Monday, October 5, 2015

Embedded OSVR and what it can do for Phones and Game Consoles

What do you do when you need to add a VR peripheral like an eye tracker or a motion suit to a phone or a game console? Tear your hair out, probably.

There are multiple reasons why this is not easy. Depending on the particular setup, common reasons are:

  • Closed programming environment that prevents you from working with an unknown peripheral, without going through a tedious approval process.
  • Not enough processing power to service the peripheral without negatively impacting the performance of the game.
  • No physical connectivity: lack of available USB ports.
  • Lack of device drivers supporting the particular peripheral.
  • No appetite to connecting additional wires to an otherwise portable or wireless system.
The OSVR software framework might be able to help. OSVR has two parts: the "OSVR Server" and "OSVR client". The Server processes data as it comes from the various peripherals and sensors and then presents it to Client in a device-agnostic format. For instance, once an eye tracker interface has been defined, the server can translate the vendor-specific implementation of eye tracking data (such as for an SMI eye tracker) into the universal device-independent reports. The Client is part of the game or VR application that uses this data.

In many cases, the Server and Client will reside on the same CPU (or sometimes even in the same process), and that is the standard deployment for a PC environment. However, the Client and Server can also be connected through a network interface such as WiFi or Bluetooth. In fact, a Client could connect to multiple servers, some residing locally, and some residing elsewhere over a network.

What does this mean? It means that you can connect VR peripherals to one CPU and run the game on another CPU.

For instance:
  • Game (including OSVR Client) runs on phone. Peripherals (positional tracking, for example) including OSVR server runs on PC. Game receives 60 FPS updates from PC via Wifi or Bluetooth. Since PC does all the heavy lifting, the 60 FPS position updates are very short and low-bandwidth. 
  • Game runs on XBOX, eye tracking runs on external CPU (such as super-compact single-board computers from Gumstix or Variscite) which uses the OSVR server to provide the universal eye tracking interface. By the way, these single-board computers could run OSVR using the operating system of your choice - Linux, Android, Windows Embedded) regardless of what operating systems runs with the client. 
My guess is that we will see additional examples of this over the coming months.

What would you use this for?

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