Breaking six months of silence since their last update, Sixense, the company behind the much-belated positionally tracked controller system STEM, recently detailed “one last issue that needs to be addressed” before the company can start shipping to Kickstarter backers.

With its Kickstarter campaign launched back in late 2013, STEM was supposed to provide one of the world’s first consumer room-scale controller and tracker systems, something made possible by a magnetic tracking technology that can accommodate several tracked objects. Now, more than 4 years since the conclusion of the Kickstarter, backers are still waiting for their STEM Systems amidst what Sixense calls in their latest update “a long and complicated process.”

The last remaining issue? Parts are still warping, making for a critical misalignment when assembled.

“Our manufacturer has recently completed a tool mod to address gate relocation in order to eliminate warping of the controller halves. Following this, they produced 40 sets of controller halves (in 2 different runs) for us to perform an assembly build evaluation. In doing so, we found assembly level issues that were causing variability with the size of the reveal gap on the controllers. The proposed fix is to add a screw boss per the images below. It was also proposed that since we are doing a tool mod anyway, we should explore opportunities to add additional (steel safe) alignment features (bayonets, etc.).”

image courtesy Sixense

Sixense originally posted their first delay back in April 2014, citing the need for unspecified “hardware improvements.” Similar delays thereafter lead up to one of the greatest setbacks to the project in late March 2015: failure to pass FCC/CE testing, something that was chalked up to difficulties surrounding the basestation’s inability to both provide grounding for its radio frequency (RF) dongles without disturbing the magnetic tracking. Traversing more failed tests and manufacturing difficulties, the penultimate update, posted in July 2017, revealed a manufacturers letter to Sixense that detailed the company was still having part stability issues.

Pimax "8K" Headset Kickstarter Deliveries Delayed to Q2

Still, the update holds no definite answers to when backers will see the final product—something that many now consider to be surpassed by both Vive and Rift’s respective positional tracking systems. Sixense says they’re now “really close and hope to have better news regarding this matter in the near future.”

The system does provide one boon over all others: absolute positional tracking without the need for line-of-sight from basestations or tracking sensors, but as far as consumer-level headsets go, it’s a solution to a problem that no one really has. Notwithstanding the potential applications as a way to add 6DOF positional tracking to 3DOF mobile headsets like Gear VR, the system, if mass-produced after shipping to backers, aims to live on in the enterprise sector, adding positional tracking to custom VR systems.

“Please believe us when we say that we’re far more frustrated with having to tell you about our plastics difficulties than you are with hearing them,” the company writes. “All we can say is that we’re really close and hope to have better news regarding this matter in the near future. Having said that (again) we want to most emphatically assure you that while we’ve been dealing with our injection molding madness, we have continued to develop the tracking technology, both on the hardware and software sides of things.”

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Sponge Bob

    This is DOA

    Remember Razer Hydra controllers? Those are magnetic too

    If that tech (from Polhemus) could scale up it would be everywhere by now and
    we wouldn’t need cameras or lighthouses

    Optical or Ultrasonic

    Magnetic ? Don’t think so

    One of the reasons (a real biggie one) is magnetic field attenuation obeying inverse cube law

    • psuedonymous

      “If that tech (from Polhemus) could scale up it would be everywhere by now and
      we wouldn’t need cameras or lighthouses”

      It IS used everywhere. If you need to track something, and you can’t dedicate a room to an array of cameras, then the ubiquitous solution in industry of academia is to use a Polhemus of Ascension system. They’re not used on the consumer side for the same reason there are no consumer Sensics HMDs: consumer margins are thin, industrial margins are fat. Why sell 10,000 $200 consumer magnetic tracking system for a $50 profit a unit, when you can sell 100 $20,000 systems for $15,000 profit a unit?

      Magnetic tracking works, and works very well (once you calibrate for distortions or do on-the-fly compensation). Getting the price down and mass-producing them to get the cost down is the hard part. Like Cyberith found, going low-volume-high-margin to finance the high-volume-low-margin product is the only viable way to fund it without an angel investor dropping in a fat stack of cash.

      • Sponge Bob


        I didn’t say magnetic tracking doesn’t work

        It just does not work for consumer VR at all

        high-volume consumer VR will be all standalone mobile headsets and controller(s) as soon as this year or next year

        magnetic tracking ? run on batteries ? with small coils inside of headsets and even smaller ones inside controllers ?

        forget about it

        can’t argue with the laws of physics, dude

        Like I said: DOA

  • NooYawker

    If a kickstarter campaign is promising new revolutionary products… 99.9999% you will lose your money. Stick to simple products.

  • When it will come out, it will be almost useless. Vive trackers and controllers are already on the market and do the same things…

  • mpisc192

    I’m am very thankful that after months and months of bugging them they finally gave me a partial refund. After further bothering them and threatening legal action, I received a full refund. It’s unfortunate that this keeps happening them but I really don’t wish them well. When Razer Hydras were low in stock and VR devs started using them their Sixsense store changed the price from around $35 to near $200 if I remember correctly. They changed their terms after people pre-ordered and only later relented to partial refunds. This company never has the consumer interest at heart and I’m glad this product is a flop.

    • Chase Massingill

      What channels did you bug them through? I also preordered, not kickstarter, and after being promised a refund they went silent and stopped responding to my messages. I used both facebook and email.

      • mpisc192

        Pretty sure I found Steve’s email on reddit and used that. I also used their Paypal billing email and requested funds that way. Good luck!

    • NooYawker

      Good for you! I’m glad you got all your money back. I hope everyone does.

  • Raphael

    On the bright side… sixense will still launch before HL3.

    • Firestorm185

      I came down here to make a witty comment… but that was just too good, Raphael. XD

      • Kyra

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      • Raphael

        It will be a whole year before I make another witty comment.


        • Firestorm185

          The world can’t handle two witty comments of that caliber in one year. Best to keep it safe. xD

  • Kijutsu

    This and the Omni can burn in hell for all I care. They made me quit Kickstarter forever(so I guess it wasn’t all bad?)

  • Sponge Bob

    not all kickstarters are bad

    NoloVR delivered what they promised, with just several weeks of (expected) delay

    A savings of 50% off 200$ price if you buy it on amazon now

  • jarjarplinks

    I’d consider this dead on arrival. To be honest it was wishful thinking this kickstarter had any legs way back then either. Like lots of startups I suspect they hoped to be bought out.

  • Kamil

    It would be good if you could investigate the Virtualizer scam on the Kickstarter. I have backed them also in 2013. Ever since they have prosperous company that sells their product to VR gaming arcades for years now and backers still didn’t get what they paid for.

  • Dylan

    If they can get this device working TRANSPARENTLY for something like steam vr full body positional tracking, and it’s cheaper than a vive + trackers for a Razer HDK plus this: it’ll work out of the box in things like VRChat – and that’s 10 million potential consumers ready to gobble them up. They had better hurry.

  • Just the title of the article alone makes me want to dump hate and despair on such a disappointing company with so much promise… but… they really aren’t out of the picture yet. Like the writer said, Mobile is still in BAD need of positional tracking.

    There’s a small window here, maybe 2 or 3 years, until Google (likely) forces all smartphone makers to make mobile inside-out tracking ubiquitous. That leaves a niche opening where a 3rd party company could be the king of mobile VR, for awhile. This will last until inside-out tracking is reduced to a single chip and a lens or two. Then EVERYTHING will do inside-out tracking. STEM will be truly and completely screwed by then.

  • Rerry1000

    done is better than perfect, look to all tech all around, kk…