Issue: Volume: 23 Issue: 11 (November 2000)

3rdTech Introduces Wide-Area Tracker

Tracking devices currently on the market use a variety of base technologies, including magneto-optical, sonic, and inertial. The HiBall relies purely on optical sensing, with the advantage, according to the company, of the aforementioned very fast update rate, which greatly reduces latency (the major cause of VR sickness) and allows for more accurate tracking than is currently available from other commercial products. The HiBall has a super-accurate resolution of 0.2mm with regard to position and 0.03 degrees for orientation. Optical sensing also has the advantage over trackers based on magnetic fields and ultrasound technology of being unaffected by metal, other magnetic fields, or noise. Optical tracking devices can, however, be affected by line-of-sight obstructions. The HiBall is less subject to this problem than other optical-based products, according to the company, because its sensor contains six lenses and photodiodes, with 26 different views, that are arranged for maximum exposure to the LED emitting strips in the ceiling. In fact, says Greg F. Welch, research assistant professor with the department of computer science at the University of North Carolina and author of the HiBall software algorithms, "We've been using the HiBall daily for two or three years, and nobody has ever complained [about line-of-sight obstructions]."

The HiBall's developers are targeting the product for markets including virtual and augmented reality, simulation and training, film and video production, industrial tracking, and location-based entertainment. The HiBall-3000 is scheduled for availability this fall. A complete system starts at approximately $25,000. (3rdTech; Chapel Hill, NC; 919-929-1903; -JD