Gran Turismo 5’s “Head Tracking” Explained


Shortly after Gran Turismo 5‘s feature list popped up on Polyphony Digital’s website, pandemonium broke out as everyone rushed to secure an accurate translation.  With the added excitement of the playable demo at GamesCom and our first look at damage, some pretty remarkable new features slipped under the collective radar.  We’re going to put the spotlight on one of them today which could have an major impact on the racing game genre across platforms: “head tracking” with the PlayStation Eye.

The concept itself is simple enough – it’s a camera that tracks the movement of your head – but the results are breathtaking.  If you’ve never seen this new technology in action, watch the following demos and you’ll quickly realize the implications of such a feature in Gran Turismo 5:

As we learned from Polyphony Digital’s website, you’ll be able to use this head tracking technology to manipulate the “cockpit camera” and presumably look through the corners and at your opponents with the simple turn of your head.  From the translation (confirmed by Yamauchi):

“…the movement of Cockpit Camera interface (confirmed in full 3-D. The camera can be fully manipulated and you can opt to have your head tracked by the PSEye)”

The PlayStation Eye is already available for $32.99, but is not typically considered a must-have peripheral for most PS3 owners due to a lack of software support.  That could change in a very big way, selling lots of additional Eye hardware for Sony in the process.  For now, though, we could be looking at GT5’s “dark horse” in the race for consumer’s hearts, minds, and dollars.

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Comments (87)

  1. ConnTBA

    “it’s a camera that tracks the movement of your head”
    RF, re-read the paragraph at the top. It will be as others have correctly stated using the PS3 eye to allow you to move your head to change your viewpoint, like Track IR does for the PC.
    Its not 3d tech, just motion tracking.

  2. RF

    Man,everyone of these replies is soooo wrong, this is nothing like the trackIR, you won’t be turning your head to make the view turn in scaled way or any unnatural crap like that. This is to enhance the 3D experience and if set up well and works well it could be awsome and you won’t have to do anything wierd with you head and eyes.

  3. John

    Gazuk, I don’t know if I am understanding you right, but I think you mean the pseudo 3D that is like the Wii demo but with buildings won’t be exactly the same as the GT5 useage? If so I think you are correct. They are different uses of the same head tracking tech.

    In the 3d cityscape, it’s a 1:1 map of what your head is doing so that the view mimicks your real POV. In GT5 it will not be 1:1, your head will function more as a controller panning a camera. The illusion that you are actually looking through the TV into a car cockpit is not what will happen in GT5.

    As for the tech doing it, it’s the same head tracking though, it’s just used in different ways.

    BTW I can’t find the old software I used to have that did head tracking, but I believe this software (haen’t tried this one yet as I don’t have a webcam at work) will do about the same

    And I reiterate for those who try it, while this is probably what people THINK will happen in GT5, it isn’t. What will happen in GT5 will neither offer an illusion of looking through your TV into a car interior, nore will it be as intuitive.

  4. Gazuk50

    Well John i understand what your saying, and i understand the tech, but i will be suprised if what you see in GT5 ends up like the vid from the article. Im still pretty sure that the software needs to be specificly for that tech to get the pseudo 3D effect as seen up there, i really think in this instance its a feature thats been bolted onto GT5, much like six-axis controls, tilt your head and it moves the camera for you….that will be as much as it will do, id love it to look like that vid when your in car but i just cant see it happening….do hope your right though!

  5. SzczwanyGapa

    Here’s one for you:

    What if my wife is sitting next to me, does this Head Tracking thingy will not get confused by having two heads in front of the PSEye?

  6. John

    Nomino, what is with people like you? Can’t accept that maybe someone actually knows what they are talking about and has had first hand experience isntead of what you sit around and suppose it’s like?

    I am telling you from experience, if you don’t like it or don’t want to believe it, fine, but I don’t see how you are going to cop an attitude with nothing valid to back it up…

  7. John

    Actually Gazuk50 I think the PS3 will do the same thing that the IR tracker does, just possibly not as accurately.

    The point of the IR system is that it’s more accurate than picking your facial features out of a bunch of pixels. But with good face recognition software much the same can be accomplished without the IR lights. The system just identifies thigns like your eyes, nose, ears and mouth, then looks how they relate to each other. If your eyes get wider apart, you moved closer to the camera, if your nose gets closer to your left ear or your left ear dissapears, you turned your head to the left.

    It’s the same thing happening with or without IR lights, it just is finding something to recognize about your head to figure out which direction it’s aiming.

    There is free head tracking software for the PC that does the same without IR lights, it just uses a webcam. I have tried it and it’s about what you would expect, a little less accurate and relies on good lighting and a good webcam for decent results.

  8. Nomino

    Oh well, I guess we’d all best just go home then… John is clearly the worlds foremost expert in head tracking and how each of us reacts to it.

  9. Gazuk50

    I think you all need to calm down and check the facts on this one. The above vid is showing how this works when you have IR devices attached to you…..that is what allows the PS3 to calculate the depth and angle that you are viewing the screen at, which in turn gives you the pseudo 3D effect. What will be going into GT5 is nothing more than the Eye tracking your head movement then, so if you move your head to the left, the Eye reads that then tells the PS3 to move the camera to the left a bit…if the camera control was on the right analogue stick for example it would be the equivilant of moving it to the right a bit….thats all it is. Not knocking the tech or the concept as an idea to put into the game but i can guarentee that that in GT5 you will not be seeing the IR head tracking tech that is being show in that video but simply an alternative to pressing a button/moving a stick on your pad to change the view.

  10. Thiele

    I imagined something like this, but i never thought it would be practical because of the reason that Kevin explained. Currently i’m on an extremely old CRT TV and because of the current setup i’m only looking at the TV on a 45 degree angle, so that wouldn’t work too good at least for me.

  11. marchy

    I think what most people end up doing is only to move the head slightly, just enough to change point of view so one can see the apex/side mirror on the edge of the screen. But of course everything would work NATURALLY if using the video visor I mentioned above. Then the “screen” is always right in front of your eye no matter how your head move. Plus it can also be 3D compatible as well.

    I hope SONY will bring back a HD version soon….

  12. John

    To everyone who thinks they are so smart because they know you can look to the side and keep your eyes pointed at the screen, that’s not the problem with this technology. The problem is that while you are doing it, it’s completely unnatural to look back at the screen while turning your head. It feels nothing like doing it in real life.

    I am sure we have all used the right analog stick in some games to change the view, and we have all found it’s pretty useless becuase it’s almost impossible to relate the change of view in the game to the change of direction you have to have with the controller. With no momentum to actually feel what direction the car is still going, the change of view is just unnatural and distracting.

    Head tracking amplifies this issues as now you look to the side, but then must turn your eyeballs back towards the screen to see the view that should be directly in front of your face. It’s quite confusing to the brain and not at all intuitive.

    For a quick check of the side mirrors I suppose it’s not too bad (although in game side mirrors have always been borderline useles if you ask me considering the rate at which things go and the fact you have to dissorient your main view for a split second to see them), for actually looking at the apex of a turn where dynamic turning of the head is necessary it’s just not right.

    I mean just look at the video of Grid being played, that’s exactly how head tracking ends up being used… when you are sitting still as a cool gimic to look around, but then when you race you almost never actually use it. Why? Becuase it’s totally dissorienting.

    You want to think it simulates turning your head while driving to get a view out past your A Pillars.

    Really what it simulates is the feeling that your car is somehow inversly linked to your head, when you look left, it feels like your whole car swings right under you but not your seat or steering wheel… this is becuas eyou turn your head left, the way the view on screen reacts is the same as if the car (and the whole game world in fact) just rotated to the right because your brain and your eyes are both using your body as a point of referrence, however what should be happening according to that point of reference, isn’t what’s your eyes see happening.

    The effect is almost like an optical illusion and makes you feel like something is totally wrong.

    Try it, have a friend control the right analog stick of a game that supports controlling your view with that, then have him try to mimic your head movements while you drive as if you had head tracking… you will quickly find it’s almost totally useless and very unintuitive.

  13. David

    So your going to move your head 90 degrees and then move your eyeballs 90 degrees the opposite way, thats the most uncomfortable and stupid thing ive ever heard, even if its for a second or so. Plus you will probably crash in the game because its totally unatural.

    If you dont do it in real life you shouldnt have to do it in game, this isnt adding realism because your not doing it the way you would do in real life. What would be better is using the sixaxis to pan side to side by turning the controller.

  14. GT

    For all of you who think that when you wont be looking at the television when you turn your head to look, heres an explanation. What will happen is you will have to think of the corners of your television as the A-pillars of a car, and that you can only see out your windsheild, therefore to look to the left you would move your head inwards a tad, to the right (putting the television on your left) then being able to move your eyes to to left and seeing out the left hand side of the car.

  15. AndyC

    @pedz and David.
    You need to read the posts above.

    Move head – keep looking at the screen (unless you’ve had a stroke and can’t move your eyeballs).
    10.deg of head = 90.deg of onscreen is the typical way of doing this.

  16. David

    People dont seem to understand that head tracking wont work for one simple reason, if you turn your head in real life you will no longer be looking at the TV! So whats the point!

    A better use would be scanning your face and mapping it into the game like other games have done, one being Rainbow Six.

  17. Pedz

    Err am i the only one in thinking to look left and right, you have to look AWAY from the screen… rendering it pointless? or does it do something special? Or do we all have to have a way of getting 3 screens running at once?

  18. jbthbt

    @ Turboteam – just 100″ ? I’ve got a 105″ and it’s so much better ;)

    Seriously, this was one of the features I was most excited about with the PD post a while back. It’s probably going to need some refinement over time, but it has more potential to expand the immersion IMO. I am looking forward to the possibility of the 3 screen view with the tracking in a cockpit with the G27. It’s only money right?

  19. marchy

    Actually, GT4 already has head tracking as a hidden-feature. But you need to buy a specific SONY video visor (PUD-J5A) with built-in sensors to make it work. I can confirm this coz I tried it a few years ago. The head tracking feature 1st appeared in the Japan PS2 game “Energy Airforce”, an air combat game.

  20. Canadian STIG

    This news is great when questioning whether or not most of the cars will have interior views! Technology really has come a long way and the result is just bliss; probably.

  21. Dom

    will we need to wear a cap with led lights? I hope it works in a better way than Track IR, which is good, but it requires the lights…

  22. James

    You wont need dots or IR LED’s because the PSEYE uses “Facial Recognition” for it’s head tracking in other words it doesn’t need the led’s cuz it knows where you head is anyways

  23. W89rnr

    Is the PSEye capable of successfully replicating the TrakIR experience? I mean, I doubt Sony will have a peripheral that you have to attach to your head, will the PSEye track your movements as closely as in games like Topoq?

  24. jamaicangamer

    dammm datss wat it iss. ithought head tracking wuz wen u take a pic or ur head an it goes on the guy in the car XD dat is niiice. itll work wid an old webcam?

  25. NoxNoctisUmbra

    I have TRACK IR 5, very good tracking software.. took me a day or 2 to get use to, but results are astonishing. for some games that I don’t use the Track IR, I move my head and nothing happends… everything comes in natural after you get use to it..

    Same will happen with GT5, when you play with the EYE and tracking, you will get use to it quickly, once you go play NFS game, or Forza, you will miss that exepriance..

    +10000000 for PD for using this feature!

  26. Sam__ NY

    The TrackIR, awesome, but is it really worth $100 more than the PS eye, cummon, how bad, could the PS eye be. or how good is the TrackIR. $100 seems like waaaaaaay to much.

  27. cobraagent90

    Cool but will this headtracking device be included in GT5 or I would have to buy it separately?
    (I have PSEye)

  28. John

    I have used TrackIR and found it more trouble than it was worth in many circumstances… for one it’s not as intuitive as you would think to turn your head 10 degrees and have your view rotate 90 degrees (or some such). It’s usefull for a quick shoulder check of who is next to you, but for looking at the apex while taking turns it’s suprisingly bad. The problem being exactly that your head is not looking the direction the camera is and thus the ability to intuitively steer in relation to what you see is still poor.

    The other thing I found difficult about it was it forces you to hold your head still to look straight. Now this might sound like nothing since you should be looking forward while you drive anyway right? Well not so much, if you watch yourself play games, you will probably notice that your head moves a bit here and there pretty often over time as it adjusts to ease strain on your neck muscles. Well this small move results in larger moves on screen and often left me looking slightly off center and making it harder to steer properly (as now your camera is not centered).

    I suggest everyone give TrackIR a shot to see what it’s really like.

  29. Riley

    yeah… If you have to wear glasses for the eye, imagine putting on another pair for 3D which they’re trying to integrate. And imagine if you wear glasses!

  30. Rhino_WJB

    I bought a PS3 Eye having read this feature will be in GT5 :-) I used a TrackIR for ages with LFS, RF, GTR etc. and do miss the “immersion” factor without it. Console titles are fast becoming a credible alternative to PC sims *yay*! It takes a little while to get used to the head-tracking thing (moving your head yet fixing your eyes forward), but once you become used to it, driving feels that bit more organic.

  31. neem'

    I haven’t tried this, but I imagine I’m with MarcoM on this… I don’t like motion sensitive gaming, personally, I mean I remember one game I played in an arcade that was basically Time Crisis, only it tracked where you were on a platform so you had to duck or move side to side to get into cover. Needless to say, I lasted about 30 seconds because I just couldn’t get used to it.

    I can imagine trying to play GT5 with a wheel and head tracking without a physical sense of what direction you’re actually going in or cornering forces will get very disorientating very quickly for me, kind of like when you’re driving a tank in Battlefield and you turn the turret, then forget which direction the bottom of the tank is pointing and assume its pointing forwards… if you know what I mean? Only in GT5 you’re never standing still so you don’t get time to figure out exactly where you’re pointing.

    In other words, I don’t think this is for me.

  32. Arzo

    But shouldnt this need some additional “peryfery” like Infrared “something” or that kind of stuff ? I think only ps3eye is just not enough to get that kind of effect.

  33. W89rnr

    Could this be the next “advancement” that kaz was talking about to be revealed at TGS? First damage and then head tracking?

  34. MarcoM

    I used the TrackIR with the GTR games. I don’t feel comfortable with it. I feels very unnatural. I think this will feel the same.

    You are trying to fool you mind with this. But if you fancy it, ot out and try it.

  35. Berlino Bear

    If it functions like the video in GT5 I will eat my own Children (when I have them). It will be head swivel to look left and right. That’s all.

  36. Mr Latte

    This is a feature that got me really excited.
    I can only hope then that this will also be incorporated with “Triple Screen” play.

    What a way to play the game that would be….

  37. Nomino

    @ Kevin… The camera doesn’t just track your head turning, it tracks your head MOVING. As you lean to look around a corner, it will track that movement. It is also possible to turn your head while fixing your gaze on the screen.

  38. It's Me

    The head turning ratio can be adjusted so you don’t need to turn your head too much to turn all the way around in most ir tracking sim games.

  39. Mimizone

    On my PC I have a trackIR, tracking specific dots that I personally kept on a cap. It works with GTR or rFactor for example. I didn’t like much the feeling because as someone else said, you basically look at something else if you turn your head. So for example if you turn right to look right at the apex or your mirror, you have to turn your eyes left to keep looking at the screen, which is of course unnatural.

    In the case of this demo possibly for the PS3, you move your whole body to change your view point. I don’t know about you, but playing GT, I am comfortably sitting behind my wheel stand and don’t move.
    It could work for a FPS games if the running/walking part is rendered naturally.

    For GT, I think the best solution would be to have at least 3 screens showing always the front of the car, and the tracking of your body movement/viewpoint to add some little changes of perspective.
    Or head tracking+glasses displays.

    I am still waiting to be really convinced.

  40. Onitzuka

    I’m pretty curious about this feature,
    The dept of field that this tecnology shows (in the youtube video) is incredibly beautiful!

    The only think that lets me a bit sceeptical is about the 3 dots that those kind of systems normaly need to track the movements (trackIR uses a 3 white dot thing to apply on a basebal cap).
    Will the GT5 tracking system require something like that?
    (If yes, Will it be sold separatelly? Will we be able to do it in a homemade way?)

    P.s. Ciao Pulp! ;)

  41. RAugie

    that is really deceptive… ur mind thinks that should happen when u turn ur head…. so its almost natural to have something like this feature

  42. andytorr

    A lot of people seem to be saying that if you turn your head you won’t be able to see the screen anymore. If you simply look at your monitor and stop being a moron, you’ll realise you can actually turn your head from side to side without taking your eyes off the screen. I’m sure if they were to implement this into the game, it wouldn’t require you to turn your head a full 90 degrees to see out your side window. But who knows how far they’ve taken it already. It could even mean that whilst you’re driving, the slightest head movements cause a full 3d interior to constantly be moving, as it would in real life. For example, moving your head to the side whilst still facing forward would simply move the camera sideways, enabling you to see the wheel from a different angle. If that makes sense? haha. EXCITING :)

  43. Tao

    No Kevin, if you tilt or even turn your head slightly your eyes can still look at the screen. Have a look at TrackIR for a better understanding. I personally find head tracking useful in combat flight sims where you need a lot more awareness of what’s around you than on a car sim, where it just distracts me. Anyway it’s a neat feature and my ps3eye hopefully will get more use.

  44. NBH

    I watched the TrackIR video and it explained it a bit better as to how it might work on GT5. The problem is the guy is sitting right in front of his screen so it seemed to make sense. Personally I will be playing the game a couple of metres back from my TV on a sofa so even if I move my head to the left to look at the wing mirror for example, I will need to move my eyes to the right to still be looking at the screen. I think it will be good but only for certain set ups.

  45. Belker

    Kevin, who says that the movement is supposed to be 1:1? If there is this option, it would most likely to be with slight head movements.

  46. Scooby Dont

    KEVIN, if you are playing gran turismo 5 on a screen so small that if your head angle changes, you can’t see the TV… You’d be wasting a great game anyhow. Even I’m surprised at how cheap big flatscreens are getting. A budget under 800 can now get you some real nice visuals

  47. NBH

    I agree with Kevin, you always need to be looking at the screen so not sure how this will work with my head movement changing the camera. On the video they are actually moving around the screen, great for games that involve standing up and moving about but when I play Gran Turismo I sit on my sofa and stay still so how will I get any 3D effect?

  48. marts

    so you have your eye bulbs glued to the skull since you are not able to point them to the screen while slightly tilting your head?

  49. Bobby

    Kevin, the point is you will be able to look in your mirrors from the cockpit view by moving your head, it is the same as holding a button to look behind you, but it is a cool new feature.

  50. Hubbell Tyson

    Great to see this feature is coming to GT5 using the Eye :) I’ve only really used my Eye for Fight Night, Little Big Planet and SingStar so far. I’ll be very interested to see how many degrees of freedom they are able to support using the Eye – I would have thought it would be necessary to have some kind of infrared LED on a head of the driver similarly to other systems.

    It’s a bit misleading to call headtracking technology “new” – TrackIR has been around and in use by a LOT of PC sim racers since 2002. Whilst it looks great and must increase your sense of immersion, I know a lot of people don’t really like using it for racing games and instead only use it for flight sims. I think this is because in sim racers people tend to rely on a very static drivers view to be able to judge where exactly there car is and to what rate it is turning, however, given a few a hours to acclimatise I know that other people are not hindered by it at all and fully enjoy the extra level of immersion.

    Hopefully there will be options as there are with TrackIR to change the acceleration sensitivity for the different axis. Obviously some kind of acceleration/exaggeration of your head movements is necessary otherwise if you try to look 90 deg to the right out of the side window of your car you will no longer be looking at the screen :P

  51. missionfailed

    Uggh it’s going to get giddy on screen isnt it ?

    Just remember – don’t make some of the same movement in GT with headtracking on in your real car !

    So when you turn your head to look at the side window.. how are you going to look at the screen to see what you’re looking at ?

    ;) It will be interesting to see it in action

  52. Kevin

    But sorry, if you tilt your head to the right or left, you will be no longer looking at the screen… so what is the use of it? :D

  53. Nomino

    This is what will represent 3DTV – none of thiis stupid “red/green” or “polarizing” glasses to trick the mind. Just some basic head and eye tracking.

  54. Palleraa

    @Azzer. No I wouldn’t think so. The example was made on a PS3 running Linux so it was all rendered in software. It shouldn’t be any different to use the d-pad to look out the side windows.

  55. Stew2000

    Does this mean GT5 will include a simple ir headset in the box? I already have a PS3eye which doesn’t get much use.

  56. Azzer

    This would be so amazing if it was in GT 5, but on that video above there are two ps3’s on, so do u need 2 ps3’s to render, for eye tracking??

  57. GT VIRUS

    the same thing as trackIR for PC sims. Have a look at there website if you want a good idea of what this can do for your sim. I personally find it a struggle to get used to (i’m still trying to get used to it) but it can come in very very handy

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