I’m not sure if any of the people who bought a Vive stopped to think that it wasn’t “pro” enough for them, but HTC went ahead and made the Vive Pro anyway. This new, more expensive HMD has a lot of technical improvements over the model meant for the plebs of the VR world, but one of the most obvious comes in the form of those two camera lenses stuck to the front of the unit.
These depth-sensing cameras have the potential for a lot of uses, but one obvious reason for their existence is augmented reality or AR. I was also hoping that they would add inside-out tracking as seen in the amazing Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
While the cameras do have tracking functionality for your hands and other limited applications, it’s not yet in the same ballpark has the Microsoft technology.
Soft Solutions to Hard Problems
While we still don’t know what HTC’s ultimate plans are for the front-facing camera array, we do know what they want others to do with it. Thanks to a newly-released SDK, developers can now access the front camera and develop apps that take full advantage of it. This means we’ll soon be seeing AR apps for the Vive Pro.
The SDK for the front camera has been dubbed SRWorks and just like other AR SDKs such as Apple ARKit it makes developer’s jobs much easier by automating some common problems in a standardized way.
The SDK includes:
- Depth sensing and integration
- Spatial mapping
- Foreground and background object rendering (occlusion)
- Interaction via hand-tracking
The company has put a whole bunch of demo videos up on the Vive Blog that show off what the system can do. It’s well worth a watch.
The Price of Awesome
The technological AR abilities the SDK bring to the table sure are awesome, but remember this is for the much more expensive Vive Pro. It makes one wonder if HTC will bring a camera add-on for their original HMD to market. After all, they already offer the wireless display module for both products. Outfits like Magic Leap and LEAP Motion must both be feeling the pressure too as the AR.MR market heats up.