>>> INSIDE VR Weekly news direct to your inbox

Revolutionizing Virtual Realities: The Rise of Markerless Motion Capture and the Evolution of VR Tracking Technology

This post is a section of the New Technology article in Bob Cooney’s VR Arcade Game Buyer’s guide (download full guide here). Links to the other sections in this article are at the end of this post.

For the last few years I have been talking about how tracking systems moved from external cameras mounted on the wall or ceiling (outside in) to cameras embedded into the headsets (inside out.) All-in-one headsets like the VIVE Focus 3, Meta Quest, and Pico use SLAM tracking, which stands for simultaneous localization and mapping. SLAM headsets save a 3D spatial map of the environment so they can track the wearer’s movements through space. It’s efficient, inexpensive, and gaining in accuracy over the years.

Some high-end free-roam systems still use optical tracking cameras, like the ones from OptiTrack and Vicon. It’s the same system Hollywood and video game companies use to track movie stars and athletes for special effects. Maybe you’ve seen clips of the making of Avatar, where the actors wore bodysuits with what looked like golf balls attached to them. These reflective markers are tracked by an array of high-speed cameras. That data is sent to computers that recreate character models that move exactly how the actor is moving.

Markerless Motion Capture in Movies

High-end motion capture is getting cheaper and easier

Move.AI is democratizing markerless mo-cap

These systems are expensive and finicky, requiring constant recalibration. And asking VR players to put on an entire bodysuit isn’t practical. So, users wear markers on their wrists and ankles, and developers employ “inverse kinematics” using the data captured to make avatar movements seem realistic. This is way harder than it sounds and leads to many goofy-looking character animations in virtual reality experiences. Putting on markers also puts a strain on operations, slowing throughput and increasing labor and maintenance costs.

Last year, a new company called Move.AI burst onto the scene with social media videos showing markerless full-body tracking using just four iPhones. People showed off recorded animations of their avatars doing everything from dancing to shooting hoops to flying like Iron Man. At SIGGRAPH, the large computer graphics conference held each year in Los Angeles, Vicon unveiled its markerless mo-cap system. Partnered with Dreamscape, a steady stream of groups of six attendees experienced Clockwork Forest for the first time without any wearables beyond the HTC VIVE Focus 3 headset.

Markerless mo-cap utilizes advances in machine vision cameras and artificial intelligence algorithms. Instead of tracking just a few points, the cameras see everyone’s bodies, even down to their hands. Accurate full-body tracking will enable new kinds of experiences while bringing the cost of high-end tracking systems downward. Look for Vicon’s markerless system to work its way into both Dreamscape Immersive and Sandbox VR locations in 2024.

Other sections of this article you may be interested in

  1. Quest 3
  2. Apple Vision Pro

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to our mailing list for news, webinars, special offers and more!

Recent Posts

© 2023 The VR Collective. All rights reserved.

Please fill in the form opposite and we'll send you an email to collect all the details we need to add your product(s) to the VR Collective website.

By submiting this form, you agree to receive emails from The VR Collective. We promise not to SPAM you, or sell or provide your information to any outside party.

Download Now

By registering to download the guide, you are agreeing to receive information and updates from the VR Collective. We will never spam you, nor will we share your email address with anyone.

Sign up for a weekly summary of all location-based VR news