Bringing Your Feet into VR Safety Training with Vive Trackers

HTC’s Vive Trackers became available to developers earlier this year – introducing the opportunity to bring real-world objects into the virtual world. Trackers rely on the same sensor technology as the original Vive controllers, but can be attached to nearly any physical object for representation in the virtual space.

The Vive Trackers, and other upcoming hardware releases like the Vive wireless adapter, will change the way VR experiences are developed. By bringing real world objects into VR and reducing motion restriction, user actions are mirrored one to one with reality, with a direct impact on immersiveness. This addresses potential VR issues, including both motion sickness and spatial awareness.

Banjo’s latest project, an OSHA safety training scenario set inside a tunnel boring machine, was a great platform for a proof-of-concept Tracker implementation. Our engineers used the Vive Trackers to bring the user’s feet into VR – adding a visual reference point to your position and motion in room scale.

We developed a custom 3D-printed mount with elastic straps to attach the trackers to the user’s feet, allowing interaction with the environment, and most importantly, monitoring safety violations based on where the user’s feet are. If the participant steps into an unsafe area without performing the proper safety procedures, a warning message appears explaining the user’s mistake and asking them to return to the beginning to try again. Inside the tunnel boring machine, users can push buttons with their feet, move dirt around, and even receive different audio feedback based on the different surfaces they walk on.

The Vive Trackers add to the accuracy and immersiveness the Vive offers, contributing to a more memorable and effective training session.

To add to the realism, a third Vive Tracker is attached to the user’s waist, enabling more accurate Inverse Kinematics (IK) for the lower body, as seen in the Vive IK Demo on GitHub. The known positions of a user’s head, hands, hips, ankles are used to estimate the position of a user’s shoulders, elbows, and knees to create a representation of a body’s full position in VR.

Banjo is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the custom VR experiences we create. The Vive Trackers are a welcome addition to the suite of tools available to create professional level virtual experiences for enterprise applications.