Can HTC Vive and Microsoft HoloLens users ever truly share a virtual experience together? Are they doomed to stagger through their own lonely artificial reality worlds? Well, Google intern Drew Gottlieb has an answer. Gottlieb’s software allows Microsoft HoloLens users to peek into the virtual reality worlds of the HTC Vive.
Gottlieb was inspired by a recent experience with a friend. He remarked, “A friend was recently painting a 3D submarine in Tilt Brush. 'Look at this periscope!' she said. I told her to look closer at it, and I leaned into my computer monitor to get a glimpse of what she made. We can do better than this. Why do I have to get up off the couch to see what my friend is creating? Why can’t I just lean back and see the art floating in the middle of the room?"
What is the difference between the Microsoft HoloLens and the HTC Vive? At their most basic levels, the Microsoft HoloLens is a mixed reality (MR) device, while the HTC Vive is a virtual reality (VR) headset. A VR headset utilizes various software and sensors to fill the user’s vision with a new reality. As the user moves their view of the virtual world adjusts accordingly.
Augmented reality (AR) essentially puts an overlay over the real world. There is no effort to fool the eye-- the user is aware that the digital overlay is fake. Mixed reality combines the two concepts. Users can walk towards, away, or around various objects. It is not until the user reaches out to touch the image or removes their MR device that they discover whether the object was real.
Gottlieb used Unity in order to develop a software to connect the HoloLens to the VR session. His creation utilizes real and virtual controllers with an “alignment mode” in order to make sure two worlds spatially line-up. There is currently no limit to how many HoloLens users can join the session. Gottlieb developed the software so that researchers could study the virtual environment the Vive user sees, without having to awkwardly hover close to a PC monitor.
Gottlieb has kindly made his software open source. You can download it for yourself here.