Superconference Interview: Alan Yates

In 2015, virtual reality was the future, which means we should all have it right now. One of the most technologically impressive VR sets is the HTC Vive, an amazing piece of kit that’s jam-packed with sensors and has some really cool tech going on inside it.

One of the developers of the HTC Vive and the ever-important ‘Lighthouse’ position sensors is [Alan Yates]. He’s of Valve and gave a talk at last year’s Superconference on Why the Lighthouse Can’t Work. Being able to determine the absolute position of the Valve’s headset is hard, but absolutely necessary for VR. Anything else would be an incomplete VR experience at best, and give you nausea at worst.

We sat down with [Alan] after his talk last year, and now that interview is up. You can check that out below.

For the last few years, [Alan] has been working on VR at Valve. Virtual reality has a very specific set of problems that must be solved before the technology works, and the most important of these problems is turning a computer-generated world into something your brain thinks is real. This means precise¬†position sensing which the Vive is solving with the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is a set of boxes that emit infrared to be picked up by the headset. It’s an elegant solution, but one that requires pushing the boundaries of current tech.

Dissecting the Lighthouse means a deep dive into the world of opamps and encoders — stuff we all enjoy here at Hackaday. [Alan]’s talk was one of the best at last year’s Superconference, and this year’s tickets are still available. If this is the kind of stuff that tickles an engineering nerve, make a plan to attend the Superconference in Pasadena, California on November 11th and 12th.

5 thoughts on “Superconference Interview: Alan Yates

  1. There is one company which created a working light-field AR prototype, meaning it manages to simulate depth-of-field. Intel meanwhile created a chip which tracks and solves inverse kinematics for hands, along with indoors positioning.

    IMO, VR is far ahead of schedule. Lots of smart and passionate people are working on a thing they have wanted for themselves since they were kids. It seems that they are trying to make it absolutely perfect, so a lot of the hype has simmered out in favor of real engineering. A huge issue seems to be the bandwidth requirements that 4k displays will require.

    1. Funny thing about “killer apps”. Hard to find, but once found translate into lots of $$$, so there’s a lot of seeking going on. So I kind of doubt you’re going to hear anything that hasn’t already been suggested.

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