan of Microsoft’s tracking solution but it’s functional. I first tried it on the original Reverb which had only the standard two front facing cameras. I think for the sit down VR, simming community this will be a nice upgrade but its still a narrow FOV despite the nice higher res. which may bother some.

      • Alextended

        We need impressions as I said, assuming this or that is all well and good but it’s not just the number of cameras that matters as the fuck ups with the Cosmos line proved. For all you know the tracking doesn’t have any meaningful difference to WMR 1.0, especially if this is an one-off HP-only effort and not Microsoft’s own attempt to upgrade the base specs of WMR as a whole for future collaborations. And yes I deliberately didn’t include Lighthouse in my post, that’s obviously always going to be superior to any inside out tracking solution by range alone if nothing else. The bar to beat is Oculus and it does matter if they managed to reach or beat it in practice.

        • silvaring

          I used WMR tracking about a year after release when they issued that big patch, and it worked perfectly fine even when playing games like Superhot. There’s so many use cases that work well with the current WMR tracking, all thats needed now are ergonomics and comfort levels (with a larger sweet spot in the lenses). For example lying down in a virtual cinema (e.g as if you were lying on the couch) simply feels crap in these head mounted style VR headsets. Then the issue with the glasses, if they could make a WMR headset like the recent Huawei Glasses that would be incredible for most users (who probably wear glasses anyway in their day to day lives).

          Id be willing to give up eye tracking for the foreseeable future if those kind of improvements could be made.

          Question, will eye tracking partially solve the vergence accommodation conflict issue plaguing VR?

          • Alextended

            Why’s that a reply to me, it addresses nothing I said, especially with simplehot as the example game.

          • silvaring

            You were talking about the tracking issues, I just shared my experiences with WMR tracking, basically.

        • Mradr

          The best combo of technology will be that of Oculus current tracking coverage in the front + electromagnet tracking for everywhere else. New IMUs will also improve that too with a bit more software tricks.

          • silvaring

            What about optical and infrared on the headset for inside out tracking, including head and hands? Does electro magnetic tracking require accessories for each part you want to track? For example how would you do ull body tracking with EM?

    • benz145

      You’re right to be skeptical of the information you consume, but this is not a sponsored article and we don’t accept money for editorial content ever.

      As soon as I get access to the controllers I’ll be doing a deep dive with them.

  • Anfronie

    Man I was expecting more information than this followup article. There NEEDS to be a THOROUGH review of the new controllers and tracking. How is the battery life and do they take normal rechargeable batteries. I hear a lot of mixed feelings on what batteries work best. Why not regular rechargeable ones? There is no top camera so please test the WHOLE range of motion that is in various games and applications. Also how the user interface with Windows Mixed Reality is with the new headset?

    • jasonmartino

      I used Panasonic rechargeable batteries on my Samsung Odyssey which was a WMR headset. They worked fine but only for a few hours.

      • Anfronie

        Why do they drain so quickly? Are they not mainly just emitting inferred light? How did Oculus get their one battery controller so efficient?

        • Visible light is used for tracking WMR controller, at cost of short battery life. Oculus use Infra red light which consumes substantially less power.

          I was lucky to get 2-3 hours out of alkaline Duracell, and found many rechargeable batteries didn’t work properly.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/42183724a41b89112745d2631d242558997b15f21beb4e23e664aa738e0dfbbd.jpg

          • Anfronie

            Wow ok thanks that makes sense. Thanks for the info!

          • It’s a shame the original WMR controllers were the weakest part of the system, the headset tracking was very impressive. I did find closing my window blinds and turning on the indoor lighting gave most consistent tracking.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f7f3dcfdbe588971481442630a1b685eca82f0f5eb4bb24bb23346e81caeb407.jpg

          • brubble

            Well FFS, I did not know this about visible light. My entire place is windows and inescapable sunlight, what a pain in the azz….and only 2-3 hours per battery set? Disappointing to say the very least. Oh well, so much for that Reverb g2 idea.

            When are companies going to design something that makes sense? Seems to me all current VR is compromise after compromise ad nauseam.

            (Old man yells at stupid cloud)

          • Current consumer headsets are limited by technology and cost; typical of early phase adoption.

            I’ve been using VR since 1991, so got used to waiting…2016 Vive Pre to 2019 Valve Index…can wait a little longer for convergence of technology and cost.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eee9620ee153fe2d26d092da1ff6cb24319f0f9b0955f1b9f6402162d5649039.jpg

          • brubble

            Yes of course, its pure impatience on my part.

          • Rem ko

            Yeah, with that attitude you could be waiting forever. There’s always the next better version of a tech product, waiting for that reason is stupid and something only cheapskates will bring up as an argument, it’s basic human psychology.

        • Fabian

          WMR controllers are simply buggy when used with standard 1,2 volt rechargeables, the software thinks they are almosty empty while they are almost fully charged. I use 1,5 volt lithium AA rechargeables in my Odyssey+ controllers and they last at least 10 times longer.

          • Anfronie

            Good to know. I have 1.5 volt rechargeables on order so I should be good to go!

    • benz145

      As soon as I get my hands on them!

      • Anfronie

        Thanks a ton! This is my favorite VR news source. Appreciate it! :)

  • get lost

    I already know that the headset has LCD panels and MEDIOCRE FOV, and that is everything I need to know…

    • Sofian

      I found the black levels with the first Reverb to be surprisingly good for LCD.
      At least compared to the Oculus Go and Pimax 8k I owned.
      But I heard many times that all LCD are the same in regards to black levels, this is just not true.

      Now since G2 uses new panels with “improved brightness” I hope the blacks are at least as good and not ruined by brighter backlight.

      • Bob

        Actually improved brightness can harm the black levels because in almost all cases these LCD panels are uniformly lit (there are no dimming zones).

        This will affect contrast ratio so in this case HP may have had to sacrifice black levels to pump out higher brightness.

        • Sofian

          I hope not, or I ll stick with G1 and just get the controllers.

          • Bob

            Best thing to do is wait for a next generation headset with OLED, and at least Valve Index levels of resolution and FOV.

            Samsung is your best bet right now provided they didn’t cave in to industry pressure of using cheap LCD panels. Which I don’t they think they will.

          • Sofian

            I was waiting for Samsung but I am getting skeptical.
            I am not going to wait for something that is nowhere in sight.

            Try to get your hands on a Reverb and see by yourself how the blacks are, again nothing like with the other LCDs I tried.

          • Bob

            “Try to get your hands on a Reverb and see by yourself how the blacks are, again nothing like with the other LCDs I tried.”

            Yes I know but they have changed some things with the way the panel is used for the G2 which may lead to poorer blacks.

            No way to know for sure until someone gets their hands on this and gives an actual verdict.

          • Hivemind9000

            I’m surprised that the HMD manufacturers don’t quote NITS/Luminance and Contrast Ratio specs for their screens. Not all LCDs are created equally, and a high luminance + high CR LCD can give a decent perception of light/black areas.

            But as you say, proof is in the hands-on experience.

          • From Redditor Eagleshadow:

            Luminance in nits:

            Index 95
            Vive Pro 143
            Vive 214

        • Anfronie

          I thought they said they increased brightness, clarity, AND contrast.

      • Charles

        “I found the black levels with the first Reverb to be surprisingly good for LCD”
        I found them equally horrible to the Pimax 5K. Unacceptable for VR immersion.

        • Trip

          YMMV. I’m all about immersion, to an extreme. I never even noticed the black levels between my CV1/Vive and the Index until it was pointed out. After that it annoyed me a little LOL, but I find image quality trumps OLED blacks.

          • Sofian

            Then we have a disagreement on what “image quality” is.

    • asdf

      its hits a market for a pice point… just because it doesnt have the best of everything doesnt mean its worthless… try using your brain next time

      • get lost

        I did not say it is worthless, and I don’t care about your useless opinion. Next time try NOT using your brain because it still stink around here, shit head

        • brubble

          Boy, someone sure didnt get their junior juice and pudding cup.

  • CallMeJay 360

    In the time you had with testing the tracking, did you try to put the controllers close to the headset to see if it would track just like the Rift S (which is basically perfect), and if so, did they lost tracking, or just like the Rift S, retained tracking?

    • benz145

      I really only had time to jump into some general gameplay, so I didn’t get to specifically test those challenging scenarios. I will definitely look carefully at that situation when testing the new controllers.

      • CallMeJay 360

        Thank you :)

      • Sofian

        Could you ask HP if the new panels brightness affects black levels negatively, and if so will it be possible to tweak the brightness like with the index?

  • Kevin White

    Wonder about battery life, haptic technology, and tracking volume / coverage of the controllers.

    Setting up the perimeter with the Odyssey was messy, and I had a ten foot extension which made it in total lengthier than this G2. Maybe they’ve cleaned the software up but I found it buggy and somewhat frustrating.

  • Trip

    If I didn’t have a Pimax 8K-X on order I’d have pre-ordered this HMD after the first article. For me this HMD is a win on all points but two: FOV (and that’s a big one for me) and lack of Lighthouse tracking so I can easily use my Knuckles. The importance of various specific strengths and weaknesses will vary a lot from user to user, so it’s important to consider that when critiquing hardware like this. Image clarity, comfort, audio quality, and FOV are the four most important for me. This HMD apparently has three out of those four nailed down.

  • Andrew

    How is this going to work with Voiceattack? The last thing I need is my headset mic picking up speech from the headphones and reacting to it. I still think that if speakers next to my ears were a good idea, why didn’t the headset industry do this 20 years for regular headphones – because nobody wants this.

  • mfx

    What the rift-s should have been…

  • El Derrico

    Should I be concerned HP hasn’t finalized the product yet? Should I be concerned HP is only letting one human being preview it? Should I be concerned WMR is basically a dead platform with dated technology (it needs visible light to track?). So many should-I-be concerns.

  • Great job as always, Ben! As all other people I would like to read some more details on the controllers’ tracking…

  • I like what I’m seeing. It doesn’t appear to have any major deficiencies, and I’m usually quite the critic. If Oculus doesn’t show something soon, this might be my next headset.

  • VRcompare
  • Morgan Pike

    “HP confirmed that the Reverb G2 IPD adjustment ranges from 60mm to 68mm. As you’d expect with other headsets, when you adjust the slider on the headset, the WMR software on your PC automatically updates the software IPD setting to match.”

    It was my understanding their were 2 screens and the slider would physically adjust the screens. Meaning this is not a “software IPD” adjustment. The Rift S has software IPD adjustment as it has only one screen so IPD is handles through software.

    Am I wrong? Does the G2 have one screen or two?

  • Nick Wallace

    Ben Lang, great article, I’m curious though if you can check when you do your testing if it’s possible to use the Vive Wand Controllers in conjunction with the headset with the Valve Lighthouses setup. I’d be very interested in using these as a drop in upgrade for my current Vive headsets but want the controllers to track accurately in all situations.

  • Nick Aspros

    This headset is nice and all that but why is it still stuck at 114° FOV? Can’t all the VR manufacturers over come this barrier and make FOV increases? Pimax has done this some degree but still has distortions and they’re a shambles of a company owing backers still.
    Only StarVR One has perfect human FOV but they only cater to enterprise not consumers and costs $3200US.

    • Michael Hudgins

      Because FOV is not a good compromise to sacrifice PPD. This headset is meant to replicate the maximum visual clarity possible. Other headsets focus on FOV, and are available for people to buy, but this is the first headset that focuses on the highest visual clarity possible. The niche of this headset is different than Pixmax and StarVR.

      As performance increases I would rather HP use the additional headroom to get 120hz on this resolution than increase the FOV. 110 degrees is fine tbh. FOV should come last on the list imo.

  • phillypro

    im concerned about tracking honestly
    everything about this headset sounds amazing EXCEPT

    that its missing that fifth camera above the head….that could be a huge mistake if it doesnt at least have tracking parity with the rift S which has been out for so long now

    • silvaring

      The hololens uses an infrared in the center (like where those hindu people place the dots on their forehead) to track hands.

  • Ragbone

    I think the controllers have a battery life of about 3 hours and you need to use certain rechargeable ones to get that much out of them, and they also do not have a sensory touch button like the rift does, can anyone confirm any of this? I’ll try and buy this after i get a 3080 if they are ever in stock again…

  • Ragbone

    Looking forward to watching VR porn videos on this.