Wide-Range 6D Optical Tracker from 3rdTech Opens

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., July 25, 2000 – 3rdTech Inc., developing products and businesses from university research, today announced the HiBall-3000 Wide Area Tracker, a new optical tracker that achieves unmatched levels of accuracy, performance and scalability. Based on technology first developed by the Department of Computer Science of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the HiBall-3000 is an ideal tracker for virtual and augmented reality, simulation and training, film and video production, and location-based entertainment.

The HiBall tracker is a six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF) device.  It uses a custom sensor composed of six lenses and photodiodes arranged to view arrays of infrared LEDs that mount easily on the supports of standard “drop ceilings.”  The LED arrays can cover areas as small as 8x8 feet or greater than 40x40 feet.  This enables tracking for wide-area simulation and training, or for an entire laboratory or film set. Because it is an optical sensor, the precision and performance of the HiBall-3000 are not affected by metal, magnetic fields or noise.  Most line-of-sight obstructions are overcome by the tracker’s multiple photodiodes.

The HiBall-3000 Sensor is lightweight and about the size of a billiard ball.  It provides up to 2,000 position and orientation updates per second. The resulting very low latency virtually eliminates the “swimming” associated with other tracker technologies.  The HiBall Tracker supplies the greatest absolute precision – for both location and orientation – of any wide-area tracker.  This level of precision is uniform over the entire tracked region, even near the boundaries of very large areas.

“The ceiling tracker developed at UNC has been the highest-performance tracker technology for several years, but it’s only been available for use in that one UNC lab,” says Nick England, president and CEO of 3rdTech. “We’ve turned the technology into a product without giving up any of its features or performance.”

The HiBall-3000 Wide Area Tracker will be available in the third quarter of this year. List price for a complete system starts at less than $25,000.