HTC revealed its new Vive Tracker at CES 2017 recently. It’s a piece of kit that can turn almost anything you can think of into a controller, and it could revolutionise VR.
The Vive Tracker will make the whole VR experience even more immersive and realistic, because you’ll no longer have to rely on using the same fixed controller to do different things. Here are a few examples that HTC came up with to demonstrate what the Vive Tracker can do:
The latest VR gloves
The Manus VR gloves have a Vive Tracker on each glove to track the articulation of your fingers, arms and elbows, giving you the power to take full control of your virtual world. You could be climbing up a mountain one minute, and indulging in a spot of piano-playing the next.
On a more serious note, this is the sort of product that could eventually be used to teach surgeons how to operate on virtual patients, or track the performance of athletes.
If you’re playing a VR baseball game, rather than pressing buttons on a controller to swing your bat, wouldn’t it feel more realistic swinging an actual bat?
Of course it would. This kind of thing will perhaps feel familiar to anyone who owned a Nintendo Wii back in the day, and slotted a racket accessory onto the end of the controller to play Wii Tennis. The difference here, of course, is that you could be swinging a baseball bat in your room while wearing a VR headset that obscures your vision. So expect to read lots of onscreen safety advice before you step up to the plate.
HTC also showed off a custom rifle for use in ROM: Extraction, a VR shooting game currently available on Vive. Unsurprisingly, the ability to point and shoot at things rather than press buttons on a controller makes for a more immersive gaming experience.
We were especially impressed with this fire-fighting simulator called FLAIM - an actual hose with adjustable levers on it. Using FLAIM, trainee fire fighters can test their accuracy, learn how to change between types of spray, and use nozzles to adjust power. It sounds like it would be a pretty fun game too.
If 2016 was the year that VR came into the mainstream, perhaps 2017 will be the year that accessories are used to take VR games and experiences to the next level. We can see the Vive Tracker really taking off, but just remember – when you’re in a VR world, always be aware of your surroundings.