Valve made headlines today when Apple revealed the companies were working together to bring virtual reality and SteamVR to Mac computers, but the PC gaming company also quietly revealed some big changes to the way its VR system and devices like the HTC Vive work.
SteamVR is getting an overhaul to how it tracks headsets like the Vive in a three-dimensional space. Valve has redesigned the base stations that act like GPS satellites to use fewer parts and drops the sync-blinker component. That makes these tracking stations smaller, quieter, more power efficient, and — most importantly — less expensive. SteamVR can now also support more than two base stations to improve tracking in larger areas.
Valve is immediately making the new Tracking 2.0 base station tech, dubbed TS4231, available to third-party vendors. It’s also revealing that these updated devices can do more than their 1.0 counterparts. While the original base stations shot out an array of timecoded lasers that sensors on a headset or Vive wand could translate to determine where it was in 3D space, the Tracking 2.0 stations can also transmit information.
“The TS4231 part uses 5 components per sensor, so it is cheaper to place at each sensor,” reads a Steam blog. “More importantly, though, it provides a burst of data per laser or sync hit. Using that data allows information to be transmitted on the laser itself, which we can use to learn about the source of that laser.”
That could potentially improve the quality of the tracking and make it more reliable.
Now, the new tracking stations won’t pair with the 1.0 models. Those original devices require a sync-blinker to work together. The 2.0 uses a new syncing technology that exists on the beams themselves. Because of this incompatibility, Valve is advising its partners to switch to the new base station tech immediately before it enters mass production in the next couple of months.