Lighthouse is likely the most underrated aspect of the HTC Vive. Without it, walking around an environment in a room-scaled space would not be as possible (not without clunky cameras at least); nor would one’s experience feel as seamless, since the tracking might be broken. Lighthouse does a peculiar thing that cameras of other room-scaling don’t. By surrounding the room with non-visible light, the Lighthouse functions as a positional tracking device. For the HTC Vive, it’s spotting the headset, and knowing where it lies in a 3D virtual space. But one artist is using the technology in a different way, without any sort of pesky headset at all.
「Invisible Sculpture – 不可視彫像」は実はHTC ViveのLighthouseテクノロジーを応用してます。
— 坪倉輝明@メディアアーティスト (@kohack_v) November 27, 2016
The project “Invisible Sculpture” employs a Lighthouse in the same way one would for a VR set-up: except there’s no headset to speak of. Created by artist and creative technologist Teruaki Tsubokura, who recently introduced the joke idea for a Hololens meet-up app entitled My Hachiko, Lighthouse instead is used to reveal invisible sculptures on seemingly empty podiums in a dark room—their silhouettes revealed by the mere flash of a flashlight. Instead of being revealed through a head-mounted display like the Vive headset, their 3D shapes are revealed in the space itself through shining a light.
This also remedies one of the persistent problems of art installations in VR: isolation. Instead of only one person being able to see 3D shapes in a space, which is likely the case in a VR-specific display, Lighthouse’s technology reveals all of it for viewers to appreciate. Even if it is perceived as invisible at first glance.