Valve today announced plans to begin selling SteamVR Tracking base stations directly later this year; the first units on offer are expected to be the new single-rotor models the company recently teased. Valve is also making it easier to develop new tracked products and accessories with SteamVR Tracking by removing the requirement of a $3,000 introductory course.

When Valve opened up their SteamVR Tracking (aka ‘Lighthouse’) technology in 2016, the company did so in a quite open way: anyone could use the tracking tech in their own products, royalty free, and didn’t need any sort of certification or approval from Valve to launch those products. There was just one catch though: people hoping to use SteamVR Tracking in their devices would need to attend a $3,000 introductory course in Seattle.

The SteamVR Tracking base stations that ship with the HTC Vive

Today, Valve says the course will no longer be a requirement (though it will still be available). Anyone who wants to develop new products using SteamVR Tracking can do so as easily as buying the necessary hardware components and downloading the development software.

“After working with numerous third parties and updating the tools, Valve is opening more direct access to the technology and course work, available free of charge in English and Chinese. The full, in person training courses are still available for those interested,” the company wrote in a statement issued to Road to VR.

Valve also announced plans to sell the SteamVR Tracking base stations—the little beacons that project lasers to created a trackable volume—directly later this year. That’s a shift from the status quo, where the base stations come packaged with HTC’s Vive headset, or are bought as a standalone accessory from HTC.

Valve pioneered the tracking tech and this new move seems to indicate that the company plans to continue to be the driving force behind its advancement and adoption. Going forward we may find that HTC primarily drives the development of the Vive headset while Valve—who worked closely with HTC on Vive—retains control of the underlying tracking technology.

Upgrades to the SteamVR Tracking base stations will simplify the internal components

New SteamVR Tracking base stations were teased by Valve in late 2016 and the company confirmed previously that they would become available in 2017. The new models will move from a dual-rotor to a single-rotor design, which could bring “rapid cost reductions,” according to those involved with Valve’s tracking technology. Currently the standalone base stations sold by HTC cost $130.

Second-gen Lighthouse Chip Could Improve Tracking, Reduce Cost of HTC Vive 2

Valve says that more than 500 companies have signed up to develop with SteamVR Tracking technology. Oculus meanwhile had confirmed in 2015 plans to open up their own ‘Constellation’ tracking system to third-parties, but hasn’t broached the topic in recent years.

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  • SingleRotor

    Better photo of the single motor base station:

  • user

    hopefully they will offer more designs then.

  • Jonathan

    Does anyone know if it’s possible, or will be possible to use multiple trackers in different rooms? Currently, my play area is in another room than my desk and computer. Would be nice to add some trackers so I can use my desk for seated games.

    • Mettanine

      Multiple connected tracking volumes have been teased for future updates for quite some time now. Nothing specific yet, though.

      • Jonathan


        • Roy Mudie

          If you don’t want them “connected” this is already possible. It’s a simple file that defines your play space as XYZ coordinates. If you make a copy of the file you can keep this as a configuration for when you use that room.

          If you have access to a 3rd (or 4th) lighthouse you can place it in another room and create a chaperone bounds file associated with that setup.

          Changing rooms and swapping out the chaperone files allows you to use each room independently without going through the setup each time.

          Helpfully, there’s even a add on for SteamVR that lets you save profiles and swap out the chaperone bound configurations in real time :)

          People without access to multiple lighthouse setups sometimes use this simply to change their play space based on various other factors, like having people watch vs playing on your own might allow you more or less room.

    • phead

      doesn’t the open vr “open advanced” settings already allow this via multiple chaperone profiles?

    • NooYawker

      How does that work? How is your computer is a different room than where you use your VR? Did you buy some kind of extender the cord from your headset to the computer?

      • Jonathan

        Around 5 meter usb and hdmi cables from computer to breakout box.

    • Cleeve

      I can’t wait for true, good ‘inside-out’ tracking to make it to consumers. Gets rid of so many issues like this.

  • Sch@dows

    I would be interested in adding a third base station in order to enlarge the tracking area available, or enhanced to racking of my current area.

  • So I modified one of my lighthouses. Replaced the 5mw 980nm laser with a 480nm1000mw module. Added an audio input.

    • Me

      Have you added a disco ball ? Must be quite the fun in your living room…

  • Another great step towards open-ness of their ecosystem!

  • NooYawker

    They are just throwing it all out there. They understand that if they get an early foothold it’s better for them in the future. Apple’s walled garden approach isn’t going to work here.

  • It has certainly swayed me to look more at developing on the Vive first and support the Rift later. The reason is that more news and features keep coming out for the Vive kit whereas the Rift / Oculus are a bit silent and closed.

    • Nairobi

      That’s because the Rift has had zero innovation outside the public and social aspect of VR. They rather push for talent in the marketing department as opposed to the hardware side. Probably due to the way they operate.

  • Joost

    Does this mean that one headset will be able to work with more than two lighthouses? Currently (as far as I know) if you would have two Vive sets, and put up the four lighthouses to create a larger area for only one headset tracking will not work due to interference. I had this problem at the Dutch VR days where we had another Vive demo right next to ours and we had to make sure our headset did not see the neighbours’ lighthouses.

    • GodMk2

      No. But they said at the last Dev days the are working on it for larger set ups like warehouses. Things like beam light colour, alternating the pulses.