HTC made waves in the tech world yesterday with the announcement of the Vive Pro’s price and availability. Today, we discovered more news that somehow slipped under the radar. HTC is now selling updated Vive Trackers that work with Steam VR Tracking 2.0.
Last year, at CES 2017, HTC announced the Vive Tracker universal tracking device, which enables you to track any object in VR. Vive Trackers enabled hardware developers to make peripherals for the Vive platform, such as the Hyperkin Hyperblaster, or passive attachments, such as HTC’s Racket Sports Pack, that you can bring into the game for deeper immersion. You can also use Vive Tracker to track your legs and torso position for full-body tracking.
HTC released the Vive Trackers to developers after GDC last year, and in November the company opened the doors for the public to buy these devices. We tested a handful of Vive Trackers in December, and we liked the potential that they present, though there’s not much to do with them yet, and they are quite pricey. What we didn’t realize is that the original Vive Trackers were nearly obsolete when HTC launched them.
Last June, Valve started talking about the second generation of SteamVR Tracking, which includes new base stations that don’t have moving parts, and new sensors that can communicate with up to four of the new base stations. SteamVR Tracking 2.0 should open the doors for larger play areas, and potentially multi-room tracked spaces. However, the new base stations are not compatible with the light sensors from the original Vive.
Valve partnered with Triad Semiconductors to manufacture and distribute the new TS4231 sensors, and the parts should have been available in production quantities in November. We took it for granted that HTC would use the updated sensors for the retail Vive Trackers because they are cheaper to make than the original model, and they would make the Trackers somewhat future-proof. However, HTC didn’t do that. If you already purchased Vive Trackers, they aren’t going to work with the new base stations if you upgrade to them when Valve releases them.
In late February during Mobile World Congress, we learned that updated Trackers were coming, but when pressed for information, an HTC representative said he had “nothing to announce quite yet on the Trackers” and told us a blog post would be posted in a couple of weeks. That blog post hasn’t yet surfaced, but the Trackers have. You can now order Vive Trackers that include the new tracking sensors.
The HTC Vive accessory page now features images of the new Trackers (the blue power button gives it away). And the company appears to have discontinued the original model. When you put a new tracker in the shopping cart, you should see the old tracker listed as out of stock, and the new tracker in stock.
Shen Ye, a product manager at HTC’s Vive division, confirmed via Twitter that these are indeed the new model.
HTC hasn’t released much detail about the new Trackers, but as far as we can tell, they are just like the old model except for the new tracking sensors. The Trackers still communicate via 2.4 GHz wireless, and they still offer up to 4.5 hours of battery life.
The Vive Trackers are available at HTCVive.com for $99.