Too Broke For VR?  Try Head Tracking (It’s Cheap & Awesome)

We can’t all afford Virtual Reality but did you know that Head Tracking is the next best thing to VR?

Virtual Reality is like Gaming 2.0.  It fully immerses players into the game world.  It is like the jump from 2D to 3D.  It’s a game changer.

I wrote about my first experience with VR.  It blew my mind.

It’s taken me some time to accept that I wasn’t born into money (darn you, mum and dad, for not being more like Kim and Kany-actually, no…), but I’d managed to forgive the universe and move on with a VR-less existence.

I thought that was the end of it; I thought I’d be stuck with my 20-something-inch 1080p monitor for the foreseeable future and that’s it.  Little did I know that Head Tracking is a viable option for gamers on a budget looking to enhance their gaming experience.

After gushing over how awesome VR must be in Elite: Dangerous on Twitter, a follower @ThatTallGuyJon  hit me up with DM about a few ways to get a better gaming experience on a budget, including a video on Head Tracking.  I can’t thank him enough.

This is the video that both introduced me to Head Tracking and subsequently sold me on it:

You can skip to 2:29 for the cool bit.  Seeing the screen move with me just, well, blew my mind.  Essentially, Head Tracking, well, tracks your head movement, and uses that to control the game.  It does this by having a camera detect infrared lights, which then in-turn determines the position of your head and your movement.

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The most common use is to use it to look around, a control usually bound to the mouse or the right analog stick on a gamepad.  While this sounds like a small thing, the gain in immersion is substantial.

But, is Head Tracking really affordable?” I asked.  I had to find out.

It turns out that, yes, it is affordable.  Very affordable.

For the creatively minded, you can put together your own Head Tracking unit for about $20, plus your webcam.

The alternative is to buy a premade unit.  This was my preferred option because a/ it will actually work (my poorly soldered effort undoubtedly would not) and b/ it’s only marginally more expensive than doing it myself.

I went with the TrackHat Clip, a clip that secures to my headphones much in the fashion of a microphone.  The package I went for was £30, which included the TrackHat Clip and a modified PS3 Camera.

There are other options, which are covered in this article, but I am happy with my TrackHat Clip and would recommend it purely from my experience.

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In Elite: Dangerous, while soaring through a sea of asteroids hot on the heels of a wanted criminal, I can physically look around for any potential collisions and also track my target as he tries to outmaneuver me.

In Grand Theft Auto V, while roaring through the streets of Los Santos in first-person, the police hot on my heels, I can take full stock of my surroundings.  I can check left and right before crossing a busy intersection, I can search for hidden alleyways to make my escape, or I can just take in the beautiful ocean views while I ignore the red and blues in my rear view mirror.

It feels natural.  It feels amazing.

Head Tracking is customized to you; if you want to turn your head slightly to the left and have the screen replicate it by a factor of 10, you can.  If you want the movement to be slow but rapidly increase depending on how far you turn your head, you can.  This technology and software can be tailored to your precise requirements.

If you, like me, are financially-challenged but want a small piece of the immersion-pie offered by VR, please do try Head Tracking.  It, like VR, is a game changer.