Today Nimble VR launches a Kickstarter campaign for Nimble Sense, a natural input controller that the company says was designed for virtual reality input. And while Nimble Sense doesn’t at first appear to be much different than Leap Motion, the company says they’re using ‘time-of-flight’ depth sensing technology, like what’s used in the Kinect 2, which they say has unique benefits.

Nimble Sense Kickstarter

Nimble Sense uses an infrared laser to create a pulse of invisible light which illuminates the environment surrounding the user. An IR camera with a 110 degree field of view senses the light as it bounces off the environment and uses the known speed of light to work out the distance to discrete points in the environment. This allows the camera to capture a 3D model of the environment.

“Our camera captures a dense 3D point cloud every 20 milliseconds that can be used to bring not only hands, but arms, legs, and even your desk into VR,” Rob Wang, co-founder of Nimble VR, told me. “The 3D point cloud of the real world is rendered exactly at the right scale and location in VR—regardless of your IPD. The point cloud can even be shared and visualized by other users for multiplayer / social VR experiences.”

Wang notes that a stereo camera approach is necessarily locked to one IPD when it comes to viewing the outside environment.

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“Competing cameras that use stereo imaging may only provide two infrared pictures, rather than dense 3D geometry. It’s harder to visualize a stereo image pair from a different user’s perspective, and stereo also assumes a specific IPD based on the spacing of the cameras.”

nimble sense kickstarterTime of Flight at the Right Price

Nimble VR says that they’ve “achieved a breakthrough in the accuracy, cost, and power consumption” of time-of-flight sensors, and they’re aiming to bring the tech to the world of VR at an affordable price point. For the first 500 backers, Nimble Sense starts at $99, which includes the camera and the DK2 mount.

The Nimble Sense Kickstarter campaign has a funding goal of $62,500 and the company expects to ship their product to backers in June of 2015. Nimble VR of course will also make available their SDK to allow developers to integrate the camera into their games and applications. The company is also planning to release four open source Oculus Rift demos to give developers a jump start on working with Nimble Sense.

VR Ready with DK1 and DK2 Mounts

nimble sense virtual reality input

Nimble Sense will ship with a mount for the Oculus Rift DK2 which smartly takes the place of the unit’s cable cover, meaning there’s no permanent modification needed to mount the sensor. The mount appears to cover two of the Rift’s IR LEDs, which are used for positional tracking, but like the Leap Motion VR Mount, it may not significantly detract from tracking performance.

Nimble VR also have a DK1 mount and desk mount available depending upon the Kickstarter backer level.

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Nimble VR say they’ve been hard at work developing their skeletal hand-tracking technology to bring a user’s hands into the virtual environment. The unit has been designed to work best with objects that are 10cm to 70cm in front of the user, which the company says is the natural zone of interaction for the hands. They say that their hand-tracking tech is “the best in the world.”

Blair Renaud of Iris VR, developer of Technolust, sounds impressed by Nimble Sense. He’s quoted on the Kickstarter page as saying, “I’ve tried just about every VR control scheme out there, and I have to say that the Nimble Sense is by far the most promising I’ve tried so far.”

Nimble VR reached out early to a few VR developers, including Renaud, to demonstrate that the system can be integrated easily into existing projects.

The company doesn’t mention their latency, but from a brief video on the Kickstarter page, it appears on cursory inspection as passable.

Want to share your impression of Nimble Sense? Drop us a line in the comments!

Full Disclosure: Nimble VR is running an ad on Road to VR.

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  • drifter

    Looks nice, but same problem as for he Leap Motion, 70 cm is a bit too short for my arms.

  • Matt Bray

    I like to get on board a lot of new tech early, but the flip side is jumping on board stuff that gets superseded before I get delivery of it. By the time the earliest deliveries are shipped in June 2015 (do Kickstarters ever run to schedule?) who knows what the Oculus will look like and what potential on board solutions they may add. I’m loving my DK2 but will be waiting to accessorise the consumer version of the Rift.

  • zalo

    As a developer, I’ve been itching to play around with a Time of Flight camera since 3DV Systems announced the ZCam (a $100 60 degree FoV webcam with 640×480 depth resolution)… IN 2006!

    Curse you, Microsoft, for buying them, steamrolling their tech, and releasing the inferior Kinect!

    • Jacob Pederson

      Yea, but would this tech even exist/have economy of scale if not for Kinect? I doubt it.

  • Curtrock

    It’s beginning to look like products like NimbleVR & Leap Motion are indicating the most likely direction that VR interaction is headed. Although there is no touch feedback, seeing your hands just seems so natural. I agree with Matt ^^^^^^ about products being superseded before they can be delivered. ( cough, couch, STEM, cough) Its easy to envision the consumer RIFT with built in sensing like the Nimble or Leap.

    • Jacob Pederson

      Don’t count out STEM yet. Leap motion and Nimble look very promising; however, more traditional VR games are going to need buttons and analog sticks. Getting realistic hands into the VR environment is great, but if I have to give up the ability to walk to get it?

      • Curtrock

        @Jacob: u r right. I know there still is a place for STEM, and more importantly gloves that will give some sort of tactile feedback. But things like Nimble & Leap are blowing my mind, and seem to solve a myriad of problems, in a very natural & cost effective manner. (I’m having “Minority Report” NERDGASM flashbacks. Lol)

    • Wmerr21

      I think Jacob makes a good point that traditional games would need tactile objects to hold and buttons to interact with. However, you could do this with a stripped back version of something like a stem controller that doesn’t include 6 degree positional tracking, relying on the oculus onboard optical tracking for this (possibly with marker technology similar to that on the DK2?). This could open up the opportunity for controller manufacturers to focus on haptics instead, and this would allow oculus users to use their hands only in games (default) or purchase something like a striker VR pistol controller, or an expensive haptic glove etc…

  • elecman

    Not suitable for flight simulators. Operating some buttons and switches on the average airliner requires you to fully extend your arms so only 70 cm range is no going to cut it.

  • mellott124

    Hmmm… looks like the CamBoard Pico from pmd.
    http://pmdtec.com/news_media/video/camboard_pico_s_form_factor.php

    • Qualdus

      Looks similar, but definitely cheaper than PMDTEC will sell you one.

      pmdtec.com/html/pdf/order_CamBoard_pico_s.pdf

      690 bucks per. That sure won’t work.