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SXSW 2017: Hauoli Tracks VR Movements With Sound
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DwayneD   |  @   |  
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Hauoli VR gestures through subsonic sound

SXSW 2017 – Virtual Reality is everywhere. Earlier today we met Hauoli, a VR startup that seeks to solve the VR gesture recognition problem with audio.

#SXSW2017 – Right now, gestures are hard. Not so much in the real world, but certainly in virtual spaces. Ever since the heady days of Quake III arena, users who wanted to do some digital damage with their avatar’s fingers had to map a key that did little more than flip you off.

That’s a lie. All it could do was flip others off.

VR is seeking to change that. Top tier devices like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have companion devices that allow users to reload weapons, draw back and release arrows from bows, and do myriad other actions with their virtual fingers that could never before be done in video games and other virtual scenarios. These devices have some drawbacks though.

First, they’re often expensive. The Oculus Touch devices that pair up with the Oculus Rift R headset cost $200. The HTC Vive comes with the gesture hardware, but it costs just about $200 more than the Oculus Rift – without gesture hardware. Go figure.

Second, these devices are fun for certain tasks like the aforementioned drawing back a virtual bow, but they’re a far cry from the sort of articulation we can achieve in the real world. How is a virtual avatar supposed hack into a virtual console in game?

Enter Hauoli. They company claims that they have created motion tracking that works for VR and they have built that on top of their vast experience in motion tracking devices built for other applications like conventional video games, drones, wearables, and even cars.

Cars? Helpful motion tracking systems on modern vehicles include features like blindspot monitoring, parking sensors, and in the case of Tesla’s Autopilot and autonomous efforts, vehicle tracking. All of these systems use SONAR or sound-wave based technologies and Hauoli believes they can make that work for VR.

Hauoli’s co-founder, Lili Qui is a professor at UT Austin. The focus of her research is wireless networking and mobile computing. Through this research, Professor Qui has discovered a technique she refers to as acoustic-based tracking, which it allows for millimeter based tracking for hands and other dextrous implements – without extra hardware. So while MS’s Kinect, Nintendo’s Wii, the HTC Vive, and the Oculus Rift all need hardware and infrastructure to allow humans to interact with the virtual worlds they project, Hauoli uses it with sound. You can’t hear the audio that the device uses to track, but the various computers running your headset and other input devices can. While Hauoli is still in the very early stages, there are promising applications of this sort of sound in simplifying VR setups in the future, where we all want wireless.

You can check out Hauoli’s web page here.

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Topics: News, SXSW, Technology
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