Valve Begins Process To License Tracking Technology Royalty Free

by Ian Hamilton • August 4th, 2016

Valve Software is revealing details surrounding its efforts to share its innovative tracking technology with others, declaring: “ATTENTION INVENTORS, PRODUCT DESIGNERS, VR HACKERS, AND DEVICE MANUFACTURERS: Use the World’s Best 3D Tracking Technology, Royalty Free.”

Licensees of Valve’s SteamVR Tracking technology get access to “a hardware development kit including a reference tracked device, sensors, and software tools to help design and build new devices.” For the time being, Valve is requiring licensees physically attend a $3,000 session held by a partner company called Synapse to “propel your design team into the world of SteamVR Tracking.” The first sessions are in September.

tracking

We’re still digesting everything revealed on the page and the assoicated Q&A, but there are all sorts of interesting tidbits like the comment that “a host” is needed to integrate”3D positional information from multiple devices.” This is a PC “for now.”

The Q&A page also states there’s “no catch” — “it’s just the best tracking tech out there, and you can have it for use in your product. There is a cost for the introductory class, so that’s kind of a catch if you want to call it one. But: No licensing fees! No royalties!”

tracking-2

A “modular reference tracked object suitable for attaching to prototype HMDs and other devices” that comes with the SteamVR Tracking development kit. It can essentially be glued to a headset (even a Rift!) to provide SteamVR Tracking. You read that right — tracking a Rift with Lighthouse base stations. This could also help jumpstart HMD development for other companies.

Valve uses bases stations with spinning lasers scanning the room combined with “simple trigonometry to find the location of each sensor to within a fraction of a millimeter.” These kinds of sensors are all over the HTC Vive controllers and headset and it is key to the Vive’s mind-blowing walk-around VR technology. Other companies like Optitrack and Oculus use different kinds of cameras to see markers or lights placed on headsets, controllers, or objects.

If you attach sensors to an object like a ping pong paddle would bring the paddle itself into a VR experience, providing the exact feel of a real object in VR. All you would need to do is make the paddle vibrate in the right spot to provide the exact feeling of playing a real game of ping pong. This is precisely the type of accessory licensees should be able to build with access to the technology.

It doesn’t appear base station design is part of what they are opening up to third-parties at the moment, stating “we need to make sure that there is complete compatibility among base stations and tracked devices. Longer term, we do want the hardware community to help us evolve base station design and to help innovate in that area, but given our own limited bandwidth we need to push that collaboration out to some future date.”

Details to come. Thanks to @steamDB and Martin Benjamins for alerting us to these pages.

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  • unreal_ed

    Really excited to see what comes out of this

  • Michael Davidson

    Why force people into attending a $3,000 class, from a partner at that? Why would you want to exclude garage makers and individuals who cannot afford (money and/or time) to travel? Sell the kit for $599 or whatever and offer it for free if they attend the class, but don’t lock people out like this.

    • Adam Jorgenson

      If you actually read the Steam FAQ they linked, they said they will open it up once they figure out how to serve licencees without training.

      • Michael Davidson

        That’s extremely nebulous and my current position still stands. I don’t see any reason why they haven’t already “figured” it out. To be fair to your point, I just read the article, not the FAQ.

        • Adam Jorgenson

          It’s probably more complicated then you think it is. But they will be selling just the kit once they can.

    • Joshua Corvinus

      They’ve mentioned various times that they really want people to adhere to the spec to preserve interoperability. My guess is the class is a way to ensure that hardware developers don’t deviate from the standard.

  • Anthony Clay

    Christmas dreams do come true! I’d much rather order a kit and watch some webinars on using them. But I’ll take what I can get.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    I bet Vive owners will be able to buy a 3rd party controller, before Rift owners can buy a 1st party controller. lol

    • Doctor Bambi

      Con flab it! xD

    • Jasonelmore

      but neither will be as good lol

      Seriously, i applaud them for taking the time to polish the controller and software that will launch with it. Nowadays, it’s easy to succumb to a few loud voices on the internet.

  • netname

    At the end of the days… this device are to be “SMART” in a world that want things “SMART”…

    PSVR are smart.. and works… at magnificent MSRP Price point.. guys just works.. without problems and a rock solid 60fps experience… 8k resolution and a 89x FSAA on VR are only a marketing thing.

    i have both vive and Oculus.. and i prefer PSVR .. for the price, for the use and for the games.

    this is my opinion. .. “37 years on gaming”