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.