SteamVR Tracking 2.0 Improves Base Stations To Cover Warehouses

by Jamie Feltham • June 6th, 2017

Valve’s Lighthouse tracking system for SteamVR headsets remains arguably the best in the industry, and it’s set for a big upgrade this November.

The company this week issued a tracking technology update over on Steam where it revealed some surprising new plans for what it called SteamVR Tracking 2.0. Crucially, the post confirms Valve will have the new base stations available in “production quantities” in November of this year.

Valve’s Joe Ludwig held up an early prototype of this unit up for all to see at an event a few months ago. He said it would be “cheaper, smaller, lighter” than the current base stations that come with the HTC Vive. This week’s update also confirms it will be “quieter, lower power,” and “more reliable” than its predecessor.

With 2.0’s arrival users will also be able to support more than two base stations with their SteamVR setups. At the event earlier this year Gabe Newell spoke of multi-room VR experiences in which multiple base stations throughout a house could turn the entire building into a virtual world. It looks like 2.0 could start to deliver on that vision.

By swapping out parts in the new system, Valve claims to have made its tracking tech perform even better than before. The new units use “sync-on-beam” technology, in which bursts of data are delivered through laser and sync hits. This replaces the sync blinker system in the original model that the company claims caused interference between base stations and drove up the cost. Early engineering units are available upon request this month.

The news does raise a few questions, however. In the same update, Valve notes a new component from supplier Triad Semiconductor will offer compatibility with both the new and old base stations. The new component, dubbed TS4231, should be going into mass production later this year — suggesting new SteamVR products might be on the way soon — and Valve recommends that new SteamVR devices releasing from here on out switch to the new component over the current TS3633, as the new base stations are not compatible with it.

This throws into question upgrade plans for the HTC Vive. We’re following up on this right now and we’ll bring you answers as soon as we have them. It’s likely that new headsets like the one coming from LG will sport the new component, but what does this mean for the current Vive? This new tracking system is a gateway to larger and more robust tracking for not only homes, but arcades and warehouses too. It is also the pathway to less expensive room-scale setups since the base stations should use fewer components and become much less expensive. The question, of course, is just when will HTC begin offering these improved systems and in what sorts of bundles?

Either way, big changes are coming to SteamVR soon and that’s without mentioning the new prototype controllers the company has in the works too.

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  • Stefan Küppers

    I wonder how much lower power. The main concern for me is still, that you need a power outlet near the base station. If you could on the other hand just mount it with a battery pack you would truely be free where to place them in your room/ house / garage/ warehouse / castle…

    • Nicholas

      It’s not hardwired to a power cable – you can wire it up to a 12V battery (I suspect a 3-cell 11.1V LiPo pack would work fine).

    • daveinpublic

      Looking at Apple’s AR inside out tracking from WWDC, the quality is pretty good with just one regular smartphone camera, surely the best way to roam your house will be with some upcoming tech like Tango that tracks everything without basestations. Seems like a technology that can only go so far. Inside out will just keep getting better and better, and allow you to go outside, etc.

      • G-man

        using cameras to track the world will always be limited by the camera resolution, fps and the processing power to both render the vr world and also track the outside world. whereas the lighthouse system is comparatively very high detail even over long distances, and requires minimal processing of the tracking signal compared to a camera. camera tracking alone is a tech that can only go so far. it pretty much wont work to track controllers inside out from the headset other than if the controllers have leds all over them like microsofts inside out headsets. and then its limited to tracking controllers only int he direction the headset cameras can see.both systems have their benefits

    • G-man

      you can mount anything to a battery if you have the right battery

    • Robert Cole

      I just had two mains cable drums 25m each… Lighthouse basestations easily placed anywhere.

  • Vive 2 is coming?

    • wheeler

      More than likely stuff from other manufacturers (e.g. the one LG already announced). We’re coming upon the era of “SteamVR” virtual reality devices–not just the Vive. But who knows what HTC is up to … with all of the crazy decisions they’ve been making as of late, I have very little confidence that they’ll be able to survive in the competitive ecosystem that Valve is nurturing.

    • TheStargazer

      They have said that a Gen 2 Vive is at least 2 years out.

  • bschuler

    LMFAO! “….remains arguably the best in the industry”. Is every post on UPLOADVR going to have this lame clause? I can see it now, “Holding the new touch controllers in your hand is arguably the best way to use them.” or “Star Trek Bridge Crew is arguably a game set in the Star Trek universe.” You do not need to put arguably in just because a few crazy people disagree. Not when it is in fact a fact. If you researched it, you’d be hard pressed to find one technical journal, website, etc.. that does not put the Vive trackers as the best tracking tech currently available. So why the lame arguably? Sheesh… grow some and take a stand.

    • Sebastien Mathieu

      yep 100% agree!!

    • Tako Schotanus

      I think you misunderstand with “arguably” means. The dictionary definition states “used when stating an opinion or belief that you think can be shown to be true”. So they do indeed believe the Vive tracking to be the best. Perhaps you’re confused with “one could argue”, which would be a lot weaker statement.

    • Allan Neuhaus

      You just said what I have been feeling for a few years now about. We live in an age of no absolutes and 0 accountability. Everything feels like it’s becoming an amorphous blob where everything remains ambiguous to avoid ‘offense’.

      Thank you for putting this out there. Made me smile that there are sane folks out there.

      • Raphael

        Your statement is arguably true.

  • RoTaToR

    look at the picture… they use a lot of old mobilephones! ^^

    • iason150

      those are mics.