The primary aim of the Oculus Quest was to make the virtual reality experience portable and easy, which it certainly achieved. A more complicated process however, is moving from things in the environment tracking the headset (outside in) to the headset tracking the things in the environment (inside out).
When using a virtual reality headset and controllers to move about, the system needs to assess where the devices are at every moment. This is either done by having sensors in the room around you that scan for the devices’ LEDs (outside in), or the sensors need to be on the headset which then scan for signals in the room (inside out).
To establish a wireless system, the most efficient option is the inside out approach, as you won’t need to transfer signals back and forth between the headset and the computer that is running the position tracking, which can create additional unwanted latency.
Several years ago, Facebook and Oculus made an objective to accomplish the inside out tracking and to make sure that it was better than – or at least on par with – the wired systems that operate on top-end computers. It would also need to function anywhere, not only in a specific setting with confounds established by beacons. The outcome of this objective was the Quest headset, which happened to be a profound success at those particular tasks.
Live mapping and positioning
The high point of its performance is not only that it’s capable of tracking items around it and replicating a precise 3D position of itself; it manages to do this in real time on a chip that has significantly less power than that of a regular computer.
“I’m unaware of any system that’s anywhere near this level of performance,” said Facebook Chief Technology Officer, Mike Schroepfer. “In the early days there were a lot of debates about whether it would even work or not.”
Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) is a term for when the headset is creating a 3D map of the environment whilst positioning itself in the digital environment.
“In a warehouse, I can make sure my lighting is right, I can put fiducials on the wall, which are markers that can help reset things if I get errors. That’s like a dramatic simplification of the problem, you know?” said Schroepfer. “I’m not asking you to put fiducials up on your walls. We don’t make you put QR codes or precisely positioned GPS coordinates around your house. It’s never seen your living room before, and it just has to work. And in a relatively constrained computing environment, we’ve got a mobile CPU in this thing. And most of that mobile CPU is going to the content too.”