stem-featuredSixense, creators of the popular (and now rather expensive!) Hydra system, today announced to their Kickstarter backers a three month delay in delivery of their upcoming STEM motion controllers “for the sake of performance optimization.” The controllers, originally due in July, would’ve been shipped roughly around the same time as the Oculus Rift DK2 VR headset. Sixense attributes the delay to two factors.

The first factor cited is an improvement in accuracy. We heard reports of problems with precision at GDC 2014, but I don’t believe a busy expo floor is a suitable environment for testing what the consumer experience will be like. Sixense states “[their] engineers have identified a novel way to greatly reduce or eliminate environmental distortion (often referred to as “bending”) that will significantly improve accuracy and further ensure a consistent and reliable experience in different environments and for a wider range of VR applications,” and goes on to add that this is in addition to other accuracy improvements previously publicized.

The second factor is a redesign of how the STEM (standalone position tracker) and STEM Pack (battery and clip) interact. Previously these were two separate components, but Sixense discovered “the design of our STEM module introduced significant electronic noise (which required too much filtering, which adds latency) and mechanical instability (which translates to inconsistent, sometimes unreliable tracking data) to the system.” To correct this, the individual STEM and STEM Pack have been joined into a single module.

For the tracking modules, this means the battery pack and tracker have been combined. The original design featured a separate tracker that could be integrated with other controllers:

Vision Pro Games Are Starting to Blend 3D with Flatscreen-native Gameplay
ORIGINAL: separate tracker and pack
ORIGINAL: separate tracker and pack

The controller also would’ve had a removable tracker, as shown:

ORIGINAL: tracker module placed in controller
ORIGINAL: tracker module placed in controller

The revised design shows the combined components:

NEW: Combined tracker and battery pack
NEW: Combined tracker and battery pack

For the controller itself, the tracker is no longer detachable and is instead affixed.

Controller no longer requires a tracker
Controller no longer requires a tracker

The general consensus on the Oculus sub-section of Reddit and the Kickstarter page is mostly supportive of Sixense and the decision, with many expressing that they’d rather Sixense take the extra time to deliver a solid system.

SixenseVR SDK Coming Soon

The SixenseVR SDK will allow developers to integrate with STEM and the Razer Hydra.

SixenseVR supports any number of trackers, which can be placed on any part of the body. The head position tracking can come from a STEM Pack tracker, the HMD itself, or a fusion of the two for a calibration free experience. Even with only HMD tracking, SixenseVR will match the pose of the avatar to the position and orientation of the head, providing body awareness with realistic-looking leaning and crouching.

The company recently put out a video preview showing how easy it is to get up and running with STEM and the SixenseVR SDK in Unity.

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  • Chris Given

    The delay sucks but as someone who backed this product I would rather wait and have a better product then for them to ship out a problematic device only to fix it later and stick us early adopters with a sub par device!!

    • Same. My current complaints about the Hydra are the wires and the the accuracy. If they only solved the wires problem, it wouldn’t be enough for me. Besides, it’ll give me more time to play with PrioVR and DK2 before STEM arrives.

      • Kemic

        While I agree that it is nice that they are going the extra bit to solve the known issues with the system (accuracy/noise and the cables) I would still prefer that the tracker’s on the controllers were removable. Now I’m going to have to buy additional STEM modules to play around with custom controllers in the future, as opposed to just removing one of the STEM’s from one of the controllers.

        The other side of that, would be showing people who wish to make custom controllers how it can be done, and that it can be done with little additional noise issues as opposed to having something that is built into the unit.