The buzz behind Oculus Rift and the headset’s next-gen VR capabilities have inspired a host of additional products all aimed at creating a more immersive gaming experience. One of the most aggressive attempts to build a full-body solution for gaming use comes from PrioVR. The company recently yanked a Kickstarter campaign after its attempt to raise $ 250,000 to finalize the device only garnered $ 111,000 worth of support, but was on-site at CES 2014 to demonstrate a half-body version of the suit that could be paired with the Oculus VR headset.
PrioVR’s goal is to built a total body suit for under $ 400, while the half-body suit that encompasses head, arm, chest, and hand gestures is meant to come in under $ 270. According to the company, they’ve built an SDK that can be integrated into all major game engines. The partnership with Oculus, as you might expect, is a bit physically complicated. PrioVR is building a full-body motion capture solution that can incorporate input from the entirety of you. The company’s website videos and photos show players diving, kicking, punching, and engaging in other activities that require a high degree of spatial awareness. Oculus is building a high-end VR simulator that straps on to your face. Combine the two, and you’ve got the recipe for the most hilarious YouTube videos in decades. How long before “Husband attacks zombie, accidentally punches cat through television” actually becomes a thing?
That minor point aside, the demos do look impressive. According to PrioVR, the advantage of strapping motion capture tech directly to a person is that it’s much easier to build a system that can detect small variations in movement. The company claims that it can track up to one degree of movement and that the use of on-body motion capture technology obviates the need for a light bar or standalone sensor. It’s an arguable point whether on-body sensors are more or less disruptive than the use of a single room-mounted camera, but the tracking technology (as tested by the Verge) is quite impressive.
Whether the PrioVR takes off in the living room, this kind of technology could have huge applications in more specialized fields like physical therapy, in-home rehabilitation, or remote exploration. One of the most striking things about testing an HD-capable Oculus Rift when I checked one out at APU13 was how much the ability to look around at one’s own virtual body changed the immersion level of the game. Full-body integration would increase this still further — if there weren’t inconvenient things like walls, tables, pets, small children, significant others, and expensive HDTVs in the immediate vicinity.