TrackIR Interview

Ok, what is TrackIR?

TrackIR is a device which allows users to “put their head in the game” by tracking head movement in PC games. It consists of an infrared camera mounted on your monitor, and either a metal TrackClip attached to the brim of a hat, or a TrackClip PRO which attaches to a headset. By default the tracking is scaled, meaning if you move your head just a small amount, the in-game view will change to a larger degree. The best way to understand TrackIR is to try it out. That’s one of the reasons why we support LANS, tradeshows, leagues and events as well as we do.

Why was TrackIR developed?

TrackIR started out as an assistive technology product which allowed people with limited or no movement in their arms and hands, to be able to control the cursor with head movement. A user mentioned that he enjoyed playing an old version of Microsoft Flight Sim, and shortly thereafter, we separated product lines into SmartNav, the headmouse, and TrackIR, the PC Gaming device.

What other applications does TrackIR have outside of gaming, or was it primarily developed for the purpose of being used in games?

Since we’ve created the TrackIR as a PC Gaming product, we’ve seen a lot of very interesting applications in motion tracking. One of the neatest I’ve seen is a guy in Finland who created an air guitar simulation using a TrackIR and some reflective material. Click Here . That one still stands out as awesome.

How many games can use TrackIR right now?

Not including games currently in development, there are over 90 TrackIR enhanced games. A TrackIR enhanced game means the developer included special code in the game itself to fully support TrackIR.

How many of those are sims?

In some cases sim vs. game is a bit of a blurry line, but I think it’s fair to call about 30-40 of the TrackIR enhanced titles “sims.”

Do you plan on working close with any game developers to try and implement this technology into future games?

Always. There have been a few private meetings between NaturalPoint and major game studios about ways to maximize the TrackIR experience and bring it to new customers, but I’d lose my job if I gave you too many details about that! ;)

Is TrackIR one of a kind or are there other things out there like it?

TrackIR is unique in many ways. For one, the camera we use exceeds the specs and capabilities of a common webcam, and with NaturalPoint support and development as an ongoing feature, you can always expect new and exciting developments with TrackIR. Additionally, since we work directly with developers we tend to have the ability to make suggestions on ways to best utilize features. That means TrackIR users can get the best experience possible. For high end headtracking for PC games, there’s nothing comparable to TrackIR.

I know how handy this thing can be in a flight sim, but do you think it meshes well with First Person Shooters?

Tactically it’s actually quite valuable. Armed Assault is a TrackIR enhanced game that allows players to communicate non-verbally because head movement by the gamer is carried out by the in-game character. Another benefit that’s apparent is that you can keep your weapon pointed in one direction, while looking around you to make sure you’re not being flanked. In general, it significantly increases your situational awareness.

Do you plan on interfacing or utilizing this technology with any kind of Visor display?

Probably not at this point. We’ve been really happy with what TrackIR has turned into, and thanks to our very active and supportive TrackIR community, we’ve been told that overwhelmingly people who love the device want even more precision and even higher resolution. With countless hours and dollars invested in optical motion tracking, we’re always looking for ways to improve the experience.

Where do you think you could improve this product? What kind of improvements, or products can we expect to see in the future?

I think in terms of customization through software. Right now there are a lot of different settings you can customize, each axis in fact, but the way it’s currently setup can be overwhelming for people who want to make small adjustments. I think if we made it easier to plug and play, that would benefit a majority of new customers.

What other products does NaturalPoint offer that are like TrackIR?

We still make an assistive technology device called SmartNav (the latest SmartNav can actually be used like a TrackIR in TrackIR enhanced games in addition to running the cursor on your computer if used with a TrackClip or TrackClip PRO). Our other major product is OptiTrack. It’s basically an incredibly low-price, high quality motion capture studio. Most people spend $50,000or more on mocap, but we’ve lowered the price all the way down to $5,000. Hobbyists, independent game developers, and major game and entertainment developers have purchased our products.

LGR Nexus sends big 'Thank You' to TrackIR for granting us this interview.

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