The D3-U is a VR camera you hold IRL

As VR and AR mature, they’ll borrow more of each other’s expertise; from the one, more immersive environments; from the other, intelligent means of walking the line between virtual and real. One example of such a crossover is the D3-U, a physical camera made for taking pictures in VR.

It was created by design agency dotdotdash in collaboration with Vive, but don’t expect a retail release any time soon. This is more of a proof of concept and demonstration of the recently announced Vive Tracker than an actual product.

The issue, as much as there can be said to be one, is that there isn’t a very natural way to capture images in VR. You can hit print screen on the computer running the simulation, of course, but do you really want to slightly tilt your head, keeping an eye on the edges of your field of view, in order to get the framing right? No.

Instead, the D3-U utilizes the Tracker, which can be attached to objects to track them (naturally) in-game, to turn a real-world device into a virtual one. The Tracker’s motion is captured just like the headset’s, using embedded IR beacons, and is intended to make accessory creation easy.

“It’s simply a matter of calibrating the puck to the model of the 3D camera and then making sure the size matches up perfectly in space,” explained developer Zach Krausnick. That way you have the experience of actually holding a camera and having it mimic its real-world movements in every way.

d3_tracker_ingameIn the game, the D3-U displays the mode it’s in, a preview of the shot you’re framing and has a shutter release button and joystick for switching between exposure modes. In the demo, the user must use the camera to take pictures of an alien creature, checking various wavelengths and moving around to get the best angles. There’s even a printer nearby spitting out paper copies of the shots you take.

Future versions could add things like shutter speed settings and so on, so virtual photographers can fuss over exposure settings just like the real ones. Who wants to bet there will eventually be physically accurate aperture blade simulation?

Now, to be clear, I don’t think this is a must-have accessory or anything. And at any rate, it’s a one-off prototype for now, created by design studio dotdotdash, so you couldn’t get one if you tried. But it’s a cool demonstration of the idea that the virtual world can be materially improved by intelligently crossing it with the physical one.