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What HTC Says About Vive Cosmos Camera Privacy – Road to VR


What HTC Says About Vive Cosmos Camera Privacy – Road to VR 1

With HTC recently launching Vive Cosmos, which relies on always-on cameras during use, we reached out to the company to learn more about what data is captured by the cameras and how it’s used.

There’s never a bad time to be skeptical about how your private information is being used by products and companies which gather information about you, but an especially good time is when using products that rely on always-on cameras during use.

The original Vive and Vive Pro use SteamVR Tracking technology which relies on base stations that use lasers (detected by sensors on the headset and controllers) for tracking, rather than traditional cameras.

Cosmos, on the other hand, uses an array of traditional cameras for tracking the movement of your head and hands, and to offer a pass-through view of your surroundings. This is similar to other headsets like Rift S and Quest; we also requested a breakdown from Oculus on the camera privacy on those headsets.

Vive Cosmos Camera Privacy

You can find a collection of ‘Vive Legal Documents’ here, which include the HTC privacy policy and the Vive EULA & Terms of Use. None of the documents seem to address the use of camera data with any meaningfully specificity, so we put a handful of questions to HTC:

[In the questions below, “data” = raw or derived information (actual imagery, point clouds or other 3D reconstruction, room size, room shape, player movement, etc.)]

How is the data from the cameras used specifically (ie: where and how is it processed?)

VIVE Cosmos uses its built-in cameras and sensors in order to operate the inside-out tracking function, including establishing boundary displays and viewing the feature points of your surroundings. The cameras scan your environment as it creates a map of feature points in your VR play space, however, this map cannot revert to an actual environment picture. This data is encrypted, stored locally on the device and is not transmitted anywhere other than the headset or PC.

Is data from the cameras stored? (if so where?)

The data used for mapping your environment will be stored only on the local device (HMD).

Is data from the cameras transmitted anywhere other than the headset or PC? (ie: to HTC or anywhere else on the internet)?

Is there any clear indication when the cameras on the headset are active and when they aren’t?

Yes, the LED indicator on the HMD will show a green light when cameras are active.

If a hacker gained root-access to the headset, is there anything that would prevent them from being able to access data from the cameras?

Yes [there is something to prevent it], the data, your room map with feature points, is encrypted.

Can developers access camera data in any way?

Currently, developers cannot access VIVE Cosmos camera data.

With regards to hand-tracking (which has been demonstrated with Cosmos), is this tracking solved on the headset as well or does the data need to go to the PC/host device for processing

At this time, we have no information to share on hand-tracking for VIVE Cosmos.

While it’s good to have these confirmations from HTC on the record, there’s nothing preventing the status quo from changing in the future. The VR community needs to be diligent about analyzing privacy policy updates and continue asking question in order to ensure that privacy is not eroded over time.

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