Oculus has confirmed work on a VR boundary system which they’re calling Guardian. The system will launch this week with the Oculus PC SDK 1.8 update.

While it’s relatively easy to keep users safe in seated-VR experience, once you have players walking around in room-scale virtual reality experiences and swinging VR motion controllers, suddenly you’ve got a recipe for someone running into a wall or hitting their hand on a table.

Valve's 'Chaperone' system displays a virtual wall inside the headset | Photo courtesy Valve
Valve’s ‘Chaperone’ system displays a virtual wall inside the headset | Photo courtesy Valve

To avoid that, Valve created the ‘Chaperone’ system, part of SteamVR and the HTC Vive, which allows users to map their physical playspace before starting a VR experience, then shows a virtual wall inside the headset when the players approach the edge of the boundary. It’s an obvious, if well executed system, and likely very similar to what Oculus plans to employ.

‘Guardian’, as they call it, is Oculus’ boundary system for virtual reality. The company’s VP of Product, Nate Mitchell, confirmed today that the system will launch this week to developers through the next Oculus PC SDK update, version 1.8. He teased that the company will be talking more about the system at the ‘Connect’ developer conference early next month.

‘Dead & Buried’ gets you moving. Here the company is showing the game with rubber mats to help keep users within a safe playspace | See Also: ‘Dead & Buried’ Action Packed Multiplayer Could be the Killer App Oculus Touch Needs

Oculus has been working on Guardian at least as far back as June; I wrote recently about seeing the (at the time unnamed) boundary system:

As it turns out, Oculus has had a boundary system in the works for some time. I saw a brief glimpse of it for the first time at a conference in June where Oculus was showing off their Touch controllers.

It was after a four player match of Dead & Buried; Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, pulled me aside and asked if I had noticed anything peculiar about this particular build of the game. After saying I hadn’t, he urged me to put the headset back on and then walk to my left. After few steps I saw a horizontal floating line appear in front of me about stomach-height. As I traced it with my eyes to the left, I could see that it encompassed me entirely, appearing like a square with rounded corners.

Interestingly, this boundary wasn’t actually just a line; it appeared as a piece of barbed wire, fitting with Dead & Buried’s Western aesthetic. This suggests of course that developers may have the ability to style the Oculus boundary system to suit their game. Chaperone on the HTC Vive, on the other hand, can be customized by the user, but I haven’t ever seen it styled on a developer controlled, per-application basis.

While Guardian’s most obvious use is to keep players within a safe playspace while using Oculus Touch, the company’s soon to launch VR controllers, it would also be plenty useful for seated VR gameplay with a gamepad, as I’ve seen plenty of users bump their head into desks and nearby walls while—having forgotten about what’s around them in the real world—craning for a better view of the virtual world.

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See Also: Latest Version of Touch has Better Tracking & Longer Range, Says Oculus
See Also: Latest Version of Touch has Better Tracking & Longer Range, Says Oculus

We’ll hear more about Oculus’ boundary system at Connect, though one thing we don’t expect the company to address is whether or not Valve’s pending patent for Chaperone (or more specifically, “Sensory feedback systems and methods for guiding users in virtual reality environments“) might present any issue to Oculus if it were to be granted. Interestingly, Valve’s own Chaperone system actually already works with the Rift for users who have the headset connected to Steam.

We’ll be on the scene at Oculus Connect next month to bring you the latest on Guardian, Oculus Rift, Touch, and plenty more.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • I wonder if someone will still claim they’re not doing room scale…

    • RipVoid
      • So the headline you link to begins with “Oculus: Touch is “Fully Capable” of Room Scale”…

        • RipVoid

          I’ll take Oculus at their word that it will do room scale. I’ll also take them at their word that they going to “…focus on standing, front-facing VR experiences for Touch.” – Rubin

          My post said they are “not” doing room scale. I didn’t say they “can’t” do room scale. You and schwifty need work on reading comprehension.

          • Get Schwifty!

            So the argument boils down to Oculus saying that they are encouraging front facing play, so therefore despite the fact they can do room scale (this is no secret, its been demoed before) and they are developing their own Chaperone system they are “not doing room scale” based on a statement they are focusing on front-facing experiences.

            They are doing room scale; they are simply saying they are _encouraging_ development for front facing over room scale, for now, otherwise they wouldn’t have the hardware to support it, how hard is that to grasp? The sum of their stance on room scale is not limited to an encouragement of front facing over room scale.

            in case you doubt Oculus room scale:

            What this all boils down to is people who were patting themselves on the back for their Vive purchase by slamming Oculus. Now that the room scale question is being put to rest we can expect a flurry of criticism over Oculus not making every game for room scale despite creating a system for it (despite the fact SteamVR has an even mix of front facing and seated) Hell, at the very least Rift users will now start playing every room scale title in the Steam library, what more do you want? SteamVR doesn’t promote room scale to the exclusion of front facing, in fact they are pretty neutral on the point, while all Oculus is saying is they are encouraging front facing to broaden the market for VR at this stage, but its clear they recognize the place for room scale.

            This stance about room scale vs front facing development is very similar to the nonsense statements made surrounding Oculus’ continued belief that the game pads still have a place despite the Touch, with some people jumping up and down that any experience not using Touch controllers was not a real VR experience….

            Get real folks, room scale is on the way for Oculus along with frankly a better designed controller. The only real downside with the system at this point will be the need for a longer cable setup for the camera and headset, which is not that big a deal and easily solved with extenders or longer cables from Oculus.

          • chop suey

            you da man,

          • RipVoid

            I’m going by what Rubin himself said and you’re ignoring it. Their focus is not on room scale. Yeah, who knows what the future holds for any of them but for now if you want room scale and you own a Rift you have the wrong device.

          • Rick
          • ummm…

            if you buy an oculus it doesnt come with the best/any room scale or touch capability. That is another purchase. Doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement. Take it as you will.

          • “I’ll take Oculus at their word that it will do room scale”

            “My post said they are “not” doing room scale”
            RipVoid, 21 words later

            Now that is some fresh baked cognitive dissonance, my Ripness.

          • Get Schwifty!

            Now that’s funny….

          • RipVoid

            The company itself is saying room scale isn’t their focus and yet you guys are convinced that they’re somehow going to develop great room scale. That’s idiotic fanboyism.

          • RipVoid

            That is Rubin’s own statements. Read the article. http://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-touch-full-capable-roomscale-tracking-not-sure-absolutely-necessary/

            You guys are complete idiots and a waste of time.

      • Get Schwifty!

        No… now read the article again, they claimed it was not necessary for a quality experience in every case. Why do you guys have such a hard time with this distinction?

        “According to Jason Rubin, Oculus’ Head of Content, the question is not if Touch could do roomscale, but if it should. Speaking with Road to VR at Gamescom 2016 this week in Germany, Rubin elaborated on the reasons for the company’s focus on standing, front-facing VR experiences for Touch.” They are not saying they are not concerned about room scale VR experiences, but they are focusing on seated primarily for now.

        • RipVoid

          NO, you read the article again. The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter if Rift can do room scale or not because Oculus isn’t going to encourage development for it. “…Rubin elaborated on the reasons for the company’s focus on standing, front-facing VR experiences for Touch.”

          Why do you have such a hard time with that distinction?

          • Get Schwifty!

            No – they are focusing on it… that doesn’t mean they aren’t supporting it. Look at the article at the top of this thread dude…. seriously… they are clearly supporting it but they are focusing more on front/seated experiences over room scale since they perceive it as the bigger market, at least until people routinely plan for a space set aside for VR. No reason to provide a capacity you don’t won’t at least partially use your product for. How hard is this to grasp?

          • RipVoid

            I agree they are focusing on what they see as the larger market that does not want room scale. Maybe in the future they will focus on room scale. But the people bashing Oculus are people that want room scale now.

          • Justos

            Oculus has supported “roomscale” since day 1. In dreamdeck, there are scenes where you are encouraged to walk a few steps. The hardware is more than capable. All steamVR games will be playable on Rift+Touch. This argument is debunked. Let it rest.

          • ummm…

            When your hardware doens’t SHIP WITH TOUCH CONTROLLERS AND ROOMSCALE CAPABILITIES then it isn’t focusing, pushing, respecting etc. the capability. Just sit down with your xbox controller and enjoy. I like to run into my walls OUT OF THE BOX.

        • yag

          Please stop responding to people I blocked ;-)

    • TTman

      Hey dick head, you need two cameras to turn around with the new touch controllers. With a single cam you are limited to looking straight. two cams with cables everywhere not to mention the performance impact of these two cams, pathetic.

      • Get Schwifty!

        You do realize that 1) room scale is effectively possible today with 1 camera for say about a 7’x7′ area with minimal occlusion, and 2) a second camera is included with Touch so obviously support for room scale is forthcoming and was planned for sometime. Cabling is a small issue in reality, it’s not that big a deal and the Vive isn’t exactly short on cables. Extenders work just fine.

        There is no performance issue with the 2nd cam, not sure where you got that from, and the system can support 4 cameras actually. Are you not aware of the YouTube videos showing numerous devs doing room scale today with Touch devices and two cameras? I think pathetic might describe your lack of knowledge on the matter…. now, apologize to the man for your ignorance.

        • Derek Anhorn

          I completely agree, even with just 1 sensor my oculus can see me walking around, moving, standing up and a lot more. With 2 sensors it will be full room sale. I don’t know why people have such aggressive fanboy love for the HTC Vive. The truth is I can do small room scale with just the 1 oculus sensor adding another will just allow for bigger room scale. The reason they need to for the controllers is if I’m turned away from the sensor and have my hands in front of my body the sensor will not pickup the controllers.

        • JustNiz

          > There is no performance issue with the 2nd cam, not sure where you got that from, and the system can support 4 cameras actually.

          OK so 4 input streams of live video data. Have you any idea how much data that is? Exactly what do you think is magically handling all that processing without any performance impact?

          • yag

            Actually the IR cams “see” only IR leds. So only IR leds positions are handled by the CPU, so it’s a pretty trivial task.

      • All I heard you say is “I agree Will, it is capable of Room Scale”

        • James Friedman


      • James Friedman

        Cables everywhere? Have you tried it out? For most people adding an extra camera will not be a big deal and I doubt there will be a so called “performance” impact

      • chop suey

        you my kind sir, should grow yourself a new brain.

    • ummm…

      Who claimed they aren’t doing roomscale? They just aren’t doing it with as much dedication – or possibly even as well as Vive. Sit down.

      • RipVoid

        How far do you think they will get without dedication?

        • ummm…

          rift? i wouldn’t know im no expert. however, i think that their investment predicates that they must have a competent solution for roomscale. However, i think vive is going to own the market space and the best solution for this cycle, and hopefully the next. Games like Onward and the like should be the future of VR, not the seated experience. I’d like to see developers get excited about the vive and create full content titles sooner than later. However, it looks like the seated experience is where the money is with the ps, xbox, and oculus hardware and their user base :( . Id rather have my vive with interesting room scale concept demos, instead of full featured seated games. But, who knows – maybe im wrong.

  • RipVoid

    I doubt Valve’s patent will be an issue. The technologies have a similar purpose but are likely quite different.

    • Justos

      Imagine if it actually became a legal problem. A SAFETY feature. Yeah, Valve doesn’t want that bad PR. Patents are for the most part to protect yourself.

  • Me

    Since when are patents an issue for Oculus ?

    • Get Schwifty!

      For that matter when are patents an issue for anyone really. Patents don’t generally provide much protection beyond a direct copy, and every company rides the edge on this, not the least is HTC.

      • JustNiz

        example? what patent has HTC ridden the edge on with the Vive?

  • Tom A

    Not sure if pun intended.

    Oculus reassures that The Guardian system will keep players in their “safe spaces”.

  • ummm…

    guys guy guys…dont fight. if you like to sit and play wiht a controller out of the box buy a rift. If you like to do roomscale, at its best quality and capability, do the vive. maybe that will change in a year or so, but right now – room scale is a vive thing. It DOES NOT YET EXIST for the consumer – and what it does who knows how it will be supported and developed. Does mom and dad want to pay another few hundred dollars for what will be a second tier roomscale experience. I dunno, lets wait and see.