sixense stem kickstarter razer hydra 2

Sixense STEM, which is essentially the Razer Hydra 2, is officially headed to Kickstarter on September 12th. Sixense, who makes the magnetic tracking technology in the Razer Hydra, says that the STEM will have better range and better tracking performance compared to the Hydra.

By all accounts, the Sixense STEM looks like a huge improvement over the Razer Hydra. Not only are they taking things wireless (probably the most requested change to the Hydra), but the STEM will conveniently track up to five points, making full avatar embodiment a breeze, with two controllers in the hands and three additional STEM units attached to the head and feet. Sixense also says that STEM will provide “better tracking performance at all ranges,” over the Razer Hydra.

Sixense is also making clear their commitment to allow STEM to be used for third-party peripherals, potentially opening the door for a market of STEM equipped products that could function with a single STEM base.

“In order to facilitate a robust developer community, the STEM System is designed as an open platform for creators of both software and hardware products. Developers will be free to create content with virtually no restrictions, and to embed STEMs for tracking of their own peripheral or wearable devices, such as swords or head-mounted displays,” reads their release announcing the STEM Kickstarter date.

A new render, seen above, confirms that the bumper buttons above the triggers have fortunately not been removed. Two of the six buttons on the face of the controller have also been changed and offset a bit. We can also now see that the controller has a door for the actual STEM tracking unit to be removed. This is a huge plus as it means that the STEM tracker could be put into another peripheral if the user chooses; users might even be able to upgrade their controllers without having to purchase additional STEM units.

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Four Point Tracking with a Sixense STEM Prototype:

Sixense’s Danny Woodall recently demonstrated four point tracking with a STEM prototype, using two controllers in his hands and attacking to STEM trackers to his feet.

Sixense has also demonstrated positional head tracking of the Oculus Rift developer kit with the STEM prototype.

Back at GDC 2013 when I tried the Razer Hydra and the Oculus Rift for the first time together in the Sixense Tuscany demo, I called it “the move fun I’ve had in VR yet.” Getting your virtual hands inside the game adds massively to immersion. I expect that full avatar embodiment, made possible with STEM, will significantly add to the level of immersion in virtual reality.

Will you be backing the STEM Kickstarter on the 12th?

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Mageoftheyear

    Awesome. I think any Rifters out there (with the consumer version) will end up clipping the 5th module to their waist/chest.

    Looks like Sixense weren’t able to finalise anything with Tactical Haptics (perhaps as a stretch goal?)

    • Kamus

      “Looks like Sixense weren’t able to finalise anything with Tactical Haptics (perhaps as a stretch goal?)

      Well, i do find it very interesting that their controller looks a LOT like the Tactical Haptics controllers. Maybe they are waiting for the Kickstarter to announce it?

  • eyeandeye

    Depending on how much it is I’ll be pledging. If it’s too much I’ll just have to grit my teeth and wait for the consumer model. Unless of course the consumer model is going to take over a year to come out. Then I’ll reconsider.

    Mageoftheyear, doesn’t the removable STEM trackers indicate that Sixense is making it as easy as possible for third parties like Tactical Haptics to create their own controllers? Seems like Sixense will do their thing, Tactical Haptics will do their thing, and everyone can choose to stick with the default controllers or go get the third party ones of their choice.

    • Mageoftheyear

      Indeed that would seem to be the case eyeandeye.
      After reading the survey they have out ( ) that’s the gist of what they seem to be figuring out. So yes, it does at least look like a possibility that we’d be able to strap a TH attachment onto our STEM System.

      My concern (1st world problem lol) was directed towards how much more ergonomically effective native integration would be vs an attachment.
      Of course this is all wildly premature on my part, as the kickstarter for either hasn’t even begun yet.
      How I see it is that I perceive (perhaps unfairly) that the STEM-S would be a much better all round product – missing only the awe-inspiring epicness of the TH feedback.

      Tech makes me impatient though, can’t wait for the results! :)

      • drifter

        I confirm, Sixense and Tactical Haptics came to an arrangement, for the greater benefit of us VR fans. The TH controller will definitively use STEM trackers, see the TH facebook page for more info.

        • Mageoftheyear

          I assume you’re talking about this:
          “Note the finger-sized STEM tracking module (see their press release image) that we will also plan on supporting for use in our haptic game controller. With this option, our haptic controller would directly tie into Sixense’s wireless tracking system”
          [Taken from Tactical Haptics fb page on 27-08-2013]

          That’s good, but perhaps I muddled my last sentence by writing “STEM-S” – what I meant was I was hoping Sixense (damn I hate typing that name out! :P) would integrate TH’s haptic feedback system into their OWN controller, not as an add on, but a permanent feature of the handle.

          I think TH’s tech here is super valuable to Sixense, so I hope Sixense has the goodsense (someone was gonna make that joke sooner or later) to have a stretch goal that includes TH’s feedback in their controller.

          If this doesn’t happen in the first generation of Sixense’s controller, I agree that TH’s controllers will be adopted by Rifters with encore. And if that doesn’t convince Sixense to licence the tech from TH then I don’t know what will.

          Sorry for the long replies guys. I know it can be irritating but I’m not so great at summarising my ideas/opinions down to bite-sized portions lol.

  • mhenriquecd

    what will be the maximum distance from the sensor??

  • kijutsu

    3 meters, pretty freaken amazing eh!

  • Morgan

    The avatar they’re working on is looking great!

  • david.pasquale

    I would like to understand why do we have to hold these things (innatural)
    Why they do not not have gloves and strips for feet? with additional controller to hold for buttons and triggers? or even attached to the gloves?

    • Mageoftheyear

      Probably for cost & performance reasons.

      As you can see in the picture above, Sixense intends to use the same STEM modules (… or STEMcells – take that dictionary!) within the controllers as those that you’d attach to other points on your body. This is quite a smart move as it should lower their production costs quite a bit.

      Otherwise they would of had to build integrated tracking and modular tracking, besides it probably makes things simpler from a software perspective to have all the tracking hardware at the same specifications, AND – as eyeandeye stated above – it expands the adaptability of the system for other products, which is a big plus for any prospective buyers who are unsure of which way VR input will trend.

      As to why we are not using gloves for input yet, my best guesses on this are that;
      A.) Tracking modules at that scale (there is no point if they’re heavy and clunky) with the same level of performance would be too cost prohibitive for the mainstream market. And…
      B.) I think this is much more important; are we at a stage where developers have a comfortable amount of experience with linking VR input to in-game user interfaces?
      VR is still in it’s infancy, there are a lot of design hurdles to overcome simply from the HMD experience standpoint and developers have to look at what inputs will be most widely used and which will be the most cost effective for their time.

      Controllers are familiar, and a good first step towards more intuitive input methods.
      Full body tracking is definitely going to happen soon, but a revolution of sophistication overnight is not. Just as physical technology needs time to mature, so too do the ideas behind their use need time to explore the possibilities of user input and user interfaces.

      On a different note speaking just for myself, I would love an attachment to place my STEM controllers on to convert them to a HOTAS setup (I’m talking about those joystick type things.)
      That’d be awesome, and save me some money too.

      • drifter

        agree, I think we’ll see in the next years a combo : 1 controller (we’ll still need a few buttons and a stick to move) in one hand + 1 glove in the other hand (to interact)

      • eyeandeye

        I have the same desire as you to be able to attach these to a special HOTAS base, which could perhaps even charge them. I was going to mention it in a long-winded comment about games that have a combination of on-foot combat and vehicular combat, or multiple weapon types (how do you hold a two handed gun or sword, and how do you switch between them and one handed weapons?).

        In the far future it would be neat to see hand controllers that could dynamically attach to each other or docking points to create in-game objects like steering wheels, joysticks, two handed weapons and such. But I suppose people are going to want full body tactile feedback and gloves or suits will be the direction it goes in instead.

        I’m really surprised and disappointed that we haven’t heard anything from Novint on their Xio exosuit recently. Seems like this would be the kick in the pants to get that going again.

        • Mageoftheyear

          100% with you on your post, I just hope you’re wrong about the “far” part!
          Designing a docking system for controllers to meld dynamically into different functions would be *GULP!* daunting to say the least.

          We’ll probably (hopefully) get lots of specific docks first. It’ll be a pain to swap these out in-game sure, but it’ll get better.
          I only just considered the impact 3D printing could have here, in allowing hardware modders to so quickly iterate on dock designs – that you could then just print!

          What age of sorcery am I living in where such things are possible? :P

      • David

        Yes…I agree.
        but I would like to to see for example a glow which has these wireless module that can be plugged on.
        BTW…when someone is goig to work on a FPS with swords and shields or light sabers????
        (a simulator with real body interaction and dismemberment calculated in real time )

  • drifter

    I will be the first to back :D

    BUT there is still a very important unknown here : did they solve the problem of accuracy ? (The hydra doesn’t have linear tracking)
    The guys from Tactical haptics tried the stem controller and felt the accuracy was better…

    • eyeandeye

      On the Sixense page it says the device has better tracking performance at all ranges.