Nimble VR (San Francisco, CA) is developing a depth sensing camera that captures the user’s hand and finger positions and motions such that they can be input to a virtual reality headset. Called, Nimble Sense, the system enables applications that allow the user to control and manipulate virtual objects and to do so without the need for controllers or gloves. The system is about the size of a pack of gum and is optimized for mounting on an Oculus Rift DK1 or DK2. The system can also be mounted above a monitor or sit on the user’s desk. Due to this versatility in mounting position, the system can also be used to track the user’s arms, legs and even objects on the desk.
The Nimble Sense is based on time-of-flight technology. The hardware is composed of a photonic mixer device from pmdtechnologies gmbh (Siegen, Germany) and an eye-safe laser. Together, these capture a detailed 3D point cloud and an infrared image across a 110 degree field of view and do so every 20 milliseconds. The 3D point cloud of the real world is rendered at the correct scale and position in virtual reality, regardless of the user’s inter-pupillary distance.
This 3D point cloud is interpreted by the company’s skeletal hand tracking software to track the location, identity and joint angles of each finger. The skeletal hand tracking technology is claimed to be accurate and have low-latency.
All of the information described above is exposed through an Application Program Interface available to developers. This enables a way for the point cloud to be shared and visualized by other users for, as an example, multiplayer/social virtual reality experiences.
The company reports that it is ready to get Nimble Sense into the hands of developers. To that end, the company is offering early access to the camera system, software development kit and code examples. In addition, the company is also releasing several virtual reality application demos as open source to kick-start development.
The company is currently in a fund raising mode with what appears to be a highly successful project offered on Kickstarter (http://tinyurl.com/mzzdmjm. As of November 20th, $104,758 has been pledged towards a $62,500 goal with 24 days still to go.
In an uncommon effort to embrace and address reality, the company stated that “We realize that Nimble VR is a small team and that manufacturing hardware is a difficult process. We only felt confident about launching the Kickstarter after working with three experienced camera module makers in the United States and Asia to obtain quotes for manufacturing and the cost of goods sold. Two of the module makers were able to quickly build prototypes of time-of-flight cameras that met our spec”. – Arthur Berman