How Virtual Reality Tracking Works

How Does VR Tracking Work?

Virtual reality is rapidly gaining ground in all sectors of the economy. Recently, there has been an increase in new devices as well as cameras which are complimenting this technology.

However, only a few people know how virtual reality works because the technology is relatively new. A VR headset makes you feel as if you are sitting comfortably in a spaceship somewhere in the galaxy when you are actually sitting in the middle of your living room.  This is cool, right?  But what will be more interesting is when you know how it works!

Before we dive in…

It is best to, first of all, understand the purpose of the development of a VR headset which is to give the user an opportunity of experiencing total immersion. This is why the VR experience is so real that we totally forget about the computer, the headset, and the complete world so that we can act according to the newly created world. So the question is how do we get to that world?

Basically, a good virtual experience comes with a headset. Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR are all head-mounted displays (HMDs).  This means that, even when there is no audio or head tracking, simply holding a Google cardboard to the display of your smartphone right in front of your face can give you a half-immersion in a virtual world.

The VR simulation process begins with wearing the headset. The process can be started in two ways: either the users switch on the application, or someone controls the application on a console or a PC, either way, it gives virtually the same experience. After this, the headset can be plugged in to switch over to the headset for the user’s immersion in the experience.

Once the headset has been positioned on the user’s head to fill their entire peripheral vision, the motion controls can be used to control the user’s experience or the movement and position of their own body for a good immersion in and around the scene. As the user navigates around, the scene will be controlled by the motion controls, and as long as the headset is still on, the user will keep interacting with the scene.

Technologists are coming up with various headsets to suit the user’s needs and to offer an improved immersion. Oculus Rift is one of the first headsets that was built for home use, followed by the Samsung Gear which can turn the screen of any smartphone into a VR experience. As a result of this, there is an increased level of competition as more products are being developed.


Head Tracking

Head tracking simply implies that when you put on a VR headset, the image before you shifts as you move your head, either looking up, sideways or any angle at all.  When a headset has Six Degrees of Freedom ( 6DoF ) it angles your head in terms of X, Y, Z to calculate the backward and forward movement of your head, shoulder to shoulder or side to side. The head tracking system comes with some internal features such as accelerometer, gyroscope and a magnetometer.


  • The headset is a device which when mounted, blocks out the rest of the world to offer the user a 3-D world to build a simulation for the user. The headset blocks out the outside world and gives the user a whole new world. The screen is often focused to fill the entire peripheral vision of the user. Once the user wears the headset, they feel like they are in the scene and they are interacting with the created world.


  • To be effective, the system requires low latency-50 milliseconds or lesser this is important to avoid lag when turning our head as well as when there is a change in our environment.


Outside In-Tracking System

For someone who has made use of either the PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, you would have experienced the outside-in tracking system. This is the point where the accessories and the headset are tracked by another device that is an external device.

For Vive, Lighthouse sensor is positioned around the room. For Oculus Rift, the positional tracker that is positioned in a way whereby it points directly at the headset, probably near the display on your computer. Here, the accessories and the headset tracked by an external device. In the case of the Vive, it’s the Lighthouse sensors that are placed around the room. In each of the above cases, the camera in the room determines the headset’s position to its environment.


  • The Outside-in system is the best when it comes to accuracy. Depending on your choice, more trackers can be added around the room to increase accuracy.
  • With the aid of latency, there is a lower chance of feeling nausea.


  • Occlusion is one of the problems that come with Outside-in. Occlusion generally means, ‘stuff getting in your way.’ For instance, when you suddenly disappear behind a table or a high wall and out of the place where the camera can easily spot you, you will not be easily tracked.
  • Another big issue is the camera limitation. Once you step out of the field of view, the immersion dies. This can be a great problem when you do not have enough space for your VR setup.


Inside-Out Tracking System

Here, the camera is positioned on the device such as the Lenovo Mirage Solo, which is being tracked and it aims towards determining the positional changes in relation to the external environment. The sensor in the headset re-coordinates itself as the headset moves. This gives you a feeling of movement in the virtual environment. The inside-out tracking system can be done either with markers or without markers in the environment.


  • We all know how freedom tastes like when we experience it. That is the case with this system. You have the freedom to as many play space as you want and with this, the virtually becomes even better!
  • Inside-out tracking will become quite a necessity for augmented and mixed reality as there is a higher demand for an increased mobility.


  • The system is further behind in accuracy and latency.
  • The headset has to do the computational work by itself.


Motion Tracking System

One big advantage which the premium headset has over other mobile VR headsets is the head tracking system. However, VR players are coming up with the motion tracking system. For some time, we have seen the Leap Motion Accessory in action-this tracks hand movements with infrared sensors which are fixed to the front of the Oculus kits.  Some experiments have also been carried out on the Kinect 2 cameras to track our bodies. However, Oculus, Valve, and Sony are coming up with an exciting development; Oculus Touch has been designed to make users feel like they are using their hands in the VR.  It is a set of controllers which come with matrix sensors.


  • High level of accuracy and precision
  • User-friendly and quick configuration.
  • Offers a first-class immersion experience


  • Limited motion capture

In conclusion, Virtual Reality is the next big thing that everyone must strive to experience and also learn how it works. A VR headset gives the user an amazing experience by making them feel as if they are sitting comfortably in a spaceship somewhere in the galaxy the user is actually sitting in the comfort of their living room.