HTC unveiled a new VR tracker device at CES 2022 today, this time targeting its $1,300 enterprise-focused standalone headset, Vive Focus 3. It’s slated to go on sale sometime early this year, starting at $129.

Unlike its SteamVR-compatible Vive Tracker, the new Vive Wrist Tracker is a wrist-worn device which hooks into Vive Focus 3’s inside-out tracking system. It does this essentially the same way the headset’s controllers are tracked in room-scale space, i.e. through infrared LEDs that are tracked optically through the headset’s onboard camera sensors.

HTC says in the announcement that the tracker allows users to either strap it to their wrist for what the company calls “advanced hand tracking” in addition to using controllers, or to objects like gun controllers, Ping-Pong paddles, or tools.

Below you can see a Nerf gun has been rigged up with Vive Wrist Tracker, making for a 6DOF-tracked virtual weapon:

The company says Vive Wrist Tracker is 85% smaller than Vive Focus 3’s controller, and 50% lighter at 63g. It boasts up to four hours of constant use, charged via USB-C. HTC says it includes a simple one-button pairing feature for wireless connection, and also features a removable strap for easy cleaning.

As for its more accurate hand tracking, this is what the company says in Vive Wrist Tracker’s announcement:

“When user wears the tracker on the wrist, we can predict the tracker’s motion trajectories even when the tracker is out of camera’s view in a while by using high-frequency IMU data and an advanced kinematic model. With this technology, we can predict their hand position when the hands leave the tracking camera view.”

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Road to VR skipped the physical bit of CES 2022 this year, however we’re very interested to see the wrist tracker in action to see if it makes a material difference in terms of hand tracking.

Image courtesy HTC

Likely its biggest appeal is the ability to track objects, giving location-based entertainment venues and enterprise users the ability to avoid the typical mixing and matching of hardware ecosystems, such as OptiTrack or SteamVR base stations. To boot, HTC says its releasing CAD files so prospective owners can build custom docking solutions or harnesses around the tracker.

HTC is initially launching Vive Wrist Tracker in the US starting early 2022, priced at $129/€129/£119. Although they haven’t said as much, that pricing means it will very likely roll out Vive Wrist Tracker to the UK and EU at a later date.

In addition to Vive Wrist Tracker, HTC unveiled a few other Vive Focus 3 accessories, including a new charging travel case and a multi-battery charging dock. It’s not clear when either of those will go on sale, or for what price. We’ll be keeping an eye on the Vive accessories product page in the meantime.

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  • R3ST4RT

    HTC feels like they are constantly behind the ball. They may be serving a market that isn’t quite the same as North America so I’ll give them thag, but their tech is constantly over priced and not cutting edge.

    The tundra tracker lacks the IK of this device, but is smaller, wrist mountable, and cheaper. I guess having the assistive hand tracking is nice but it still seems lacking.

    • kontis

      The tundra tracker lacks the IK of this device

      What IK? To do IK you need 2 points (otherwise what are you even trying to inverse?) and there is nothing inherent to a tracker to do these algorithms, that’s just software. This is just a single 6DOF point. Zero difference compared to a SteamVR tracker like Tundra or Vive tracker.

      • R3ST4RT

        Yes, in the article above, they were mentioning that their bracelet does some reverse IK if it becomes ocluded. I have no idea how they are managing it but I’m guessing the headset is the second point.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          The are doing motion estimation with the IMU. Every VR controller contains such inertial measurement unit, basically a set of sensors that can detect relative rotation and acceleration plus a processor to preprocess the data. In theory you could determine the position of the hand just by adding up the back and forth movement and rotation. In reality small errors in the measurement add up quickly, causing the sensor data to drift.

          IMUs are used nonetheless, as they can deliver data at a high frequency, up to 1000 values per second, while tracking via cameras is usually limited to 30 or 60fps plus some latency for the image processing. So basically all VR controllers use IMU movement data and correct the inherent drift by regularly comparing it to the absolute positional/rotational data from the cameras.

          Hand tracking via cameras is just as limited. By providing a bracelet with a IMU HTC can use the same methods for hand tracking as with a VR controller, using precise and frequent value from the IMU corrected by camera images. A side effect is that they can also use only the IMU data when the hand is out of the camera view. Doing this again introduces drift, but in most cases the hands will be out of view only for a short time, after which the error can be compensated again.

          Both IMU and camera based tracking usually uses IK to check for plausibility, i.e. your hand can only be at arms length distance or closer, no matter what the sensor data says. Both the HTC wrist tracker and Tundra use IK, what Tundra is lacking is the drift correction by also tracking the sensors with a camera.

          • XRC

            Tundra SteamVR devices (tracker and HDK) don’t use camera but Triad semiconductor photo diodes detecting lazer light pulses from “dumb” base station emitters in playspace. This provides absolute world reference for drift correction.

            The TDK/Invensense ICM-20602 (IMU) is doing bulk of tracking, it’s 16-bit ADC filter can provide up to 8,000 sample/second from 3-axis mems gyroscope and accelerometer.

            Tundra device doesn’t use IK, it just a tracked 6DoF SteamVR device with known diode geometry mesh and render model reference on each unique tracker’s JSON.

    • Jistuce

      That’s my usual response to HTC’s VR announcements these days. A day late and a dollar short, as the expression goes.

      • Charles

        Two years late, 100 dollars long.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    I recently sent back my vive focus 3. Quest 2 was more smooth and clear.

    • ViRGiN

      Why would you even purchase it in the first place..

    • Mateusz Pawluczuk

      It’s nice that you were able to return it

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  • A SteamVR tracker for standalone headsets seems like a good idea for me!

  • This is the first I’ve even heard of the HTC Focus, which shows how much I follow these “Enterprise” HMD’s. It’s hard to believe it’s cost effective for companies to sign up for more expensive, less compatible hardware like the Focus. Also, aren’t these basically the just the same tracking pucks HTC has been selling all along, just more expensive and in a “wrist” form factor?

    Still, I *kinda* wish there was a solution like this for the Quest. I know these use the “Lighthouse” technology, but using the same inside-out tracking that’s in the Touch controllers, Oculus could make their own “Pucks” that track objects in space. It wouldn’t be useful for tracking a player’s feet, but it would work great for a gun prop, or anything the player could reliably look with the Quest’s cameras.

    Come on Quest engineers! Get on it! Somebody wake up Carmack! ;)

  • Caven

    I’m amused that HTC ultimately beat Oculus/FaceBook/Meta to this, given that one of the alleged advantages of the Oculus camera tracking system was that it would supposedly be easier and cheaper to track additional objects. Instead, additional object tracking has been almost exclusively in the realm of SteamVR.

    I have to wonder why Oculus/FaceBook/Meta never released additional trackers. It seems like a better idea than the Oculus Go ever was.

    • ViRGiN

      Ever wondered why nobody develops anything for it? Why are you so amused, when Steam doesn’t even support body tracking at all, just external trackers and it’s all up to software implementation?

      Trackers are 100% weeb/nerd/lgbt/neckbeard/furry thing, exclusively used in vrchat and neosvr.

      • Caven

        I’m just reminiscing about some of the silly debates from the earlier days of VR. I remember a lot of back-and-forth about which system was better for external trackers. There was also the silly debate about XBox controllers versus motion controllers, as well as seated versus standing/roomscale. Those arguments have long been settled, and HTC amused me by reminding me of one of those earlier debates.

        As for your dismissiveness of the usefulness of external trackers, ironically you provide a reason as to why one might have expected those to appear for the Rift and Quest. A VR ecosystem run by a company that specializes in social media seems exactly where one might expect to try to focus on hardware that could enhance social apps.

        • ViRGiN

          I fully dismiss usefulness of trackers – something that was officially pitched as turn anything into a controller. That never happened. Body tracking it’s a desired functionality, but it will come in different way than external trackers, strapped with 3rd party straps. It has to be native to device to have any meaningful impact. We had hand tracking better than quest optical for about a decade, and it literally did nothing. If Meta doesn’t do it, it’s fully obsolete. Meta is the only company thinking extremely long term, and having actual financial security to stay in it for very long time.
          Steamvr trackers are dead on arrival to everyone but those users mentioned above who don’t create any meaningful market or usefulness. Man to man via anime avatars performing lapdances is not what the industry needs