This company can track motion with sound instead of light

All you need is a speaker to use Hauoli’s tracking technology.


When it comes to tracking physical objects in virtual spaces, pretty much every company is relying on light in some form. Oculus and HTC have their light mapping sensors, while Sony's PlayStation VR relies on infrared for its motion tracking camera. Hauoli, a young Austin-based startup demoing at SXSW, has something different in mind. It's developed a way to track virtual objects with sound. The solution is entirely software based and works with just about any speaker, so it also removes the need for expensive motion tracking hardware.

But while making VR seamless is its ultimate goal, Hauoli's technology can also be used anywhere you need motion tracking. In the video demonstration above, you can see how a standard Galaxy S7 can accurately track the distance from a speaker. It can also be used to draw, but at the moment that process is encumbered with significant delays (the company blames Bluetooth for the latency). And yes, like every good motion tracking innovation, you can play Fruit Ninja with it. The company also showed off how the technology can be used to make drones follow you.

And if you were wondering, yes Hauoli's accostic motion tracking also works in noisy environments. I couldn't hear much sound being emitted from the speaker in our demo, but our microphones picked up a low hum and clicking noise. The company also promises that it's energy efficient (it doesn't really take much to spit out sound), and it can deliver up to millimeter-level accuracy.

It's all all very much in the early stages, but Hauoli says it currently has a patent pending for its audio technology. Lili Qiu, the company's CTO, spun off the technology from her work at the University of Texas. While it'll likely be a few years before we see Hauoli's technology in any consumer products, it's a promising glimpse of how things can evolve in the world of VR and motion tracking in general.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from SXSW 2017.