Vive Tracker Includes USB Add-on To Connect The Additional Accessory

by Ian Hamilton • February 6th, 2017

HTC recently released a document (PDF) detailing how its upcoming Tracker is supposed to function. The small puck-sized unit is meant to be attached to a range of objects and accessories, bringing physical guns, baseball bats, phones, cameras and much more into virtual reality with you.

The Tracker holds enormous promise for extending 1:1 physical simulation to a wide range of activities. An example we saw at CES was a firehose, with the Vive Tracker attached to the end for a realistic firefighting experience.

steamvr-trackerThe system could dramatically lower the cost for high-end simulation systems that look, sound and feel very much like the real thing. The device could potentially lower the cost of training so a wide range of professionals could practice their jobs using VR. The Tracker could also dramatically expand the types of games seen at VR arcades. Imagine, for instance, batting cages, but instead of mechanical arms throwing the balls, batters are swinging at virtual pitches.vive-tracker

Owners of the HTC Vive who have the headset in their homes already will also benefit from extra accessories as well. The Trackers should be compatible with the base stations and headset already in the homes of HTC Vive buyers. We’ve also confirmed with HTC that a Tracker can connect wirelessly through the headset in place of one of the existing Vive controllers. In addition, though, the Tracker will ship with a USB add-on that plugs into your PC to wirelessly connect the unit. This should make adding the Tracker and its related accessories relatively easy for most setups since you won’t have to disconnect your existing controllers to add the new piece. That said, if you did want to save the extra USB port on your PC and only use the new accessory, you could do so through the headset’s connection and leave out the traditional controller, according to HTC.

We can’t wait to see how these devices end up changing the VR ecosystem when it ships in the coming months. It is also notable, however, that Oculus is attaching its Oculus Touch controllers to the Rock Band guitar so that object can be tracked in VR as well. Could that be the first of many tracked Rift accessories?

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What's your reaction?
  • Chris Orris

    There have seriously been NO pictures anywhere at all of the top side of this little puck until now. Was frustrating because all I wanted to know was if it had a 1/4″ screw hole. So thanks.

    • Ian Hamilton

      Ha! I didn’t plan that, but glad I could help. 🙂

    • Caven

      That info was available in the developer document.

      • DougP

        Outside of dev docs, they’d also talked about, along with the announcement, that is was std thread for camera mounting/tripod mount. Which is also a perfect use for the trackers.

  • Brad

    What I’d like to know is, lets say I have a gun I want to bring into VR. Sure I can use this thing to track it, but how would it know if I’m pulling the trigger? If I have to do a bunch of custom electronics, couldn’t I just do built-in tracking while I’m ad it, instead of tacking this thing to the outside?

    • Caven

      The recent developer document indicates that you could wire 4 buttons directly to the pogo pins on the underside of the unit, so you can put a few controls on the device without having to do anything particularly fancy with electronics.

      Another option suggested in the document is to use entirely separate electronics for the controls. For a simple example, imagine attaching the tracker to a wireless gamepad or keyboard. The controller or keyboard uses its own wireless interface to communicate with the computer independently of the tracker.

      To fully integrate the tracking into a device would likely require more than just custom electronics, as there would need to be some way to tell the system exactly where on the device the sensors are. Otherwise, the system will get confused when it tries to calculate the device’s orientation based on a standard sensor layout. Integrating the tracker electronics into a device probably makes more sense for a manufacturer than a hobbyist.

    • GT

      I’d expect that the electronics to detect a trigger pull and communicate it to the tracker would be on par with a $5 solar-powered calculator or something similarly inexpensive. Compared to all the electronics needed by the tracker portion, which includes photodiodes, accel/gyro (IMU) sensors, and of course Bluetooth.

      Integrated tracking would be a lot less clunky (that pistol with a tracker on the top looks quite unwieldy), but a lot more expensive.

  • Graham J ⭐️

    I’m surprised this can’t connect to the Vive’s BT PAN at the same time as the controllers. I’d expect there to be enough bandwidth available.

  • Curious to see lots of applications that will be made with the Tracker

  • Joan Villora Jofré

    If I use the controllers, will I need a USB port for each Vive Tracker?

    • DougP

      Re: two or more – same dongle (usb)
      I *think* that it’s one usb(wireless) dongle per tracker.
      Not certain on that though.

      • Joan Villora Jofré

        Thanks, limits a little the amount of trackers then.

        • GodMk2

          No, nie, non. Each vive controller, headset or puck is responsible for tracking itself. The lighthouses send out a timing pulse and sweeping laser beam, and each item in the room then works out the delay from pulse to the beam to establish it’s position. There’s no usb link other than the 1 controller box which the headset is plugged into. All the controllers and headsets talk back to their link box wirelessly and then the PC the headset is linked to. The Vive Ecosystem can currently track up to 16 items in a room, including more than 1 headset, thought thats just an arbitrary number they chose thinking that’s more than enough for most applications. You only need 1 pair of light houses (plugged into the mains not the computer) to get a multiplayer set up working.

          • Joan Villora Jofré

            I know, but have you read the PDF? I think that Trackers work with a Wireless USB Dongle to send the data. (Or replacing the controllers connection)

  • DougP

    Re: tracker puck – green-screen it
    Perfect for mixed-reality videos or game demos, whereby you slap a green (/protective) “skin” on the puck & just channel out the color, along with your real-space green screen, and just the gun/prop shows.
    Can see lots of VR-interested amateur video creators utilizing this for f/x (cgi background).

    • DougP

      Wow – just saw the other article on IKenima. The potential for (tracking)capturing your actors (mo-cap or real video w/greenscreen) is incredible!

    • EY

      Covering the tracker puck with something green only works at certain angles. If the green-covered area is between the camera and you, it’ll look like there’s a hole punched out of your body.