HTC’s latest headset, Vive Cosmos, officially launches today. While we were looking forward to bringing you one of our signature deep-dive reviews, we discovered a potentially significant issue late in our testing, and don’t feel comfortable offering a verdict until we can determine if the problem lies with our particular review unit or the headset in general. Here’s the situation.

Update (September 7th, 2019): After reaching out to HTC and confirming that the lighting issue was not unique to our specific review unit, the company quickly pushed out a patch to make Cosmos more tolerant to low lighting conditions. While the tracking quality degrades in situations that the headset considers low light, I was at least able to achieve usable tracking after the patch whereas before the headset simply refused to function. I discuss the ramifications of this in our Cosmos review which is now published.

Update (October 3rd, 12:37PM PT): HTC tells us they’ve pushed an update to the headset which allows the dark environment warning to be bypassed so that you can attempt to initialize tracking even if the headset thinks the environment is too dark. We’ll be testing to see if this makes any difference this evening. So far HTC has not indicated that this issue is specific to our review unit.

We’re seeing reports from other Cosmos reviewers of issues with problematic tracking in environments where other inside-out headsets track without problem.

Original Article (October 3rd, 2019): Though my initial time with Vive Cosmos has been mostly without hiccups, when I attempted to test the headset after the Sun had set the headset began complaining that the environment was too dark to initiate tracking. There was nothing I could do (including turning on every available light and moving existing lamps into ideal locations) to make the headset happy with the level of light in my playspace.

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The persistent error message cannot be bypassed, which means the headset is a paperweight if the Sun isn’t up, at least in my space.

This is the level of illumination that Cosmos refused to track (captured with an iPhone 7 with exposure set as close as possible to what it looked like to the naked eye). I tested four other headsets with inside-out tracking in these conditions and found no issues with illumination.

While my playspace isn’t exactly bright, I re-tested four other headsets with inside out-tracking in the exact same conditions (Rift S, Quest, Reverb, and Mirage Solo), and not one of them took issue with the level of illumination in my space.

Cosmos’ refusal to track in this environment was so surprising compared to my experience with the other inside-out headsets that I actually can’t be sure if this is a problem that applies to every Cosmos headset, or if there’s something wrong with my review unit in particular. I’ve reached out to HTC about this issue and provided details on my headset, including its firmware version, serial number, etc in an effort to determine if there’s something wrong or if this is just the way things are. Until we’re able to make that determination, I don’t feel comfortable publishing a review because it seems that this matter—if it applies to all Cosmos headsets—could potentially impact a significant number of customers.

Peering through Cosmos’ passthrough view (which shows the outside world as seen by the cameras) reveals that dimmer areas in my playspace are basically pitch black as far as the headset is concerned. On the other inside-out tracked headsets I tested, the passthrough view showed they had no issue clearly picking up details in the dimmer areas.

This suggests that Cosmos’ cameras don’t have nearly the same level of light sensitivity as the other headsets, but it’s possible what I’m seeing is actually the result of a technical issue (for instance, Cosmos’ cameras not correctly setting their exposure).

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Photo by Road to VR

My understanding is that Cosmos’ cameras are RGB, while the cameras used on Rift S, Quest, and Windows VR all use monochrome-IR cameras instead. All things equal—IR sensors are generally known for having better low-light sensitivity than RGB sensors.

We’ll keep you updated on the situation as we hear from HTC, and hope to get our full review into your hands as soon as possible.

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  • dk

    yep I heard the same thing from the guy who posted the first unboxing ….it needed more light …they need to tweak the software

  • Pea

    Had the same issue yesterday(Arrived a bit early in the mail); where the Lenovo Explorer worked just fine I turned on 2 lamps extra; changed my bulbs to some brighter led lights, and only in certain areas could I get rid of the message..

    although I could set it up still, I just looked around a lot and it set up the environment and such; and just had to play with the message displayed a bit above the line of sight; quite annoying, but didn’t have any problems with tracking(except for the controllers loosing a bit of tracking when my hands were at my side and not in front)

  • Raphael

    I absolutely detest these totally passive tracking systems. They should have an IR illuminator allowing them to track in total darkness.

    • Jistuce

      That would be fantastic. My mom recently got an Oculus Quest, and I spent a few hours trying to set up some outdoor illumination suitable to use it at night.

      It works inside just fine, but there’s nowhere we can clear out enough space for a great experience.

      • Raphael

        Bad design. Inside tracking is impressive but when it relies on ambient light it’s a fail. I wonder if the sensors have IR blocking filters? If they’re sensitive to IR light?

        • Dave

          Thats a pretty poor assessment (not the video but your comments). Are you saying IR is a bad design because you can’t track in the dark?

          The video was showing a lack of tracking in a totally dark room which is fair enough. I think it’s reasonable a user would need some light to use inside out tracking and it certainly isn’t a fail.

          However it would seem the use of RGB instead of IR would seem to push the threshold for acceptable lighting conditions below what is acceptable.

          • Raphael

            Tracking problems under low light is not acceptable. Your assessment of my assessment is pretty poor. I’m not saying IR is a bad design. I’m saying relying on ambient light to track isn’t the best idea. The way I use VR at night – the quest wouldn’t track. However… the fact that the sensors can track via IR illumination is a good thing. So in that case I’d buy a quest and flood the room with IR.

          • USAMPVet

            After much testing I have to agree with you. Cosmos can’t even detect it’s own LIT controllers, if you turn off the light.

        • Jistuce

          I tried using a work lamp to flood the area with visible light. In hindsight, I probably should’ve used the halogen instead of the LED. It was higher wattage, and the cameras wouldn’t care if most of the light coming out was in infrared.

          I think the biggest problem I was hitting, though, is that my lighting was too directional. I could get it where it worked if I was facing the porch light or the work light I’d brought out, but if I was facing away from both, it was just “The darkness encroaches! Woe is me!”

          I bet setting up a white sheet of plywood to reflect light back from the other side would likely have done the trick.

          The sensors definitely can’t have IR filters, because facebook uses IR LEDs to track the controllers.

          • Actually lighting and pattern markings on your walls and objects go along way with creating a stable environment for tracking. One of the reasons when the Quest was shown at last year’s Oculus Connect, they had a demo area with a ton of markings on boxes and walls.

            I have created something similar for WMRs with similar results and initially tried to create a HMD based illumination system without much success. Mostly due to forgetting how SLAM systems work to begin with. I have since adapted a 360 light source, which was more effective, but required a separate power source negating it usefulness. The video above does show you can use IR only, but I will to bet my last dollar the camera sensor are full spectrum sensors since the Quest worked pretty well in a room with poorly lit with fluorescents only. In fact I was really impressed in how well it tracked while I was playing Robo Recall. In any case, Oculus remains unchallenged in unbounded tracking systems.

        • Popin

          “SteamVR Tracking external lighthouses are too cumbersome”

          Buy external IR floodlight so the “inside out” tracking system works in “low(ish) light” conditions.


    • Lulu Vi Britannia

      If you can compensate for it with a simple IR spotlight, it’s not such a massive issue…
      Cosmos’s problem, in other hand, is simply unacceptable. Did they only test it in ultra-bright labs???

  • Rudl Za Vedno

    Uploadvr and toms hardware had the same indoor light issues. It’s obviously not defected unit issue unfortunately.

  • TwinFire

    DOA then

  • Here’s the solution I use to augment inside-out tracking systems in non-daylight environments. It was an extra unit I purchased for my home surveillance system.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      But it’s crazy if you have to resort to things like that..

    • Which system did you use this with? If the Quest, did it impact the tracking of the controllers? I personally believe the Quest uses full spectrum monochrome sensors, which allows your IR lights to work, but not necessary for head positional tracking. Sadly, I have been too consumed with another project to have purchased a Quest, but having used a Quest in low fluorescent light environment, I can confidently say they do not rely solely on IR illumination for head tracking. Which may also be why in one of the teardowns I saw, there were two nomenclatures for the cameras.

      This is just my observation with limited use and information provided on the web and no first hand testing and experimentation. I am hoping to have a Quest in few days (held off to see if I could buy a used one) and will be provide a better response.

  • Jeremy Kins

    Wow. Just wow, HTC. That is a perfectly reasonable room and it’s looking like this is an issue with all the headsets. How is this something that gets past QA? How bright were the dev rooms at HTC? If this isn’t something that can be adjusted via an update, the headset is absolutely dead on arrival.

    • Thera Alley

      they don’t let the devs outside. So they have to artificially simulate enough light to avoid them getting Seasonal Depressive Disorder.

    • Sadly COSMOS was rushed to market to compete with the Oculus Quest and Rift S with someone thinking they could hit two birds with one stone by using RGB cameras for Mixed Reality/overlaid realworld imaging.

      • PK

        HTC seems to rush everything. i’ve lost all trust in their ability to compete.

        • The original HTC/Vive was a solid product due to the relationship with Valve, but the Vive Pro seemed less durable (and has played out for those who use them in a commercial setting) and Vive Focus is an odd duck. Most important is that HTC/Vive feels they are the Samsung of the VR market with pricing to match. This is an ironic statement since the Samsung Odyssey +, which I think is decent headset has come down to a very affordable price.

          Facebook/Oculus has the right approach, with competitive pricing, but concerned as a developer on the walled garden and handpicking of apps. Google tried this with Daydream and it failed. Let the market be open and let consumer decide what they want. As “poor” developer I don’t have the name recognition that some of the other well funded gaming houses have, or that I choose to make educational application versus “shooters” or mind numbing flailing limb games, this doesn’t mean these types of apps are not as important, but I wish the Oculus would take a more mature view of the market in the long run instead of profit oriented titles.

          So my money is going to go to Valve and the Steam VR environment. Sure the Valve Index HMD does not have wireless functionality (not a requirement for my upcoming VR System Control Center (VRSCC, Kickstarter launch on 11/29), but has a number of advantages and most important they seem to take a thoughtful view on features that matter the most within a pricing structure to keep them affordable.

          • PK

            yeah i agree with all of that. sold my vive pro in spring before i left for my summer job, need to get a new headset next month and i may end up with the quest, since it can plug into a pc soon. i’d spend more to get the index but they don’t sell it in this country. i don’t want to pay an extra premium on top to get it here. lame.

          • mepy

            I think the Vive Pro with the wireless adapter is still the best VR headset. You can use the valve index controllers also (and if they shipped to my country I would). But if the Valve Index was wireless it would be no. 1. Maybe the Pimax + Valve Index controllers though, but then again no wireless option.

          • I agree, in fact when we ran Apollo 11 50th anniversary event on 7/20/2019 at the VR Cafe, Portland OR with “Excursion: 245 Minutes on the Moon,” part of the “Apollo 11: ‘One Small Step For…” VR Experiences” that used both the HTC/Vive Pro, Valve Index Controllers and three Vive Trackers that allowed the patron the ability to virtually “suit up” in their own A7L Lunar Excursion astronaut suit. This version and lighter ‘beta’ version will be available on ‘Steam Games’ and ‘Vive Port’ “Black Friday” 11/29/2019 as well as “Ascent: Eagle Has Left the Moon,” which I have worked on the past three months to create the most realistic ascent from the Apollo 11 landing site and docking experience based on NASA Goddard 64K albedo and displacement textures using some novel techniques in working around the maximum texture size of 8K in Unreal.

            So in saying that, I had high hopes for the Vive Cosmos, but at $699 and Oculus’ announcement of Quest Link* in November. I can’t see buying it over the Quest or the Rift S, or for that matter the WMR Odyssey Plus which frankly does not seem to get the attention it deserves. Also, with the Vive Pro retail price still at $799 (HMD only) and another $360 for the wireless solution, I think the investment in the Valve Index HMD at $499 if you already have a Vive, is a better solution even though you still have a cable. But many, including myself use ceiling cable management solutions which work out perfectly well with V1 lighthouses and frankly unless you manage your wireless antenna in the middle of your VR space, you will not be able to take advantage of the upper space limits with V.2 lighthouses either (we tried at the VR Cafe and went back to cable for reliability due to our already more than a normal VR setups complexity.)

            If you are interested in “Apollo 11: ‘One Small Step For…’ VR Experiences” you can find out more in the coming month at

            *FYI I am not an Oculus fan either. Oculus makes it way too difficult to penetrate their market if you are Indie with little public awareness and they seem to gravitate to VR experiences that are more entertaining than educational. They also make it very difficult to obtain developer kits, which was never a problem when it was just Oculus sans Facebook.

      • Popin

        What is sad is they really only needed to use those cameras on the two front facing cameras. The other 4 cameras could have been replaced with smaller, longer range, higher sample rate, and better S:N monochromatic cameras.

        They probably could have actually included 6 of the same cameras on the rift S for the difference the other 4 RGB cameras cost. They could have just had the two camera systems function independently

        • My thinking as well, or just add two full spectrum cameras and offset them much like every other manufacturer has. Plus, without actually putting the RGB on parallel physical track as used to move the lenses for interocular distance modification, you will have mismatching interocular distance for your RGB cameras. Something that indeed can be problem, especially as you move closer to an object.

  • SataNeedSoulsToo

    Mediocre inside out tracking and its light requirement is one of the top reasons I wont buy any PC inside out tracking headset. I did buy a quest and while the tracking is subpar I accept it for its mobility.

    • polysix

      yup more than happy with my Rift CV1 with FULL amazing tracking (3 sensors) which are franky set and forget, I can even play with zero lights on which is cool for VR in my space…

      I’ve also had Vive and others and can’t downgrade to ‘lossy tracking’ as I call it, where you can never be sure if your hands are gonna be tracked down/behind your back or if the light isn’t quite right.

      • Immersive Computing

        My Rift CV1 with 3 sensor was very accurate, I’m back in steamVR tracking with Index and it’s very accurate. Both systems are league ahead of all the inside out tracking I have used so far including WMR, Rift S and Quest.

  • Jarilo

    This has made a lot of vampires sad.

  • I hope this will be fixed very soon via software, otherwise it’s a bummer for Cosmos. RGB tracking should work in non-super-lit environment. IR cameras are better in this sense, but your room seems illuminated enough to make any RGB tracking to work

  • So anybody that has to put up with crap energy saving lights will have this issue I guess.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Uhoh, this seems like a general problem.. But seriously, if this really is a problem then they really screwed up at HTC, you would think that they would have tested the device in every possible lighting condition.. The fact you say the passthrough shows pitchblack image on the dim area’s doesn’t bode well, as I gather it’s the same image that the headset is using for it’s tracking.

  • Trenix

    This is why I never preorder crap. Waiting for Valve Index to go on sale.

  • Hi Ben,

    You are right on with the use of RGB camera sensors versus monochrome sensors. Since the RGB mask or more than likely bayer masking, you immediately require higher signal gain to compensate for the color filter masks. Notwithstanding that you also have lower S/N ratio due to the smaller CMOS channels used for each color.

    This is a great feedback/warning and even if they provide a software fix to disable the low light level flag, it does not alleviate the obvious issue of using RGB versus monochrome sensors that will not be corrected. Other than cost, is a major reason you don’t see RGB sensors used in other visual SLAM systems. If you are wondering why tracking works in smartphones with single color cameras for monocular SLAM, keep in mind tracking an object looking at screen compensates for jitter with the eye to screen distance. Having tested both ARKit and ARCore as positional tracking systems for VR using a Unity, this method of tracking leaves a lot to be desired, but did pave the way for current optical positional tracking systems.

    I also agree with @Orangeunderpants:disqus that IR only sensors are a poor choice because the goal is to collect as much full spectrum light to allow for room objects to easily be detected for SLAM edge/point calculation and have found working with another SLAM sensor that depends on IR light, that I can definitely say tracking is less stable unless you have an augmented illumination system.

  • Open World Gamer

    I am having the opposite problem. it says the room is too light. so i closed the blinds as much as I could, but it isn’t helping and that error message pops up saying too much light. On top of that it is affecting the tracking on the right controller as well. I have rotated to see if that would help and nothing. HTC needs to get this straightened out and quick, before us reviewers go apesh*t on their @$$es. Sad thing is I am upgrading from a WMR Lenovo Explorer, and never had trackings issues. C’mon HTC

    • The Bard

      Odyssey+ is for 250+ USD on ebay. OLED, 1440×1600, AKG headphones. What for to buy this garbage shit for 3 times more.

  • The Cosmos is broken garbage. Toss it.


  • RS

    Hopefully they get to bypass HTC Customer Service department. My experience has been months of promises from them with no results. They actually told me to buy a new item (with no compensation) that they could ship to me today! The one they warrantied and approved replacement of has no projected shipping date. Identical items. Worst customer service of any company. If it ships to you with a manufacturing problem expect no resolution, but they will sell you a new one that you can get right away!

  • Trip

    I read something yesterday about a software update fixing this problem. I wasn’t really paying attention but I “think” it was a software patch that was either released yesterday or coming very very soon.

    • mepy

      I read this too. Supposedly it’s just the message about there being a low light environment that gets in the way, not a real tracking error.

  • WyrdestGeek

    Man, that has to suck for anyone that just bought one of these. $700.00. Smh

    • Kevin White

      I wouldn’t feel too bad — I doubt anybody bought one.

    • polysix

      I had a Vive and would never buy HTC again UNLESS it was something stunning and at a great price, anything upper priced and just ‘meh’ is going to fool me again.

      Rift CV1 is still way better for me than the others I’ve owned.

  • polysix

    LOL HTC….

    that’s killed it. :/

  • Pulstar44

    Not to be weird buy did you guys remove the protective camera lens films?

  • MW

    Rift S – for a half of this price – works well in almost complete darkness. Not cool HTC, not cool.

  • Lulu Vi Britannia

    HTC fans, assemble!

    … But nobody came.

  • The Bard

    did you peel off the foil from camera lens?

    • I will stand up for Ben. Pretty sure his background would have made this his top priority to look at. Plus, Ben does a good job of vetting his material before publishing. In fact I sometimes find him to diplomatic in his reviews and love to talk to him off the record on what he really feels.

    • USAMPVet

      As funny as that is. HTC instructions show you in a video to remove the camera screen protectors, EXCEPT 1. Which is just above the nose piece inside the HMD.

  • Callsign Vega

    Outside in tracking will always be superior.

  • Wayne Kemmerer

    The tracking on mine is absolutely horrible. I had plenty of lighting in my play space. My Cosmos kept losing the hands, and it struggled to keep it’s position in the room. It was very nauseating. I had to go back to my Rift. There’s no amount of updates that could fix what I was experiencing. Pavlov and Onward can’t be played as the controllers don’t appear in game. While some things will obviously be fixed. For this device to be released like that, is outside of my willingness to use it. It’s as if they didn’t have QC testers that have played VR games before…

    • Actually I don’t think software will solve the tracking issues due to the type of cameras used. They thought they could just a cheap (my assumption) RGB camera to allow for in HMD stereo viewing of the outside area, but I think due to not using expensive sensors that are at least 4K, the results of mixed reality use will be less than desired and obviously detracting from the main reason of using optical cameras to begin with.

      • Caven

        Actually, you don’t want high-resolution sensors for tracking, because higher pixel counts will translate to lower framerates or additional processing overhead. Low-light sensitivity and high framerate are more valuable than high resolution when it comes to tracking.

        • Exactly @disqus_3tORKxDdLb:disqus . I just did not go into the minuses of UHD sensors, which you have pointed out. High S/N ratio, wide spectrum sensitivity and high frame-rate are key for a quality unbounded position tracking system.

    • USAMPVet

      As I was troubleshooting a no mic issue on the Cosmos (still am), I saw it said there was an update (it has you completely re set up the vive like when you first got it out of the box). So I updated. I tried the see thru the HMD deal and it would increase brightness a very noticeable amount in areas that were dim. My mic issue tho is still not resolved. Off Topic. You better have 1 heck of a good PC to run this thing flawless. I am pushing out 4.5 Ghz turbo mode on my Intel i7 9800X (water-cooled) with a RTX 2070. It’s fine as long as something else is not tasking the CPU. Even a download will make it jittery till the DL is done.

  • Peyton Lind

    What a dud of a product when you factor in the controller battery life (2-3 hours off 2 AAs per controller? Insane. I get about 15 per charge with my Quest controllers), the price, and this issue being mentioned.

    You have to really hate Oculus/farcebook to not get a Quest or even the Rift S at almost half the price instead of this thing…or, pony up more for the Index.

    • polysix

      I prefer the original Rift CV1 (oled, better tracking etc) but agree in general…

      my rift touch controllers work for WEEKS with just one AA battery lol… they are so slick. I had a vive before rift, it was hella janky. Rift felt like gen 1.5 vs it (inc better SDE and less anoying god-rays)

    • USAMPVet

      I used my controllers on and off yesterday for over 8 hours and the batteries are still good. And mind you the AA’s they give you are Toshiba brand. But I used them anyway. So seems to me that HTC probably had batteries laying around and shoved them in with the Cosmos. So in response it is NOT 2 hours.

    • mepy

      The 2-3 hour controller battery life seems to be just a rumor. This reviewer used the Cosmos for over an hour and the controller batteries were still fully charged. Time stamped on the review below:

  • Jaysin Vialoux

    I sometimes play in the dark with lazers on for dramatic effect for when guests come over. Guess that cant happen with the cosmos.

  • Another point in looking at the front two cameras and that they are positioned to close together which may help in providing stereo RGB input for mixed reality use, but make the use of parallax based SLAM much more difficult. If you look at the MS WMRs, or the Oculus headsets, you will notice that they cameras are further apart or the side camera angles are less acute than those used in this headset.

    As for the controllers, there are reasons MS WMR chose a cluster of single white LEDs (and IR for Oculus) for its tracker markings. Namely, since the the SLAM algorithms and processing handle & process points much faster and more reliably than pattern markings. Also add to the fact that creating a pattern that is equally lit along the entire areas is much more difficult, meaning the camera system must have more latitude in its dynamic range to compensate for this variation, which sadly does not seem to be the case either.

    I have to say I am left scratching my head on what the design goals were in its development and if engineering balked at pushing RGB based stereo paired images for mixed reality use over stable tracking. It also shows me that HTC Vive left on their own to design a headset without Valve’s engineering guidance or Qualcomm, is why we have are left with this. Sadly those that think that software fixes can solve poor initial hardware decisions will be sorely disappointed.

    Again thank you Ben for not pulling any punches in your reviews. I rely on your insight (and access to hardware) in your reviews before making a buying decision. In this case, I will now buy an Oculus Quest (64 GB) and a Valve Index HMD (only since I already have two Vives and Index controllers) for only $100 more. With the news of the Quest having USB-C link capability in the near future, this seems to be right decision for anyone jumping into VR for the first time.

    Ordered my Quest today. :)

  • USAMPVet

    I got the Vive Cosmos preorder on the 3rd. There have been a couple of issues, but definitely not the light issue. In regards to the light issue, after reading how many were having trouble with it, I turned on the see thru and when mine gets to any darker areas the brightness goes up pretty high and noticeably, and lighting those areas very well. My issue has been the built in mics. They absolutely refuse to work. I had a USB and a 3.5 jack one, that I unplugged before installing Vive hardware. Now none of my mics will work. I have checked everything under sun, changed different inputs, but no workable solution. I sent a ticket to Vive, who answered (if you call repeating what my issue was, and nothing more an answer) 6 hours later, which was 0 help. My understanding is now they are off till Monday (What is with these hardware and software people releasing stuff right before a weekend???). Just great. I see all my mics in windows, but all of them refuse to pick up sound. Course it being new, no one on the web has any answers. Many reporting that when they get into a game, HMD doesn’t track the controllers. I haven’t even tried them yet. They work in steamvr and viveport, but the 2 vr games I use don’t use hand controllers but do use mics. If possible to update this, I will once I install a game that uses controllers. To those with light issues, I suggest reinstalling from the beginning. Mine said last night it had an update(I just happened to find it) that had me go completely thru setup again after the download. After the DL is when I tried the see thru to check for lighting issues. In defense of others with the issue, I also have a $200 LED kitchen light in the middle of my small office. it’s very bright. I would not advise anyone that hasn’t purchased this yet to wait as the original OP stated. These issues could potentially make this system unusable for many. As a plus to Vive, the screen is very nice and clear. I would say 2k maybe 3k, but definitely not 4k (Blacker blacks with far less gray then Rift S). SDE is so unnoticeable unless you use like Big Screen app and they are so small it’s not even funny. You really do have to look hard for any of that. The cord is a PITA. Because of it’s shielding and stiffness makes it very unwieldy even sitting. If anyone has any ideas of how to get my mics back online, I would be most appreciative, if you would post it here.

  • Sindo

    Like others I already have a Rift S and pre-ordered the Cosmos in the hope that it would be an improvement. However the tracking on the controllers is very poor even in a well lit room and it makes them usable. I tried various different lighting and even daylight, but it still complained it was too dark so its gone back today for a refund. Overall I think its very poor from HTC as I’d image 90% of people using the headsets will be in a bedroom or lounge with average lighting.