NOLO VR is an intriguing Lighthouse-like positional tracking system designed to bring ‘room scale’ positional tracking and motion controls to mobile VR headsets. On top of that, the company is claiming SteamVR ‘compatibility’ through remote play via Riftcat’s VRidge software, all with an expected launch price of $99.

You can sense CES is just around the corner as new VR-focused hardware is emerging in the run up to the event. One of the more intriguing is Nolo, an add-on which promises to add both positional ‘room scale’ head and motion controllers to your Android powered virtual reality headset with latency quoted at less than 20ms.

Developers LYRobotix are behind the new system which comprises a headset ‘marker’, base station, two wireless, tracked motion controllers featuring with buttons, triggers and track-pads seemingly designed to emulate functionality found on the HTC Vive’s SteamVR controllers. Why would the company aim for that style of controller emulation? We’ll get to that shortly.

controller6Regular readers may recognise Nolo’s technology, if not the company name behind it. Road to VR‘s Ben Lang went hands on with an early prototype of LYRobotix’s system at the Greenlight VRS 2016 in San Francisco earlier in the year. Nolo utilises an intriguing fusion of several tracking technologies:

It’s a proprietary tracking technology by our company LYRobotix and we name it PolarTraq. Through fusion of optic, acoustic, and radio signals, millimeter level of accuracy and low latency can be achieved with high affordability, low power consumption and high portability.

Nolo feeds positional tracking information back into the mobile phone powering the experience (be that cardboard, GearVR or Daydream) but of course the application receiving that data needs to be built to support positional tracking in order to use it. Right now there are no mobile VR headsets with positional tracking and therefore no software built to utilise this. Therefore, the company is planning to ship an SDK to enable developers to integrate support for Nolo VR into their apps and games. The company has already formed a software partnership with KuDai Technology for their title The Table at War.

nolo-vr-system-shot
[Left to Right] Headset ‘marker’, Base station and motion controllers

Since our time with the system however, and as part of its re-branding there’s now an interesting twist on how to apply its unique selling point to users. An angle Lyrobotix is exploring is that of a much cheaper entry-level VR headset for experiencing SteamVR compatible titles. Nolo will work in conjunction with Riftcat’s VRidge, a piece of bridging software designed to broadcast realtime VR experiences rendered on a gaming PC to your headset (and relay input back to it).

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Of course this likely means a pretty significant compromise in quality, with image data compressed at source and sent over wireless networking to the headset (not to mention return input data via the same path). Considering you’ll also need access to a VR-grade gaming PC in order to run the experiences, I’m not sure the savings made possible by this solution (you’ll still have to own a suitable mobile phone and headset after all) will be worth the compromise.

Nevertheless, LYRobotix’s fusion of onboard IMU data, Lighthouse-like tracking with a single base station) in conjunction with the ultrasonic system is a neat one we’re looking to see more of. Luckily the system will be on show at next week’s CES where we’ll endeavour to take another look at the latest prototype.

The company Says Nolo VR will be priced at $99 and is currently offering a small discount for early-bird orders by signing up at their site.

Road to VR will be at CES 2017 for the duration of the show to bring you the latest VR events from Las Vegas as they happen. If you’re at CES and have something VR related to show us, ping us on tips@roadtovr.com.

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  • Tux Topo Topo

    Some little coment to the note: Both, cellphone and head marker must be connected to the pc by wire. By this way, any compromise should be reduced.
    Only the cellphone can be connected to the pc wirelessly. The guys at Lyrobotix are checking about wireless, but so far the wired option is the only one announced….

    I asked to the NoloVR team by facebook message ;)

    • Sponge Bob

      Dude

      wtf are you talking about ?

      for 99% of potential VR users BTLE’s latency is just fine for casual interaction with 3D digital space (no crazy shooting games)

      Just like with desktops – they have wired mouse models for crazy gamers and sell them for 100$ a piece ( a f*** wired computer mouse for 100 bucks to play stupid high-speed games on a 2000$ PC with zero latency)

      Dudes, your misunderstandings and over-expectations about technology are amazing

      You just have no clue whatsoever

      • Tux Topo Topo

        Hey “Dude”!! Have you checked the Riftcat software by yourself ever? Using wifi n 300, can have some hideous image corruption (and latency). Using wifi AC 866 (the max supported by most of the top-notch cellphones out there), seems to fix the problem (at least, that’s what the users that test it have reported so far). That same problem is what worry about to NoloVR team, and the why their announce use wires only. They are checking some wireless option using the cellphone in the middle. But so far, wired only.
        Don’t trust me “Dude”? You can ask the NoloVR team. They response in about 24hr.

        And about no-clue, misundertanding and over-expectations… do you have any idea on how the NoloVR works? The stations have a camera (not oficial resolution announced, but i guess that 720p) that works at 60hz, and a ultrasonic emiter (some high frequency speaker). The controllers and the hadeset marker have a bulb with lights and ultrasonic receptors (microphones). So, the camera track the bulbs in a matrix, and the ultrasonic find the distance on where they are. For about 4 meters, the sound needs less than 20 ms to travel… similar to the speed limitation of the camera (60 hz = 16.666 ms), so there is a correlation there. The rotation tracking is made by some icu to track it. For fixing yaw drift for the headset tracker, there is some ultrasonic receptors in the sides of the headset. All of that, means that NoloVR have about 20ms of latency, and less than 2 mm of error when tracking (limitation of the ultrasonic lenght sensing).
        Also, one of the biggest limitations of this tracking system is that it only allow front-facing tracking (similar to the PSVR). They are checking about some ways to 360 standing option, and some multi station version for 360 – fullroom tracking.
        So… for you to know, i have plenty clue on how the system works, their limitations, and whats going on…. DUDE.

        • Sponge Bob

          Sorry to tell you, dude, but either you or RoadtoVR blog’s author is 100% incorrect…

          You are saying Nolo uses external camera-based tracking and this article says they use lighthouse-based tracking
          These two solutions (camera-based and lighthouse-based) are completely different and opposite to each other.
          I have’t seen any cameras in those pictures

          Neither I saw any speakers or microphones: those things look like Murata ultrasonic transducers and receivers

          You are also totally incorrect about possible latencies with acoustic-base tracking as well as camera-based tracking
          And where that 2 mm came from ???
          the wavelength at 40 KHz is about 8 mm

          get some physics education before posting here

          Also, any good software maxes out hardware limitations

          • Xi Lisa Zhao

            @disqus_PDyszClMXc:disqus@tuxtopotopo:disqus Thanks for the discussion :) I’d like to clarify on the tech. The technology we use is called PolarTraq. Through fusion of optic, acoustic and radio signals, millimeter level of accuracy and low latency can be achieved with high affordability, low power consumption and high portability.

          • Sponge Bob

            You can call it Polartraq or whatever blah blah blah fancy name your marketing dept comes up with – we don’t care

            Just tell us if this RoadtoVR blog’s article is factually correct in telling us that Nolo uses Lighthouse-like optical tracking (like HTC Vive) or it’s camera-based (like Oculus) ?

            I understand other 2 parts (acoustic and rf) better than anyone here

            Thanks

          • Xi Lisa Zhao

            Just to clarify, the optic part is laser.

          • Sponge Bob

            OK, thanks

            So the article is correct in saying that it’s “lighthouse-like” optical tracking (in addition to acoustics)

            Makes sense

            Have you tried it outside, in the bright daylight ?

            IR camera-based tracking doesn’t work outside at all,
            but some people reported some success in using HTC’s lighthouse outside

            The good thing about ultrasonic part is that it’s doesn’t care about direct sunlight at all

          • Xi Lisa Zhao

            We’ve actually tried it in the bright daylight and it works! Our optic signal is coded in a way that it’s anti-inteference in most scenarios.

          • Sponge Bob

            you mean modulated IR ?
            btw, why is your price-point lower than the price of just 1 HTC Lighthouse basestation?

          • James Abrahams

            I’m very confused by this. There is literally a picture of the camera that they use right at the top of the page. Also if you watch the video you see them setting up the camera. It is a camera NOT lighthouse.

            They use SteamVR for handling the games, etc. But not lighthouse.

            It’s complicated because you’ve just said you can’t see a camera and I can see a camera so clearly one of us is completely wrong!

            They call it a “basestation” here:

            “Developers LYRobotix are behind the new system which comprises a headset ‘marker’, base station, two wireless, tracked motion controllers featuring with buttons”

            But its not a lighthouse base station.

          • Sponge Bob

            Confusing indeed…

            This article we are commenting on explicitly says
            “lighthouse-like tracking” which is completely different from camera-based tracking

            The previous article by Ben Lang on this also stated “lighthouse”:
            http://www.roadtovr.com/lyrobotix-merges-ultrasonic-and-lighthouse-like-tech-for-portable-positional-vr-tracking/

            Can someone please take this thing apart to tell us for sure ? :)

          • James Abrahams

            hehe, I initially thought you were totally crazy.

            However on their facebook page, older version of their base station look identical to lighthouse base stations. However in that article you linked to it seemed to suggest: “but by my understanding is of Lyrobotix own design rather than a licensing of Valve’s tech.”

            Also the look of the basestation here: http://www.nolovr.com/ is very different to lighthouse.

            So it looks like its definitely not “just” lighthouse however looking at it more, it is not clear whether or not the basestation is an actual sensor (such as a camera) or an emitter like lighthouse it is. It isn’t clear if the sensors are on the “headset” and controllers as they call it as “heatset marker”.

            So yeah! It’s not clear which way round it is.

            The Basestation is wireless… that might mean something, if it was a camera, it would be much less likely for it to be wireless.

          • Sponge Bob

            This makes a huge difference in practice

            If it’s lighthouse-like tech then basestation can be completely dumb and doesn’t need to send any computed positional info to headset – meaning no added latency there
            With camera-based tracking basestation would have to have some CPU/GPU compute power and then transfer computed coords to the headset wirelessly over BT or wifi or something – meaning some added latency

            So, RoadtoVR blog authors, since you started this discussion, can you tell us for sure ?

            Does Nolo’s basestation have a rotating projector or a camera inside ?

            Just take it apart and post the photos of internals here and I will tell you right away :)

          • James Abrahams

            Yes it does!

            Looking forward for an answer :)

            Below we have this “The technology we use is called PolarTraq. Through fusion of optic, acoustic and radio signals”

            Doesn’t answer if the base station is an actual sensor or a dumb emitter.

          • Xi Lisa Zhao

            The base station is an emitter. The calculation is done on the markers onboard, so no processing pressure on the base station. Theoretically, infinite amount of markers could be used at the same time, as long as line of sight is achieved still.

          • Sponge Bob

            The basestation has only one hole on its front and it’s not camera.
            It is most definitely an ultrasonic transducer
            Looks almost identical to this one from Murata:
            http://www.murata.com/en-us/products/productdetail.aspx?cate=cgsubUltrasonicSensors&partno=MA40S4S

            Might be a different model though

            Nolo teardown anyone ? :-)

        • Preston Collins

          I ran riftcat last year in moonlight mode with vorpx and also with a duplicate window prog for pseudo 3d and I was getting 2k res and latency under <20 ms but ran into sound issues for some games not outputting audio so I used live sound which brought in sound at around 30 ms kinda of disappointing. But the point is "Dude" if you set it up right and make some .bats you can find loads of work a rounds to this VR frontier, even used ps move service with 4 cames and three moves worked like a charm aside some minor bugs and glitches but defitely not worth getting a VIVE or OR .. I'm looking forward to the FOVE set or even a wireless solution which ive seen popping on gearbest this year a wireless HMD with controllers and a wi fi hot spot belt, some gnarly crazy ideas, but did you ask the team if it can track when you are turned around.

  • Jeri Haapavuo

    Nolo means embarressed in Finnish language… :)

  • Sponge Bob

    WTF cares about “lighthouse” ?

    What’s really important here is that there is only ONE external device – meaning NO calibration is necessary, so the setup only takes couple of seconds

    And btw, there are other companies making positional tracking devices for mobile VR
    – check out vrtracker.xyz for example

    BUT… none of them are doing it right …

    Why ?

    Not gonna tell you :-)

    • Dotcommer

      Hahaha, you’re like a little child in a school yard, taunting everyone that you know something everyone else doesn’t. You’re quite adorable. I look forward to your amazing tech that you’ll release to back up all your claims. I’m sure it’ll revolutionize the VR/AR industries, because otherwise if would be absolutely embarrassing and career-ending for you! But you have nothing to worry about, I’m sure. hahahaha!

      • Sponge Bob

        my inventive career ended 10 years ago when they started to “reform” US Patent system
        Right now USA is like wild wild west where big guys with guns (googles and apples) can shoot little indies and get their stuff for free…

        thanks but no thanks

  • Sponge Bob

    So, US lemming consumers will soon be buying high-tech VR products INVENTED in China (!!!)
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordyndahl/2016/05/03/chinese-government-luring-sea-turtles-home-to-launch-startups/#57083373478a

    Just think about it for a second.. then write an angry letter to your congress critter asking him to restore US Patent system to what it used to be for 200 years so that US startups can be back in business inventing next generation of VR products..

  • Interesting device, but my question is: all these positional tracking devices for mobile headsets… what will do when mobile headsets will have inside-out positional tracking?

    • Xi Lisa Zhao

      The ideal situation would be 6 DoF head tracking (inside-out) + 6DoF tracking on controllers OR perfect hand tracking solution w/ haptic feedback, at a reasonable price-point, reasonable low processing power required to avoid over heating, and reasonable consumption of power to prolong time of usage. I’d love to see a product like this soon as well :) but before that, outside-in is still a safe bet.

      • Sponge Bob

        You can have 3DoF (rotational) “inside-out” head tracking now, but not 6DoF
        Not now and not in the near future and not with the present hardware (camera) inside phones

        “perfect hand tracking solution w/ haptic feedback”

        and where this “haptic feedback” can come from ?

        from thin air ?

        over-expectations abound

        • Preston Collins

          Yes it CES from thing air project sori

    • Sponge Bob

      “when mobile headsets will have inside-out positional tracking?”

      they won’t

      just relax

      p.s. google daydream doesn’t even have a hole for using the camera -tells you something

      • Nice point the one about DayDream (even if I think it’s dumb, since you could use camera for AR-like app).

        • Preston Collins

          SLAM will be here . People are arlrdy hacking their camera phones to do this. The real question I want answered does it track when your turned away from the base station. I only seen demos on people facing the device

          • Sponge Bob

            slam is a gimmick from google for lemmings like you

            the answer to your question is no: this tech incarnation is “front-facing room-scale” VR (sounds kind of ridiculous, does it ?)

  • James Abrahams

    RoadtoVR, Are you able to actually try this out at CES? Do you think you could report back on whether its actually any good or not? Specifically what is the latency like and do the controllers actually work at allowing you to play steamVR games?

  • OgreTactics

    Other startup nobodies doing the job of worthless unperceptive billion dollar companies…

    • CaptainAwesomer

      Hahahaha so true.

    • brandon9271

      But dude.. Sixense STEM will be here any day now!! lmao