NaturalPoint Statements

Webcam response
Wikipedia edits
Former NaturalPoint employee makes TrackIR exclusive game
Excluded competition
Compatible competition
'Optimized' interface
'We’ll happily let consumers decide' 
NaturalPoint sockpuppet

Webcam response

The Ubisoft IL2 forums used to have a 13 page thread created in 2007 titled 'Free head tracking' in which the NaturalPoint President (posting under NP_TrackIR) personally responded to webcam head tracking. It no longer exists but the first page can still be found on The Internet Archive, since other topics from around the same time still exist it could have been selectively removed when they started censoring FreeTrack.

"As the main hardware engineer for NaturalPoint, I feel qualified to comment on the difference between TrackIR and a web cam, and that difference is large.

TrackIR is a 120 FPS B&W sensor an FPGA for image processing and a USB bridge chip, along with a custom lens / IR Filter and IR LEDs. The only thing this has in common with a web cam is the USB interface.
Web cams have color sensors, which degrade resolution, especially in the IR region, they have very slow shutter times, so you get a lot of motion blur when trying to track points and they are slow, only 30FPS. Not to mention the lack of built in image processing to find the points to track. If you view the image from a web cam when tracking points, notice the large blurs that result when you move your head with some urgency, these are not points, and will not be tracked with accuracy.

FPS is VERY important. You can not simulate samples by interpolating, especially with human head movement. We have found in our extensive testing that anything less than 80FPS is noticeable by users as added lag. I have seen stated in some recent forum posts that there is no reason to go faster than 30FPS, and that humans can't tell the difference between 33ms of delay and 8ms (with TrackIR). The eye can tell reaction times very easily, just look at hand movement and the perception of movement of the cursor on the screen. No mice run at 30 FPS.

When evaluating the web cam based software, it is clear that there are filters in the motion and that it is not precise. There are high pass filters to remove head motion, this is not an absolute optical pointing device, like TrackIR.

One good way to test the true optical accuracy of a device is to turn off all filtering. When comparing the resulting motion of web cam based software and TrackIR, the resolution difference is apparent.

TrackIR is not mainly hardware, it is hardware and software working together as a PRODUCT.

Making comparisons to TrackIR, when not even owning one seems irresponsible to me. We have tried the web cam "experiences" and we are glad to see that people are having fun making tracking devices, but there is a very large difference in the motion quality of TrackIR and a web cam based system, it isn't even close in my personal use. The precision of TrackIR and the detailed, patented math that is Vector and True View are not replicated in web cam based software.

Finally, TrackIR Enhanced was developed by NaturalPoint, is owned by NaturalPoint and is only available under NDA. Years of work and many dollars have been spent to promote the idea of head tracking in games, to the benefit of all TrackIR users, and we continue to add new games all the time."
NaturalPoint President - 2007
  • TrackIR has everything in common with a webcam, it captures 2D optical images and sends them to a computer.
  • Soon after this statement the PS3 Eye was released, a consumer camera capable of up to 187fps.
  • Motion blur is a symptom of very low frame rate and isn't an issue in itself.
  • Head tracking for view control is nowhere near as demanding as a mouse for aiming and can be practical at comparatively low sensor resolution and refresh rate.
  • TrackIR uses motion filtering just like FreeTrack and they are both absolute trackers. Filtering makes head tracking more comfortable so the user doesn't have to hold their head perfectly still all the time. 
  • TrackIR is mainly a software product with very limited camera compatibility, this serves as software protection in much the same way as a USB hardware key.
  • The 'patented math' claim is completely false. Vector™ is just 6DOF tracking from 3 points and TrueView™ is just translation adjusted according to the direction you're looking. 
  • The idea of head tracking in games was already established before TrackIR and the 'TrackIR Enhanced' interface was not required. VR head trackers in the 90s like the VFX1 had significant game support (26 listed titles with native support and an additional 28 with driver support), with simulation games like EF2000, Flight Unlimited and MechWarrior II permitting 3DOF head tracking for looking around inside of cockpits. DirectInput has accommodated absolute 6DOF head tracking since 1996, currently under the device type DI8DEVTYPESUPPLEMENTAL_HEADTRACKER.

Wikipedia edits

These Wikipedia contributions were made by IP addresses owned by NaturalPoint Inc. ( ( Integra Telecom), (NaturalPoint Comcast)) and one account called 'Tha Targetimpersonating FreeTrack developer The Target.

"FreeTrack violates NaturalPoint Inc. copyright by using the TrackIR Enhanced interface without authorization to gain view control in games which support the TrackIR. Text strings bearing explicit notice of NaturalPoint copyright can be found within the FreeTrack executable."
  • Instead of NaturalPoint making an official public statement of their legal opinion, they used Wikipedia as a soapbox to publish their opinion as fact. They deliberately made the extent of the supposed violation ambiguous, their letter of demand to FreeTrack developers published on Chilling Effects is much clearer and only specifies two text strings in violation. The linux-track source shows that these two strings are part of the interface specification and necessary for it to work, so NaturalPoint are trying to use copyright law, not to protect their original expression but to prevent competition.  

"These TrackIR Enhanced games constitute the majority of games which FreeTrack works with, and without them FreeTrack may be significantly less useful to game and simulation users."
  • Ironically this is a fair use argument in favor of the strings being used for interface compatibility.

"Efforts to continually update the TrackIR page with an alternative which violates copyright law will continue to be removed. Still haven't answered questions as to the legality of FreeTrack, the fact [is] that there isn't promotional bias when comparing to an illegal alternative."
  • NaturalPoint repeatedly removed FreeTrack from the 'See Also' section of the TrackIR page under the pretense of it being an 'illegal alternative'. 

Former NaturalPoint employee makes TrackIR exclusive game

The founder and President of 777 Studios, known for developing WWI flight simulator Rise of Flight, happens to be a former NaturalPoint TrackIR Product Manager and is adamant to never support any means of head tracking besides TrackIR without NaturalPoint approval. TrackIR was sold bundled with Rise of Flight in 2009. Note that soon after this commentary was discovered, several of the quoted discussion threads were deleted.

"This product [VRInsight HAT-Track] is a Korean rip off of TrackIR and it infringes on NaturalPoint's U.S. patents. We will never support such a device. Any product that uses the same TrackIR technology, both it's hardware and software patents without a license from NaturalPoint will not be purposely supported by us." - 2010
VRInsight 6DOF Tracking device [DELETED]
  • U.S. patents don't apply in Korea.  
  • At the time of this post, all NaturalPoint head tracking related patents were pending and none prevent games from providing camera access. 

"ANY device such as Freetrack that uses the same memory hooks (camera access points)developed by Naturalpoint is a violation of their rights and we will not willfully support such a device.

I was a former Trademark and Patent paralegal at one of the biggest corporate lawfirms in Silicon Valley and the former TrackIR Product Manager at Naturalpoint 2004-2005 so arguing with me about violations of NP's rights is useless. NP is in the right to sue anyone who creates a product that is sold or distributed in or to the U.S. or elsewhere that uses their tech. You will find no sympathy with me." - 2010
VRInsight 6DOF Tracking device [DELETED]
  • Providing an alternative means of camera access would easily avoid any alleged rights violation but it seems customers are less important than a former employer's commercial interests. 
  • Non-profit open source projects have never been sued for patent infringement. 

"Any product that access the game for head tracking other than TrackIR is infringing upon NaturalPoint's patents as they use the hooks and code specifically designed for TrackIR that allow for control of the camera view. We do not support such hacks no do we wish to see any discussion about such "inventions" in our forum.

I have been too lax about this latetly.

Sorry, but thread closed." - 2012
Head Tracking Comparison [DELETED]
  • TrackIR compatible alternatives FreeTrack and FaceTrackNoIR appear to have been developed outside the United States so cannot be infringing U.S. patents.   
  • At the time of this post, NaturalPoint had one granted patent (8,179,366) relevant to head tracking but only for the simultaneous display of real and virtual head position which none of the alternatives do.
  • Patent infringement is not criminal and discussion forums are not obligated to police them.

"ED trying to circumvent TrackIR is bad form since Naturalpoint has done much to distribute their products in North America."
Can't get the hang of this...
  • NaturalPoint seem to help distribute games in exchange for TrackIR exclusivity, implied by the need to 'circumvent TrackIR' to support other means of camera access. 
  • Game developers should be expected to put the interests of their customers ahead of niche peripheral makers.

"They failed to mention that Naturalpoint showed Microsoft TrackIR in person several years ago which showed them the light. And then if memory serves me right M$ bought another small head tracking company not long after. I'm not saying M$ ripped off Naturalpoint, as I know someone on the Kinect team, but TrackIR deserves all the credit for creating the market." - 2011
Will kinect move into Track IR [DELETED]
  • Seems to have forgotten that head trackers and Forte VFX1 existed before TrackIR, assigning NaturalPoint credit for creating the entire motion controller gaming market is laughable. 
  • 'M$' is a disparaging term for Microsoft, insinuating greedy monopolistic practices which is extremely ironic coming from a NaturalPoint defender. 

Former NaturalPoint employee 'Fighting Mad about this bullshit.'

Former NaturalPoint employee in charge of TrackIR developer relations (2004-2005) posts TrackIR affiliate video on Reddit and shares thoughts on FreeTrack.

"Congrats on your resourcefulness $30 is a pretty sweet deal..nevermind the fact that freetrack would NEVER have worked in ARMA had it not been for NaturalPoint TrackIR 6DOF being built into it. Along with any other game you play that utilizes anything more than mouse emulation. I seriously doubt the guys at Bohemia,..who worked very hard to revolutionize FPS with TrackIR,..will allow this free piggybacking to continue in ARMA3. Expect an activation code of some kind to enable 6DOF or hopefully anything beyond a joystick hatswitch. Anything that will prove you are a TrackIR owner,..or you can pay a fee to enable it and use FreeTrack all you want, long as NaturalPoint gets paid for their hard work. That is a guess,.have not talked to anyone at NaturalPoint in years. Freetrack makes all my work there meaningless,..and potentially puts a small company out of business. Oh,.lets not forget the the people who actually bought TrackIR's. Fighting Mad about this bullshit."
FakeRacer - 2012
  • The original ARMA (Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis) was designed with independent head control in mind before the TrackIR interface existed, supporting it would have been trivial.  
  • NaturalPoint gave Bohemia Interactive an encrypted TrackIR SDK for ARMA2 and in response they added FreeTrack support. 
  • Establishing a brand name interface in games to the point that head tracking is widely referred to as 'TrackIR™' and the subsequent sales that generates should be reward enough for their work.

Excluded competition

"We love Cam2Pan and Freelook, both are great ways of getting introduced to head tracking for view control. If the systems work for you, then we are happy you found a solution.

We are also working to get more titles to be TrackIR Enhanced, something that exclusive to us, the only truly Absolute tracking device on the market."
NaturalPoint President - 2004
  • NaturalPoint apparently loves competition, as long as it can be excluded. 
  • Any webcam is a 'truly absolute tracking device', both Cam2Pan and Freelook software provide 'truly absolute tracking'. 

Compatible competition

2connect, a German NaturalPoint reseller, published this email they received from NaturalPoint regarding FreeTrack.

“Many people actually don’t realize that the developers of FreeTrack have hacked our software. Some realize this and don’t care, but I think many more are not aware. For the detailed specifics, I should probably get one of the developers to re-explain it to me, but in summary, the way that we tie in to games is done through our software and through legally binding agreements between ourselves and game developers/publishers. In order to get something to use the “TrackIR enhanced interface” it requires several lines of code. This is copyright and confidential. For Freetrack to work, it needs to include a line that says in summary, “this is copyright material and property of NaturalPoint” (this can even be found in their software if you look!). On top of that, they are constantly trolling forums and leaving negative comments about TrackIR, often including factual inaccuracies as well. They use webcams running at poor framerates, with film coating and makeshift lights to simulate a TrackClip PRO. They proselytize a “free TrackIR”, but in reality the hardware is horrible, and the software is not as polished as ours (not to mention the functionality due to infringement of copyright). For one, it works poorly when compared to TrackIR, so people who elect to try FreeTrack before trying TrackIR can be left with a bad image of headtracking, and two, they have been exceptionally aggressive in trying to steer people away from TrackIR and towards their inferior free product.”
NaturalPoint Sales Manager
  • Locking an interface with copyright keys, so that the only way to gain access is to copy them, is no grounds for copyright infringement
  • The competition NaturalPoint used to love for introducing people to head tracking is now 'horrible', 'inferior', 'makeshift', 'works poorly' and leaves a 'bad image of headtracking' ever since it 'infringed' their copyright lock and became TrackIR compatible. 

'Optimized' interface

"The TrackIR interface has been optimized in the past months for better integration in the newest games in development. This new integration is localized to version 4.1.036 of the TrackIR software, which TrackIR 2 is unable to run on. The second generation of TrackIR uses much older and quite different technology than 4, so supporting both in the new interface proved unfeasible.

The dll which you've tried is a hack that allows users to shoehorn the old interface into Black Shark. We don't encourage use of or offer support for this dll.

As you noted, you can continue to run TrackIR 2 in mouse emulation mode in Black Shark. In order use TrackIR in many of the upcoming new titles, you will need to have a version that runs the newest software (TIR 3 or 4)."
TrackIR Marketing Manager
  • By 'optimized' they mean secretly encrypted and by 'better integration in the newest games' they mean making those games TrackIR exclusive. 
  • The 'old' interface is still there and doesn't need to be 'shoehorned' back in, TrackIRFixer only bypasses the added encryption.
  • The OptiTrack SDK supports both TrackIR 2 & 4, as demonstrated with FreeTrack, so support of the 'older and quite different technology' is not 'unfeasible'.

'We’ll happily let consumers decide'

"Thank you for bringing this to our attention. It would appear there are several significant factual errors in Edimensional’s post. I hope I can clarify, while still maintaining a professional tone!

The reason Edimensional no longer carries TrackIR is because we refused to supply them. We revoked their authorized dealer status. I suppose that would be a “major distribution issue.” Without getting into details, we felt their customer service and marketing strategies did not meet our standards. We were frequently contacted by frustrated Edimensional customers that bought TrackIR but couldn’t ever speak with a customer service representative from their company after repeated efforts. As complaints increased and our concerns grew, we made the business decision to no longer supply Edimensional with any NaturalPoint product.

In regards to their efforts at creating a motion sensing technology that they feel will be “more practical”, we certainly welcome any product that they may release, and feel that if they are able to build a motion tracking device, we’ll happily let consumers decide which is the superior product."
NaturalPoint Sales Manager
  • NaturalPoint have a strange way of 'welcoming' competition and 'happily letting consumers decide'. This wording also implies they have sufficient stranglehold of the market to control consumer choice.


"I decided to continue on my merry way and found my way to NaturalPoint’s booth. NaturalPoint, for those that don’t know, and I certainly didn’t when I got there, make TrackIR. And for those who have no idea what TrackIR is, it allows you to look around in a virtual cockpit using a camera and 3 Infrared LEDs at varying heights and distances. I told them about you Bobby and I think they’re coming to Seattle to beat you up. You were warned. But seriously, I did talk to the sales manager for the company, he was the only one free, and he’s pretty cool. He was a little disappointed when I told him we built one and apparently the program you’re using is equivalent to the F-bomb around the company, but he said that you should try TrackIR."
  • This anecdote describes NaturalPoint threatening (albeit jokingly) to beat up people who use FreeTrack and build their own point models. The FreeTrack name was also apparently an 'F-bomb' for the company, indicating they weren't taking any kind of competition lightly.

NaturalPoint sockpuppet

TrackIR Product Manager Seth Steiling registered sockpuppet accounts named 'Winder (likely abbreviation of Sidewinder) to promote TrackIR and aggressively defame FreeTrack on the forums for Eagle Dynamics, CodeMasters and Bohemia Interactive.

The FreeTrack forum also has an account named 'Winder which administrators claim was accessed with anonymous proxies and registered with a dummy email address that was discovered to be associated with One of 'Winder's posts mentions studying political science at university which correlates with Seth's LinkedIn profile. Seth created official NaturalPoint accounts for himself on the Eagle and Bohemia forums before the 'Winder accounts were created within roughly a month and a week respectively. 'Winder shows significant insider technical and business knowledge of NaturalPoint and even writes in their voice on more than one occasion.

'Winder's posts have been archived here, the following are a few highlights:

"Before you guys take the FreeTrack plunge, you might want to do some research on the legality of what their devs are doing. Basically, they scavenge the TrackIR interface by retrieving copyrighted TrackIR text strings in order to achieve functionality with 99% of the games that FreeTrack works with. They pitch their project as a sort of "entrepreneurial" exercise, but they're really just hackers that are mooching off of another program.

If you want to use it anyways, that's your choice, but I thought I'd shed some light so you know going in that it's more than just freeware. It's pretty much pirated software."
  •  Compatibility is not piracy. 

"I already posted this on another thread, but you guys might want to look into FreeTrack a bit before you get too excited. It's not really an "alternative" as much as a pirated counterfeit. The FreeTrack devs just rip out a bunch of TrackIR text strings (violating copyright) from its interface, which is how they get support in essentially every game (including Jumpgate Evolution). If you go the FT route, you're going to be supporting pirated software, not a competing freeware product. Just thought you might want to know.

TrackIR did just get $50 cheaper, btw. Now it costs about the same as a high-end gaming mouse or joystick.


Forgot to mention that, because FreeTrack just mooches off of the TrackIR interface, you don't need to beg the JE devs to integrate FreeTrack. If they're integrating TrackIR, FreeTrack will already be freeloading their way to an easy implementation."
  • After accusing FreeTrack of being a 'pirated counterfeit', 'moochers' and 'freeloaders' for using the TrackIR interface, in complete contradiction he then goes on to discourage alternative interfaces. Clearly NaturalPoint don't want their restrictive proprietary interface to be replaced by an open alternative.

"No kidding... I wonder why they don't take NP to court? Well, golly. It's just so hard to figure out... NaturalPoint: "Wait, wait, wait... you guys are suing us? For "anti-competitive" behavior? Lovely. Take a bite out of our copyright infringement counter suit. Tastes nice, hmmm?" That case would be so open and shut. I know all about your "interoperability" arguments. Do you really think you can exactly copy an interface (while, in the process, violating the very license agreement that allowed you access to it), call it a "competing product," and then claim that locking it out is an interoperability issue? Developers have a right to protect themselves from their hardware interfacing with software that pirates their own, which is basically what FreeTrack is doing (if not in name, at least in form)."
  • The game user does not need to agree to a NaturalPoint license, the very simple TrackIR interface contained within the game code is open to being reverse engineered which has been done by at least six independent software developers.

"It's very standard (and, I would submit, acceptable) practice to create a EULA that says, "Hey, you're using our brand new piece of technology. Hope you like it, because we're proud of it and worked hard to create it. But you know what? We're pretty decent people, so we'll risk the security of all our hard work in order to let you explore new and creative ways to use this stuff. We only request that you don't copy what we've done and distribute it to other people for free. It took us a while to make it, you see. Plus, this is our job, and how we feed our kids. Do you think that's fair? If so, and you agree to honor our request, please sign your name below."
  • As mentioned above, the game contains the interface and the end user does not need to agree to a NaturalPoint EULA.

"There's more to this than a reverse engineered interface. Do you know that FreeTrack does more than use the same syntax as TrackIR? They also, w/o permission (as I understand it), "borrow" several view mods that NP created. It has to take at least a weak to make a view mod, considering the high level hacking that's involved. TIR uses several view mods for support, so I think at least 5 games are supported in FreeTrack directly through pirating those mods. I think they call it TIRAttack. Look up their source code. It's all in there.

This. Is. Fricking. Piracy. To the letter. As you put it, "copying of a product and distributing it illegally." That is exactly what is happening. Not to mention the fact that, I'm quite sure, the FreeTrack devs used the TrackIR SDK to build their interface, which is in violation of its EULA. If not piracy in law, certainly in the spirit of it."
  • TIRAttack (actually tir_attack) sounds insidious but is really just a free utility that adds TrackIR support to otherwise unsupported games and has no connection to FreeTrack. 
  • There are no "view mods" in FreeTrack's publicly available source code, nor is there any such functionality.

"Why penalize them for sustaining their profitability just because they cost a bit more than a webcam? (It's not like webcam manufactures are giving FreeTrack users support in games!)"
  • Purchasing TrackIR does not directly pay for game support. TrackIR does not readily support games, rather game developers are choosing to support TrackIR at their own expense. They could just as easily support any other popular head tracking API. 

"Doesn't this post, and really the entire thread, constitute a violation of Forums Rule 1.8?

"Material and links to material that includes information on and/or promotes software piracy is strictly prohibited.""
  • Once again they tried to censor a forum and shut down discussion by equating interface compatibility with software piracy. 

"NaturalPoint encrypted their data stream to prevent FreeTrack users or anyone else from hijacking their API without permission."
  • NaturalPoint were deliberately deceptive about the reasons for changing the interface and secretly introducing encryption but through the proxy of a sockpuppet have no problem admitting the true reason.