When it come to VR technology there are no shortage of options now as there are quite a few choices for consumers when they go look at a purchase, and they're at every tier of pricing, from the low-end to the high-end. Much of VR over the last year has been pretty similar in terms of what you get, despite the platform. You connect the headset to a PC or slot in a compatible smartphone, and use a controller or touchpad to navigate through menus and control content. There hasn't been a large amount of innovation with the VR space recently but it's still technically the early days and there will no doubt me more expansion on what you can do with VR in the future. HTC is getting a jump start on that innovation with their Vive Tracker.
This is a little device which they unveiled back during CES, and I was lucky enough to briefly check it out during Mobile World Congress in the past couple of weeks, and HTC is truly onto something with this little device. If you aren't familiar with the Vive Tracker, it's essentially a little device that you can hook onto real objects and turn them into a virtual controller, and that's awesome as it can expand the realm of what VR is capable of simply by adding a new controller type into the mix so as to match the type of content that's being created for the platform. These things are small, but not too small, which means they won't take up a massive amount of space as a large piece of equipment but they won't get lost too easily either.
While at Mobile World Congress, HTC had an example of how the Vive Tracker could be used with a piece of software that was being showcased at their demo booth. It was kind of a game but more of a training software that would allow you to paint a car door not too unlike the way you might do so if you were in that sort of profession. For this, HTC had the Vive Tracker attached to what essentially looked like a pain gun that would be used by a professional in the field of autobody paint work. While the software itself was impressive, calculating even some of the most minute details about how you did when painting like the speed of your paint strokes, the density of the areas you painted, and how close you were to the object you were painting and giving you a score at the end to rank your performance, the really cool part was the Vive Tracker.
While this software could have been controlled with the HTC Vive controllers, the Tracker made it possible to turn something that was much more fitting for how you would complete autobody paint work into a virtual controller which in turn made it more life-like. This was just one example of course, as the Vive Tracker could really be attached to just about anything in the real world you could think of. Imagine taking a toy gun and attaching the Vive Tracker to it so that you could use this toy gun as a controller for a first-person shooter game. Yep, this would be possible too, and instead of having to use the Vive Controllers for this purpose, you could have something that feels much more natural to a shooter game in your hands, which should make the experience feel more immersive, and certainly more fun.
While HTC hasn't set a release date for the Vive Tracker just yet, anyone with an HTC Vive headset is going to want to pick up at least one of them, because it's fully capable of transforming the Vive experience into something much more exciting, and as more content comes out that will be compatible with the Tracker it's only going to get better. More importantly, HTC really has something here with this device, and it should (and hopefully will) convince other companies that are working with VR technology to come up with something similar that works with their own headsets, because this is really just what all of the VR industry needs, a tool which consumers can use to augment real life objects and turn them into something that can be used within VR content.