Ilium VR are working on a new VR-centric gun peripheral which plans to use Valve’s SteamVR ‘Lighthouse’ tracking to bring realistic weapon control to virtual reality games.

Shooting things in games is cool. Shooting things in VR can be infinitely cooler. Add in a dedicated controller that gives you the physical feel of a weapon and add tracking and peripheral functionality to it and you have something that has the potential to take shooting things to the next level.

Ilium certainly think so as they already begun a crowdfunding campaign to kick off their plans to build a virtual reality-centric gun peripheral to be powered by Valve’s Lighthouse tracking system. Athena is the peripheral’s name and it will come in the form of a futuristic looking assault rifle.

For clarity, outside of the design renders seen in the above promotional video, the rifle peripheral being demonstrated is not Athena but Ilium VR’s earlier VR gun dev kit “The Persuader”, modeled on the M1A1 Thompson ‘Tommy Gun’ and using a rudimentary mount for a standard SteamVR controller in order to leverage its tracking.

The Athena is an altogether more ambitious beast and promises recoil action, the ability to reload via a magazine pull-out / pull-in action, whilst also integrating standard joystick and button inputs. What makes the device interesting however is the team’s plans to integrate Valve’s ‘open’ SteamVR ‘Lighthouse’ tracking functionality into the device. Basically, the final peripheral would be clustered with sensors to enable the gun to detect the sweeps from SteamVR’s laser base stations, and as with the packed-in SteamVR controllers, beaming that data wirelessly for a compatible game to map to in game actions.

athena-features

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We reported recently that Valve’s long awaited plans to open up the Lighthouse platform to form a tracking standard of sorts for developers and manufacturers had finally begun in earnest. Valve announced just prior to the company’s Steam Dev Days event that it’s already licensed Lighthouse tracking to some 300 companies, royalty free since it’s original announcement back in august. According to Valve, the company are gearing up to show off “new VR peripherals” which will be made available for “demonstration and design collaboration with attendees,” at some point in the future.

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The Athena is one of the first gaming specific product we’ve seen to take advantage of Valve’s new initiative and it’s a brave move. Traditionally, peripherals for gaming have rarely fared well. Gaming systems (including the SteamVR powered HTC Vive of course) ship with standard controllers allowing developers to target them and hone their software knowing that everyone who buys their game or application will own those devices. 3rd party peripherals on the other hand require the manufacturer to acquire interest and support from those same developers to add in legacy support for the proprietary device. The Catch 22 situation of course is that, developers don’t want to commit resources to build around a device few customers own and customers won’t buy hardware without software support.

athena-gun-render-lighthouse-pointsIllium are of course aware of this and have tried to mitigate the issue by entered into a partnership with Invrse Studios (The Nest) and Vertigo Games (Arizona Sunshine) who will both include updates to add native support for Athena to their games. A good start indeed.

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Athena is currently being offered via an Indiegogo campaign with a lofty $100,000 funding target. Backers can notionally get their hands on a single gun along with The Nest and Arizona Sunshine for $300. The device itself has a timeline for delivery of December 2017. The campaign seems troubled currently however, with just over $4000 of that goal currently met. It’s not clear how key the funding is to progress of the product.

It’s an interesting project and one we hope to see more of in the future, especially if the Ilium team manage to square the peripheral support issue mentioned above. However it does join Stryker, another VR-centric peripheral featuring impressive recoil, in the same space. We’ll watch with interest to see how much traction both projects gain in the future.

  • Sam Illingworth

    What was the name of that gun shown a while back with quite impressive looking haptics (but no announcement on tracking intentions)?

    • “However it does join Stryker, another VR-centric peripheral featuring impressive recoil, in the same space.”

      ;)

      • Sam Illingworth

        Ah yeah, that’s the one

    • Andrew Jakobs

      That was the first thing that came on my mind too..

  • VR Games For

    This VR gun looks impressive. The thing is that those accessories need wide support in games. It should be tied with one hugely popular upcoming shooter title to make it stand out from the rest and get the attention of both gamers and developers alike.

    • yag

      HL3 supporting tracked gun confirmed.

  • Brad

    I’m surprised it’s taking this long. Stryker announced a product a few months ago, but it’s only for arcades and the like, not consumers. I’ve built my own gun mount for my Vive controllers out of PVC and the like, and I love it, crappy as it is. I’m all over this.

  • Mike McLin

    Why not make the design adaptable? Pop off parts of the gun to turn it into a handgun for example? Keep the magazine portion for an uzi type gun? I don’t want to have to purchase a “gun collection” for VR.

    • I’d like to second seeing a module approach to a gun peripheral. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this might work:

      The main body, in the receiver-area, does all of the tracking and wireless communication. Each part added on would either work as a new button input, or just to fill out the form (like a stock). Even the handle-trigger would be swap-able part hooking into the bottom of the main unit. You could Frankenstein this sort of setup into dozens, or even hundreds, of potential guns. They only need to concern themselves with the parts the user touches. Also, add in some metal weights, for appropriate heft.

      Quick, somebody get working on this! We want to give you our money!

      • Mario

        If you notice this rifle requires the HTC controller be attached at the end of the barrel. This means it needs the controller for tracking. How would you go about detaching a handgun from the rifle, detaching the controller, putting them together all while in-game?

        This design obviously wouldn’t work with a modular system. They need to create an accessory line that entirely works like the controllers, with the same parts inside.

        • You can’t make a constructive post if you are ignorant of what’s been said.

          #1. Both in the article and the video say that they are making a gun controller with tracking BUILT-IN. The item you are seeing with the controller on front was an early prototype. So no, you won’t have a HTC controller strapped on this front.

          #2. Of course I’m not suggesting you modify the gun controller in-game! I’m suggesting a variable gun setup you modify BEFORE you enter the game. It would be very hard to change anything well playing, obviously.

          You spend 90% of most games with roughly the same rifle in your hands. You’d just modify your gun controller to suit your main rifle. If you had two gun controllers, pistol and rifle, that would handle 99% of all gaming scenarios.

          And, just like Mike said, who wants to own a dozen gun controllers? This could be done with just one device and some clever attachments.

          • Mario

            Wow fuck off with your attitude.

          • I think your response speaks volumes about your attitude, as well as your intelligence. You should consider that in the future.

  • I’d hazard the guess that maybe it’s not getting much funding because people aren’t in love with it’s design. As Mike McLin mentioned, it’s not an adaptable design. It’s clunky and very fixed. It wouldn’t work for a pistol or most rifle designs. The clip function sounds a bit gimmicky. The Striker isn’t that much better, but at least it floats by on it’s powerful feedback. This doesn’t even have that.

  • Benjamin Orlowski

    Love it ! But the price is pretty serious. Can I have a hacked together cheap version where I just slide my Vive controller(s) into a frame?

  • Ned Hoon

    Really nice gun addon but it looks like it requires 2 hands to use I’m more of a dual wield guy myself but I would definitely give this a chance.Future is looking bright for VR.