Degrees of Freedom, or Angles of Limitation?

May 9, 2022

Degrees of Freedom, or Angles of Limitation?

There are many different types of VR headsets on the market, and it can be hard to know which one is the right companion for you and your project. Do you need a 3DOF VR headset, or a 6DOF VR headset? What’s the difference, and which one is better for the application you need?

What are Degrees of Freedom?

Degrees of freedom (DoF) is a term used to describe the number of ways in which a body can move. In virtual reality (VR), degrees of freedom refers to the number of axes along which a VR headset can track movement.

There are varying degrees of freedom in VR which change depending on your headset and application. From the headset itself, 3 degrees of freedom can be tracked: pitch, yaw, and roll. Pitch is the up-and-down movement of the head, yaw is the left-to-right movement, and roll is the tilting of the head from side to side.

With more sophisticated hardware, 6 degrees of freedom can be tracked from a single headset – by additionally utilising the players movement in the x, y, and z axes.

3DoF Headsets & Applications

In the early days of virtual reality, 3DoF headsets were the only option available. Today, there are a variety of headsets to choose from, but 3DoF headsets are still a popular choice for some users. Let’s explore one of the special use cases for 3DoF headsets which is 360 video. Example hardware includes the Google Cardboard and Oculus Go.

360 videos are recorded with a special camera that captures a full spherical view of the environment. When you watch them back with a 3Dof headset, you can look around in any direction and get a complete view of the scene. This can be great to showcase a remote location or allow users to view abnormal environments. But the user will be limited to the 3 axes of movement and will have to remain stationary without interaction.

Some great examples of this include the BBC’s Total Solar Eclipse or MythBusters: Sharks Everywhere.

6DoF Headsets & Applications

As virtual reality has become more mainstream, 6 degrees of freedom headsets have become the standard for entertainment and training use and often seen as a much more immersive experience than a 360 degree stationary experience. Example hardware includes the popular Meta Quest 2 and HTC Vive.

There are many advantages that a 6DoF headset offers over a 3dof headset. 6DoF headsets allow you to move your head in all directions and interact with objects using included controllers. This gives you a better sense of depth and allows you to better gauge distances and explore whilst interacting in a virtual environment.

Most modern VR applications take advantage of the additional axes and incorporate physics-based interactions to mirror real life comparatives, making it the perfect platform for an enterprise training solution or an immersive game. An example of a 6DoF training experience is our very own Fire Extinguisher Training where the user can accurately interact with an extinguisher and extinguish fires.

The Takeaway

There is no clear answer as to whether 3DoF or 6DoF virtual reality is better. It likely depends on the end user and what you are looking for in a virtual reality experience. If you are looking for an immersive training solution, we recommend 6DoF to allow for intuitive interaction within your application, but if you simply need static visualisation of a real life environment, 360 degree video may just suffice.

Contact us to chat with our team, we’d love to hear about your project.