Cheap Head tracking for Gamers

June 2004

A topic that continues to come up in newsgroup boards and emails between VR enthusiasts is head tracking. What should people do for head tracking? There are some expensive solutions out there, but why spend money if you don’t have to? With the current state of head tracking hardware and software, there is a far cheaper solution.

If you happen to purchase a head-tracking unit like the Intertraxx from InterSense, or a VirtuaTrack from, or any other 3DOF tracker for that matter, you will find they have one thing in common, mouse emulation. They also have their own software and drivers but most of them also have a mouse emulation program also. Why do these trackers have this mouse emulation? Because most of the applications that the typical gamer wants to use the head tracker with, wont have drivers. This is not entirely the fault of any head tracker product manufacturer. There are just too many configurations and applications out there in the gaming market to cover them all. Mouse emulation is one way to cover everyone’s application in some form.

The chances of a typical gamer being forced to use the mouse emulation feature of a head-tracker are extremely high. There is about a 90% chance that you will have to use this feature for the lone reason mentioned in the previous paragraph. If mouse emulation is what a user will typically use then why pay so much for a head-tracker that is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. Head-trackers do not have to cost so much. The mere concept behind desktop head tracking is extremely simple and cheap.

Except for flight simulator gamers, most users don’t even need 3DOF. Most first person shooters games only need a 2DOF tracker. 3DOF tracking provides yaw (left/right), pitch (up/down), and roll (touch your shoulder with your ear). The roll measurement can be quite confusing in most games and for the most part is unneeded. A 2DOF tracker will provide the basic yaw and pitch measurements. These are the very bare minimum measurement needs for a desktop head tracker.

The fact is that a gamers head-tracker doesn’t need to be anymore sophisticated then a mouse. A mouse will provide any game with up/down and left/right movements that can be associated with view. This will, in itself, provide the correct level of head tracking for an immersive experience. There is one product on the market now that is a perfect solution for this mouse head tracking. It’s the Gyromouse from Gyration.

The Gyromouse from Gyration includes a MG100 gyroscope that will measure yaw and pitch while floating in free space. This means in layman terms that it is a mouse that doesn’t need a desktop to sense movement. It senses movement based on the vibrations it measures when you move your hand. This device is perfect for a head tracker. It provides a sourceless wireless head tracking solution.

Many people will say “Its just a mouse strapped to your head”. They are right. But the fact is, that this is the best solution for head tracking for gamers out there. The technology available at the consumer price level is no better then a mouse. By merely modifying and repackaging this device for VR use, you will have the best head tracker available at the lowest price. You can purchase the older Gyromouse Pro or Presenter on Ebay for approximately thirty dollars. The newer version, which is the version of choice because it has a USB connection, can be found for around fifty dollars on Ebay.

The Gyration Ultra Cordless Optical mouse is the best version of the Gyration Gyromouse product for the job. It has a USB connection at its receiver and has a smaller package size then the original Gyromouse. Using the USB feature you can still retain the use of any other mouse in your system. Examples of these devices modified for head tracking use can be seen in the VRTracker and VRTracker 2 USB devices.

The advice I’m giving is not to purchase one device over another, but to build your own and use a Gyromouse to do it. I’ve tried a lot of the low end tracking devices and this is the best one you will find. Let my experiences save you some money. In the very least take the advice of the skeptics out there and “…just mount a mouse to your head.” Just make sure it’s a Gyromouse.