In September, we heard about a new startup called YEI Technology that was working on a full-body tracking suit for the Oculus Rift. The company created a Kickstarter, but the project never reached its funding goal. Despite its initial failure to secure crowdfuning, YEI Technology hasn't given up on the PrioVR just yet. It's relaunching again on Valentine's Day. I spotted the PrioVR working up a crowd at CES 2014 and decided to test this sucker out.
The first thing you'll notice is that it's still a crude prototype. It's far from a refined product, but that's fine, since it was only scraped together in the last three months. While a full suit of sensors for your upper body and legs was available, I only got to try out the upper body suit with a dev kit Oculus Rift.
PrioVR is made up of several parts. It has a controller box that needs to be strapped to your chest, and then sensors that need to wrap around your arms and slip through your fingers. Putting it on and calibrating it took nearly three minutes. The same applies for taking it off. See for yourself:
It's not exactly the kind of controller you can easily jump into and start playing with if it were a consumer-ready product. This is one of VR's least appealing aspects: setup and calibration.
So, how does it work? Surprisingly well. For a motion tracking system that doesn't use any camera systems, PrioVR isn't half bad. With two hacked Wii Nunchaku controllers attached to the PriorVR's sensors and the Oculus Rift strapped over my head, I set out to kill zombies in a game demo. To look around, you turn your head and to control your left and right arms, you simply move them. In my right hand was a gun and nothing in my left hand. Being able to control both my arms in 1:1 motion is something virtual reality needs. It adds a sense realism to the VR experience.
Using an Xbox 360 controller to play games with the Rift is good and running on the Virtuix Omni pushes VR's immersion factor, but PrioVR takes it to another level. Frankly, I think PrioVR is a lot more immersive than the Omni. I just don't think gamers are interested in running on what is essentially a treadmill to simulate running in a game. But simulating your arms in a VR world for something like a first-person shooter game? Hell yes. PrioVR translates arm movements pretty well. There are some niggling bugs and the hacked together controls aren't perfect, but I can already see PrioVR's potential.
YEI Technology's hoping a Kickstarter do over will be more successful next month. The company is shooting to sell the upper body tracking system (Lite) for around $200-$300 and the full body tracking system for around $400. The first units should be delivered by June if PrioVR is funded this time around. Someone throw these guys some funding, already!
Posted on location at CES 2014. All photos taken by Raymond Wong for DVICE.