Valve Shows ‘Cheaper, Smaller, Lighter’ Next Generation Base Station Prototype

by Jamie Feltham • February 15th, 2017

We’ve already seen Valve tease the next generation of SteamVR controllers, now the company has offered a peak at a new base station too.

Company Programmer Joe Ludwig showcased a prototype for the next iteration of the hardware at a press event inside the Valve offices earlier this month, captured on video by the Valve News Network. Base stations use Valve’s Lighthouse tracking system to find the positions of a VR headset and controllers in a tracked area, and relay that information into a VR experience, giving the user positional tracking and, in a big enough space, room scale VR experiences.

Ludwig described the prototype on display as “an early engineering model” that was subject to change. He pointed out that a base station used with the HTC Vive has two spinning motors inside, while the new device only has one. As a result the device is “cheaper, smaller, lighter”, producing less noise than the low hum you’ll hear in current base stations and using less power too.

Sadly, Valve didn’t get into the specifics of how much cheaper, smaller, and lighter the device would be, though these elements likely aren’t set in stone yet.

“We think it will track a little bit better, have a wider field of view,” Ludwig added. “[It’s] basically the next generation. Better in every way.”

valve-base-station-new-2

It was following this that Valve co-founder Gabe Newell talked about a vision for “house-scale” VR in which several environments could be knitted together for more elaborate experiences.

This device will be shipping out to Lighthouse licensees later this year. Valve noted that it now has 500 of these licensees, working on everything from headsets to controllers. The Vive may not be the only major SteamVR headset for much longer.

Obviously these new base stations are big news for the future of SteamVR tracking, a technology that could be the most important to the VR industry in 2017. Cheaper tracking means that VR systems can come down in price, opening up the technology to a wider audience, and better tracking will give everyone more solid experiences.

Along with hardware, Valve is also making three full VR games that we’ll hopefully see later this year. GDC is just around the corner; is the company planning some big announcements?

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  • Doctor Bambi

    GDC cannot come soon enough.

  • NooYawker

    This is what the industry needs, multiple manufacturers creating headsets at different price points. Great for the industry and consumers, going to make it tough for HTC and Oculus, they’ll have to stay cutting edge to compete against what will probably be a flood of lower priced products.

    • Bundy

      In 5 years the VR landscape is going to look a lot different.

      • NooYawker

        What’s funny is early on in the smartphone market, HTC was a dominating force. Let’s see if they learned from their mistakes.
        Imagine if Cable companies tried the smartphone model. Order high speed internet and get a free VR headset or pay a little up front and a little every month.

  • Mourz

    I though the comment about headsets was more interesting than light houses. Headsets frame rates will leapfrog monitors/cell phones in 2018/2019.

  • VR Geek

    We share very similar views here at MetaverseXXX. We have been taking risks with our content by experimenting extensively. We have made many mistakes, but have also found some real gems especially in the areas of intimacy. We also very much agree that it is the trend and not the current market size or sales that indicate we are on the right path. It is an experiential growth trend with the early years being very shallow. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/96779c39f603c471257dcd7efe38137d24054c1c61ec719a58809787779d2204.png

  • Robbie Cartwright

    around 10:26 newell looks pretty lost in thought…

  • towblerone

    This is pretty much the most exciting interview I’ve ever watched. The fact that Valve is actively investing so much time and resources into VR is the greatest tech-related news I’ve ever heard. The next five years are going to be crazy.

  • As an UploadVR reader… I can say that we already knew about this improvement! I’m curious about the price difference between the two

  • DougP

    Gads it’s so refreshing to hear VR news from Valve/Gabe – leading the way!

  • Tony

    “We are going to consume the shit out of Intel and AMD processors” – Gabe the Legend 🙂

  • Gerad Simon

    Came here for the news on the new base stations. Stayed for the 37 minute long video of Gabe and friends talking about the future of VR. No regrets!

  • VR Geek

    We very much agree with just about everything Gabe states in this interview, especially the part about take risks and being ok to fail. We have been taking all kinds of risks with our shoots at Metaverse XXX and have failed hard on some and discovered some gems along the way too. We are having lots of fun exploring this new medium for the past 3 years.