Developer Kit for the PrioVR - Full-body immersion to interact naturally with virtual worlds.
The Next Generation of Virtual Reality is Here
Until now, there hasn’t been a way to truly immerse yourself into virtual worlds in a way that allows natural, full-body interaction. Oculus Rift gave us a window to see them and the Virtuix Omni will let us walk through them, but there’s still one piece missing from the virtual space- You.
With the PrioVR, we’re changing the game by bringing you and your movements into virtual environments where you can see your body move as you move, manipulate items as if they were right in front of you, and interact with the virtual world as naturally as you would with the real world.
We, at YEI, currently offer next-generation inertial sensor solutions that provide real-time tracking, movement, and orientation data for the medical, entertainment, industrial, and military/aerospace industries. We have already developed a similar inertial motion capture system based upon our wireless 3-Space Sensors. The technology is here now, and it works. Now we want to make this technology available to the consumer gaming and simulation markets at an affordable price-point.
We’re Changing the Game
The inertial sensing technology used in the PrioVR offers several advantages over optical systems such as the Microsoft Kinect and active magnetic systems such as the Sixense STEM. By using an array of high-performance inertial sensors along with a centralized, wearable wireless hub architecture, PrioVR will provide 360 degrees of unfettered low-latency real-time motion capture without the need for cameras, optics, line-of-sight, proximity to special base-station devices, or other special environments. The PrioVR system will capture motion data directly from the body at projected end-to-end latencies that exhibit an 8x or better improvement over optical systems such as the Kinect. And unlike the STEM, PrioVR doesn't require proximity to a base-station, supports multiple users in close proximity, and measures the actual pose of the body rather than a calculated inverse kinematics best-guess pose. The PrioVR system will be wireless, easily allow multiple simultaneous users, and will work anywhere - indoors or out. Additionally, the system will exhibit performance characteristics comparable to high-end inertial motion capture systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars, but at a cost that makes VR and motion capture affordable for everyone.
All systems will be expandable and customizable to meet your needs and will include an SDK and API to enable you to integrate PrioVR’s full-body motion capture into your game or project. Major game engines will be supported and will include demonstration projects and open-source code examples.
PrioVR takes games and VR to the next level and finally delivers on the promise of natural-feeling, full-body immersion.
This Kickstarter supports us in making the next generation of VR and motion capture affordable for everyone.
The current prototype uses our existing wireless 3-Space Sensors. The PrioVR will use newly designed sensors that will be much smaller, along with a centralized wearable wireless hub architecture. The PrioVR will be value-engineered to allow mass-production and a price-point that will make it affordable for general and casual audiences. In addition, the final PrioVR will be a hybrid wired system that will be easier to charge and easier to wear with more predictable communication. The final system will be modular and reconfigure-able, thus allowing use for widely varied skeletal-model configurations and end-uses.
PrioVR LZ Developer Kit - 7 sensor nodes, a wearable wired-only hub (which includes an internal sensor node), and all the necessary straps.
PrioVR Lite Developer Kit - 11 sensor nodes, an input node, the wearable wireless hub (which includes an internal sensor node), a wireless base station, and all the necessary straps.
PrioVR Pro Developer Kit - 17 sensor nodes, two input nodes, the wearable wireless hub (which includes an internal sensor node), a wireless base station, and all the necessary straps.
Our system will primarily focus on accurately tracking the pose and movement of the entire body in a virtual reality space, and can be combined with other VR products to provide a completely immersive experience for full integration into video games, simulations, learning games, and other end-use applications that have, thus far, only been dreamed about.
Funds from this Kickstarter will go towards development, parts, and manufacturing for an initial run of PrioVR developer kits.
1. System Overview
The entire PrioVR system consists of several distinct sub-systems that all must function and integrate in order for the entire system to work. The overview of the entire system can be seen in the figure below and each sub-system is described in the following sections:
• Sensor Unit – These units consist of a low-power, high-performance MCU along with a 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis magnetometer, and a 3-axis accelerometer. This sensor data is calibrated, error-compensated, and fused to produce an accurate 3-axis orientation estimate. The sensors are interconnected to form sensor strands which are each, in turn, connected in a star topology with the Wearable Hub Unit at the center of the star.
• Input Unit – These units consist of a low-power MCU along with accessible buttons and a pin-header interface that allows the connection of additional external inputs such as trigger switches and tactile input buttons. The purpose of these nodes is to allow a flexible, intuitive interaction mechanism.
• Wearable Hub Unit – This unit consists of an internal sensor node along with a USB rechargeable battery, wireless communications module, and high-performance MCU capable of receiving and aggregating multiple sensor data streams from the multiple sensors on each sensor strand. The aggregated data for all sensors is then collected into packets for wireless transmission to the Communication Base Station or, alternately, communication via USB for wired configuration and usage during charging.
• Communication Base Station – This unit consists of a wireless communications module and high-performance USB capable MCU. This unit handles the reliable reception of data packets from one or more Wearable Hub Units and forwards the data to the USB host for use in the desired end application.
2. Sub-system Production Outline
The system production schedule for each sub-system is illustrated in the following diagram.
What people are saying
“People are buzzing about the accomplishments of Yost Engineering, Inc. (YEI), a group that recently revealed its innovative use of Epic’s Unreal Development Kit (UDK) to demonstrate real-time, markerless full-body motion capture as well as head-tracking virtual reality (VR) techniques in richly detailed Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) test environments” - Epic Games
“With a horizontal field of view twice that of the HMZ-T1 (and a vertical field of view even beyond that), the Rift would offer an even more immersive experience when combined with YEI’s setup.” - Road to VR
“People always say, 'Be careful with what you wish for...it might just come true.' Well I'm happy to see that I may just live through the era for VR after all.” - Crige on Reddit
"What's truly impressive about the PrioVR suit is that it seems to have solved the nausea-inducing lag issues that still plague the Oculus Rift itself. If this is true, the entire VR gaming community needs to take a step back and check out how the PrioVR guys are getting the job done." - Dvice
"Yes, it's expensive. And yes, when coupled with the Oculus Rift headset, it's impossible to not look like a total goober. But if the PrioVR actually works as described, it's the beginning of something potentially exciting." - IGN
Get to Know us Better
The PrioVR is developed by a team of gamers, engineers, and programmers who are passionate about virtual reality and excited about the opportunity to develop a product that will allow everybody to experience new worlds in their own homes. Our team has an extensive background in Digital Simulation and Gaming, Computer Science and Engineering, Mathematics, and Plastics Engineering Technology and have products being used in every major market segment including robotics, healthcare, defense, aerospace, industry and entertainment.
Paul Yost, Chief of R&D - Paul has a BS in Computer Engineering and a MS in Computer Science. First teaching at the University of Cincinnati, he then moved to Shawnee State University as a professor in the Computer Engineering department and also served as Director of the Center for Advanced Research and Development. He joined YEI Technology as the Director of Research and Development in 2007. Paul oversees all development, and is the definition of a DaVinci-style renaissance master of anything and everything that needs to be designed or built.
Steve Landers- Steve has a BS in Computer Science and Engineering, and has completed the coursework for his MS in Computer Science with an AI specialization. Steve is responsible for firmware and algorithm development and implementation. He has worked on the development of YEI 3-Space Sensors for over 3 years, and is the author of multiple patents in the area of sensor fusion and filter technology. Steve always wears shorts, no matter how cold it is.
Derek Bradley- Derek has a BS in Video Game and Simulation engineering under the Computer Engineering department at Shawnee State University. Derek is the lead for the microcontroller code, and has worked on YEI 3-Space Sensors for 4 years. Derek walks really slow and eats even slower. He codes really fast, and thinks even faster. Go figure.
Dan Morrison - Dan has a BS in Digital Simulation and Gaming Engineering, and has worked at YEI Technology for over 2 years. Dan focuses on game integration and APIs. He created the motion capture and VR demos for UDK as featured in the Kickstarter project, as well as those featured on YouTube and other media links. Dan plays a lot of video games, does amazing photography, and often sports a bangin’ mohawk.
Chris George - Chris has a BS from Shawnee State University in Game Simulation and Engineering, as well as a degree in Mathematics and Natural Science with a concentration in Physics. Chris has been working on YEI 3-Space projects for over 2 years, and specializes in demos, games, and visualizations. Outside of the office he’ll beat you on the soccer field.
David Rieksts - David is our resident mathematician. He has a BS in Math with minors in Computer Science and Physics from Kutztown University, and a MS in Math from Ohio University. David supports algorithm development and sensor optimization. He is a member of the Polar Bear Club in Barrow, Alaska.
Tricia Landers - Tricia has a BS in computer science from the University of Notre Dame, with a double major in Japanese. She started at YEI Technology just over a month ago and is training to do support for the 3-Space Sensors. Tricia always wears a hoodie, no matter how hot it is.
Jordan Chaney - Jordan is our Manufacturing Engineer, and has a BS in Plastics Engineering. She oversees the entire manufacturing and QA process. She is also an amazing musician and has recently self-produced an album. If you’re lucky, you can catch her at open-mic events in the area.
Richard Janita - Richard is part of our production team, and is completing a degree in Digital Simulation and Gaming. He sometimes uses the laser cutter to engrave questionable pictures on things he shouldn’t. True story.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
We’ve worked on projects like this for 14 years. We know that setbacks happen. Parts might be backordered, bugs show up in testing, and stuff just doesn’t always work right the first time around.
To help combat this, we’ve put together a comprehensive production plan that clearly identifies milestones, tasks, and responsibilities and allows for ample time for research, testing and refinement.
All of the above! The PrioVR system is essentially a full-body inertial motion-capture suit capable of accurately sensing the pose of all parts of the user’s body in real-time.
Motion capture: The PrioVR system’s performance is comparable to current professional-grade inertial motion-capture systems that cost $60,000 to $80,000 dollars. The PrioVR is creating technology that outperforms these professional systems in many ways, but is priced starting in the sub $400 range for a complete suit of 17 sensors.
Virtual reality: Within a virtual environment or an immersive simulation, it is important to preserve the illusion of being within that alternate environment. Part of what often breaks this illusion is the feeling of dis-embodiment caused by not seeing yourself within that environment, or by a lack of a 1:1 correspondence between your real-world body and your in-game avatar’s body. When you look down at your body, hands, and feet, you should see them and they should move as you move. The PrioVR solves this problem by placing you within the body of your avatar in a natural-feeling way that preserves the illusion of immersion.
Full-body motion gaming: With just the PrioVR suit, the possibilities of full-body motion gaming, with or without virtual reality, are immense. Imagine the possibilities of fighting with your actual hands, or naturally dancing, or kicking a ball across a sports-field. PrioVR enables this type of experience without any of the problems associated with competing technologies such as optical and magnetic trackers.
No, the Sixense STEM product and the PrioVR system are quite different in both capabilities and underlying technology.
With respect to capabilities, there are several key differences between the STEM and PrioVR systems, chief among them being that a standard STEM system, with a single base station, uses only, at most, 5 magnetic sensors situated, in the general sense, on the hands, feet and head, whereas the PrioVR system uses 17 (or more if expanded) inertial motion sensors situated on the hands, feet, head, as well as additional parts of the body. What this means is that the STEM system has to ‘guess’ the pose that you are making by figuring out the position of the sensors and how they’re oriented on the hands and feet and posing the arms and legs accordingly using a calculated pose computed using inverse-kinematics. Thus, a standard STEM configuration must rely upon an IK computed “best guess” pose rather than the player’s actual pose, which can lead to inaccuracies and a lack of 1:1 movement between you and your in-game avatar. As you can imagine, there are several ways you can orient your arms and legs while leaving your hands and feet unchanged, which automatically cuts out a large number of possible interactions. The PrioVR system, on the other hand, uses highly-accurate inertial sensors distributed throughout key points of the body to provide the actual orientations of the segments in question. Because of this, the data given by the PrioVR reflects the actual pose of the player and the actual motions of the player at any given time. A standard single base station STEM system does not and cannot give this level of 1:1 body tracking given its current limited sensor setup. In a recent announcement, Sixense announced that the STEM will support up to three simultaneous base stations with a total of up to 15 trackers, but this configuration requires significant additional cost, still only supports an 8’ capture radius, only allows a single player with full body tracking, and still has fewer trackers that a standard PrioVR Pro system.
Both systems perform their tracking in very different ways as well, with the STEM system relies upon a magnetic field generated by a base station, which severely limits the total available area in which one can freely move to within an 8 foot diameter region directly around the base-station. PriorVR calculates its orientations using the fused output of a combination of inertial sensors which frees the system from any reliance on a low-range magnetic base station. A single standard STEM setup also cannot support multiple players in close proximity. The recent Sixense announcement that the STEM will support up to three simultaneous base stations with a total of up to 15 trackers helps with this, but this configuration requires significant additional cost, requires the trackers to be within an 8’ capture radius of their respective base station, and requires that all players share the 15 sensor nodes, which makes multiple players with full body tracking impossible. The PrioVR system, on the other hand, has no such restrictions on base-station proximity and no restrictions on multiple users.
No, the Microsoft Kinect is a computer vision based system that uses cameras and a complex statistical model-based machine-learning algorithm to compute a best-guess inference of the body pose of the user. PrioVR is based upon highly accurate inertial sensors that directly measure the body pose of the user without the need for cameras, optics, or any other external sensors. This means that the PrioVR system can be used to directly capture, even subtle movements, anywhere at anytime. Because it uses direct measurements rather than an algorithmic guess to determine body pose, it will never get confused, never be affected by nearby people, children, or pets, and will never lose pose synchronization.
Additionally, optical systems such as the Microsoft Kinect that are based upon complex image processing exhibit unavoidably high end-to-end latencies, which make them much less responsive and much less natural feeling. For casual non-immersive games, this latency isn't as critical for an enjoyable experience, but for fully immersive virtual-reality games low-latency becomes critical for maintaining a natural feeling one-to-one interaction with the world. The PrioVR system is projected to have latencies that offer an 8x or better performance improvement over the Kinect.
An additional trait of optical systems like the Kinect is that they, by their nature, can only support a very limited capture space. The PrioVR, however, is portable and can support a virtually unlimited capture space since there is no requirement for an unoccluded line-of-sight optical capture space.
The Virtuix Omni is an omni-directional treadmill that allows the user to walk to move in game without actually moving anywhere in the real world. Both this and PrioVR can be used to do in-game positioning, but only the PrioVR offers full 1:1 in-game character movements based on your body movements. Imagine coming across a flower in-game and being able to reach down and pick it up, or a hyper-realistic fighting game where you dodge punches and kicks by literally ducking or jumping out of the way. PrioVR can be used in conjunction with VR tools like the Omni to offer both boundless movement and immersive, accurate in-game body articulation.
No, the PrioVR system can be used with any head-mounted display technology and can even be used by itself for high-quality motion capture or anywhere where that accurately tracking body position is desired. VR is awesome, so we like that application, but the system is HMD agnostic and end-use agnostic.
Absolutely. Since the PrioVR system is based upon sensors that directly sense the movements of the user, there is no chance for the system to become confused by multiple users within the same space. Additionally, since the PrioVR system will use spread-spectrum wireless communication between the wearable wireless hub and the communication base-station, many PrioVR systems can be simultaneously used in the same area without concern.
Each PrioVR sensor unit will contain a 3-axis gyroscope, a 3-axis accelerometer, a 3-axis magnetometer, and a high-performance microcontroller that performs the complex task of fusing the raw sensor outputs into a highly accurate orientation estimate.
Absolutely. While the kickstarter rewards refer to two different package configurations, the PrioVR Lite and the PrioVR Pro, The PrioVR system is designed to support sensors in multiple configurations and varying quantities. So, if all you need is two sensors to extract the elbow angle of the arm, or whether you want to extract the entire body pose, including multiple sensors along the spine, we've got you covered.
No. Since the PrioVR system is customizable and reconfigurable, it could be used on any skeletal model imaginable. Want to put your dog into a VR world full of cats and squirrels? No problem, PrioVR can work on dogs. Want to put PrioVR on your favorite Tennessee walking horse and mocap some Tenneesee walking? No problem, PrioVR can work on horses. Want to put PrioVR on your favorite zombie buddy? No problem, zombies are people too and love the attention.
Currently, the PrioVR system supports hand/palm orientation tracking via a sensor placed on the back of the hand. Additionally, the PrioVR system will support hand actions and other input needs via the use of “input units” which will have accessible buttons and a pin-header interface that allows the connection of additional external inputs such as trigger switches and tactile input buttons. The input units may be palm or wrist mounted to allow for a flexible, intuitive, interaction mechanism within the PrioVR system. We do have plans to develop PrioVR compatible fully-articulated hand/glove units at a later date.
The PrioVR developer kit is designed to make it easy to use PrioVR, no matter where your project lives. Our plan is, right from the start, to provide drop in support along with example applications for the major game engines such as UDK, Unity, and CryEngine. We will also provide a flexible and full-featured API with the goal of making it ridiculously easy to integrate PrioVR with any project or platform.
How do you keep from running into walls in your house while using the PrioVR with a head-mounted display?
There are a couple of different ways to overcome some of the problems associated with having a large virtual world in a small space. For starters, we feel that the PrioVR system, when combined with an omni-directional treadmill, would allow players the ability to walk, run and jump without actually moving out of the enclosure itself. Furthermore, our system will also support ‘input nodes’, which are small modules consisting of accessible buttons along with connections for additional external inputs, such as trigger switches or tactile input buttons. It is via the use of these inputs (such as a simple button press), that any conceivable action can be driven by the player, such as movement, interaction or even ladder climbing.
In addition, PrioVR could be used as a standalone device for games where accurate, real-time, low-latency body tracking would be needed, and in these cases vision would not be an issue any more than it would be during an exercise routine.
The sensors themselves are true 9DOF (nine degrees of freedom) motion sensors and therefore exhibit no orientation drift over time as do systems that are based upon only gyros. Thus, the sensors can always report an accurate orientation no matter the duration of use. The system maintains drift-free position within the virtual world just like you maintain your position within the real world, by virtual body parts coming in contact with virtual surfaces within the virtual world and the friction of those points of contact. Our current system is based upon this virtual pedestrian tracking technique and works well and feels natural within the virtual world.
Donning the PrioVR suit and getting up and running takes only minutes. There are no complicated calibration or setup procedures. Simply put on the suit, stand still while the suit is zeroed, and you're ready to go.
The effective range of the wireless system is expected to be an impressing 30-40 meters (100-130 feet). Additionally, multiple communication base stations can be used to achieve a virtually unlimited capture space.
While the final system hasn’t been completed, the battery life is expected to be between 8 and 10 hours. The system will support external battery-life extenders like those used for cell-phones, as well as connection for an external power-source that will allow continuous tethered use while the system is charging.
The latency, end-to-end from sensor-read to application, is expected to be between 5ms and 10ms.
The wearable wireless hub unit will have support for 5 or 6 sensor strands that can each support up to 7 sensor units. This means that a single hub unit will be able to support between 35 and 42 sensor units. Considering that most professional inertial mocap systems use 17 sensors, it is unlikely that this capability will ever prove to be a limiting factor.
We’re planning on having drop-in-support with open-source example code for major game engines such as Unity3D, UDK, and CryENGINE as well as several complete working games, complete with source code. We also going to provide a full-featured API that will make it easy to integrate PrioVR with any project or platform. We’re planning out-of-the-box support for a refactored version of our Mocap Studio application which allows recording and exporting of motion-capture sequences for use in animation production, human factors / kinematics studies, and game development & production. We’re planning driver support and compatibility for PC, Mac, and Linux. Our goal is to make it ridiculously easy to use the PrioVR system for any application or project on a variety of platforms.