A Head Tracker allow you to look freely around your cockpit and also outside. This is especially useful in dogfights in order to quickly see if there are enemies to your left/right/above your. There are some commercial solutions – the TrackIR seems to be recognized as the best head tracker money can buy but sadly it is a bit expensive…
If you already have a Webcam you can instead use the free OpenTrack head tracker. It may not track as smooth as TrackIR but hey – it’s free! This guide will help you install OpenTrack and get it setup for Elite Dangerous, DCS World and any other space- or flight-sim that supports head tracking.
OpenTrack is able to get tracking data from many inputs – I prefer using the free AITrack software as it is very easy to use with OpenTracker and do not require as much CPU power as some alternatives. If that does not work for you there are many guides on YouTube on how to use other tracking sources as input for OpenTrack, e.g. a DIY ARUCO marker or integration with your smartphone.
Download and install OpenTrack
Download the latest Opentrack release using this link.
It is recommended to install OpenTrack on the same harddisk where E:D is installed as there has been some issues reported where E:D failed to recognize opentrack when installed on different disks (don’t know if this has been fixed or not).
Start opentrack and select UDP over network as you input. Click the tool icon to the right of this and note the port number (default: 4242) – you will need this later.
Create a shortcut to the OpenTrack EXE file on your desktop or Start menu.
Download and install AITrack
OpenDownload the latest AITrack release using this link.
Create a shortcut to the AITrack EXE file on your desktop or Start menu.
Start AITrack and click the Configuration button. Enter the IP address 127.0.0.1 and the port number you configured in OpenTrack (default: 4242). Click Apply and close the Configuration window.
Before continuing: Make sure your Webcam is connected. In the main AITrack window click Start tracking – you should now see yourself with some tracking points around your facial features.
Back to OpenTrack…
If you are playing other games that supports a head tracker, I recommend you create a profile for each game – when playing DCS World I need to move my head around a lot to see every button in my cockpit clearly; in Elite Dangerous I prefer less movement and some other mapping curves. You can either create a new empty profile or make a copy using your current profile – both options are located on the Profile button. Here you can also open the Profile folder which is very useful if you need to take a backup of your profile or make a copy for a friend.
We have already selected UDP over network as our input – if not do so now.
Select the freetrack 2.0 Enhanced as your Output protocol. If you have problem with E:D not recognizing OpenTrack you can click the tool button and change the freetrack output to Use TrackIR, disable freetrack. For DCS you can leave both protocols turned on (default).
I use the Accela Filter – if the head tracking is not smooth you can try increasing the Smoothing value – click the tool button to open the Filter settings.
Click the Options button and go to the Output page. You will likely need to Invert both Pitch and Z axis for DCS – for E:D you may want to disable Roll, X,Y,Z axis and only use Yaw and Pitch if you are getting seasick of too much head movements – click the Source button and select Disable if you do not want to use the selected axis.
Click the Mapping button to open the Mapping properties – this is the most important part of configuring OpenTrack and will require some trial-and-error until you are satisfied with the mappings. I found the default mappings totally useless so I have made custom mapping of every axis.
In DCS I use different Pitch mapping for looking up and down; When I look down I need the head tracker to change the view slightly slower than when I am looking up as I need more precise movements to see all my cockpit controls clearly. In DCS I also need to be able to look 180 degree back – in E:D most cockpits limit your vision to only 90 degrees to each side so you will want different mappings for each game.
All done! Now click the Start button and move you head slowly around and notice the pink octopus – if everything has been configured correct the octopus should now follow your head movement.
Next step: Fire up Elite Dangerous, DCS World or any other space- or flight-sim you fancy, jump into your cockpit and see if the head tracker works OK or if it is too jerky.
You may need to Alt-TAB back to OpenTrack and adjust the Mapping or the smoothness of the Filter several times before you are satisfied.
Remember to make a backup of your profiles after you have customized OpenTrack and are satisfied with your settings.
Your webcam must be plugged in and both AITrack and OpenTrack should be started before you start your game.
Before you start your game move your head and verify that the pink octopus follow your movements – if not make sure you have plugged in your webcam, started both AITrack and OpenTrack. Also make sure your firewall do not block communication on the UDP port you have configured for Input.