OptiTrack’s Precise ‘Void’ Style Tracking Lets You Play Real Basketball in VR


World renowned motion capture specialists OptiTrack were at GDC this year demonstrating their mo-cap systems integrated with VR simulations. They chose to highlight their wide-area, camera based optical tracking solution using a basketball demo which let players handle, bounce and dribble a real life ball with complete accuracy whilst immersed in VR. Road to VR‘s Ben Lang went hands on with the system.

The largest motion capture technology provider in the world, chances are you’ve probably seen or played something that was captured using OptiTrack technology. Their systems are used across various verticals from film and television to biochemistry. At GDC this year however, OptiTrack wanted to show their tracking prowess applied to yet another field, wide-area interactive immersive experiences – tracking multiple players in large room-scale spaces.

OptiTrack attended GDC this year to highlight their wide-area motion capture solution and how it can be integrated into virtual reality experiences, specifically how precise that tracking is, even when applied to fast-moving, real-world objects like a basketball.

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The OptiTrack team’s setup utilised a series of 240Hz mo-cap cameras, gear that would set you back some $40,000. They placed dot tracking markers on a basketball and used the information captured by the cameras to render a virtual ball’s position and rotation in 3D virtual space. The tracking data is handled by a custom Unreal Engine 4 plugin which handled rendering the virtual world, with the tracking pipeline adding no more than 8ms.

Road to VR‘s Ben Lang donned an Oculus Rift DK2 with optical tracking makers, and was able to instinctively and intuitively handle the ball in VR with ease. “It worked perfectly well,” Lang said, “I was able catch, dribble, and pass the ball with no sense of latency.” You can see Ben demonstrate his mad skills in the video above. You’ll also be able to see a demonstration of one of the OptiTrack team, who wore a full mo-cap suit, showing how well a fully mo-capped player and ball can be represented in VR.

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See Also: First Hands-on: The VOID, a Mixed Reality Experience That Blends Real and Virtual
See Also: First Hands-on: The VOID, a Mixed Reality Experience That Blends Real and Virtual

Given the price tag and the industrial rigging required for such an experience, OptiTrack clearly aren’t targeting home users with this technology. However, you may already have heard of one of OptiTrack’s success stories in this particular field. The VR theme park known as The Void uses OptiTrack’s 6DoF tracking to allow customers to roam freely through its mixed reality arenas thanks to tracking technology supplied by OptiTrack.

The basketball demo at GDC is another way to highlight the application of OptiTrack’s technology to out of home entertainment spaces, who can invest the space and money needed to pull something like this off. Judging by feedback gleaned from those who have spent time in The Void, these sorts of mixed reality experiences, utilising virtual worlds fused with real-world sets and objects, could very well provide the next evolution for theme parks looking to meet the ever growing expectations of consumers.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • sfmike

    Can’t wait for the pain of being hit in the HMD with a basketball.

    • I tried this at GDC and the ball hit the HMD I was wearing because it left the tracking area for a moment. It was really scary when the ball lost tracking but for the most part, as long as the ball was in the tracking space it was very natural. It was kind of mind blowing actually. It would have been cool if they added some virtual trails to the ball so it wasn’t a 1 to 1 representation of the sport.

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    LOL!!!! hilarious!!! At 90 fps or 120!!!