Tundra Labs, which makes chips and development kits for devices which use SteamVR Tracking, is building its own tracking accessory for the tracking ecosystem. The company is positioning its Tundra Tracker as a smaller, cheaper, and better alternative to HTC’s Vive Tracker. A Kickstarter campaign to fund the project and gather feedback is planned for next month.

The Open SteamVR Tracking Ecosystem

SteamVR Tracking Base Stations

Valve’s SteamVR Tracking is an open tracking system which allows any third party to build devices which are tracked by SteamVR Base Stations. Valve’s own Index headset, along with third-party headsets from companies like HTC and Pimax, make use of the shared system for high quality room-scale tracking. The flexible system allows users to mix and match devices (like being able to use an Index headset with Vive wand controllers), and also allows additional devices to be added into the mix—like HTC’s Vive Tracker, which is a general-purpose SteamVR Tracking device that can be attached to things like props or limbs to track those objects in VR.

As the only consumer-available device of its kind, the Vive Tracker has become the defacto general purpose tracker for the SteamVR Tracking ecosystem. It’s commonly used to augment VR motion capture by attaching to a user’s feet and hips, thus providing six points of body tracking (head, hands, waist, and feet) rather than the usual three (head and hands). This allows the movements of players to be captured and represented more accurately, giving VR avatars an impressively wide range of motion.

Friendly Competition

Image courtesy Tundra Labs

As the defacto choice, comparisons to the Vive Tracker are inevitable; Tundra Labs founder Luke Beno says the Tundra Tracker will best the incumbent in several ways.

Specifically the device is expected to be “60% smaller, consume about 50% less power, weight 50% less, and have twice the battery life,” compared to the Vive Tracker, he tells Road to VR. Beno also plans to deliver the Tundra Tracker at a slightly lower cost than the $100 Vive Tracker, along with additional discounts for tracker bundles.

But the Tundra Tracker isn’t purely a competitor, it can also work in tandem with the Vive Tracker, allowing users who have already invested in Vive Trackers to augment their tracking setup without needing to completely switch from one tracker to the other.

In fact, users will be able to pair Vive Trackers, Tundra Trackers, and even Index controllers to the Tundra Tracker’s USB dongle. “It’s the beautiful nature of SteamVR’s open ecosystem,” Beno says.

Placement & Mounting Options

Image courtesy Tundra Labs

With its reduced size and weight, Beno says the Tundra Tracker will also offer more flexible placement options.

“The tracker shape is also designed to fit in places that Vive Tracker cannot. The default baseplate has two loops where a user can thread though a strap or shoe laces. I’m also considering integrating magnets into the base so that it can snap onto a metal plate that can be embedded or sewn into clothing.”

Image courtesy Tundra Labs

Tundra Labs is also considering other base plates for different applications, but is waiting to lock down the options until gathering feedback from potential customers. “I’d like to sort of ‘crowd source’ ideas [for the tracker’s mounting options] such that it is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution like Vive Tracker,” he says.

Tundra Tracker Kickstarter

Image courtesy Tundra Labs

To that end, Tundra Labs will run a Kickstarter campaign for the Tundra Tracker, which is planned to start in January with units shipping later in the year.

While the Kickstarter details are still being finalized, Beno tells Road to VR that Tundra Labs will also offer ‘multi-port dongles’ through the Kickstarter, which will allow users to pair multiple trackers (Tundra Trackers or Vive Trackers) using a single USB connection.

The plan is to offer multi-port dongles capable of pairing up to three, five, or seven trackers, respectively. They will also be small enough to fit into the opening in the front of the Valve Index headset (AKA the ‘frunk’), which would ensure the dongles stay close to the trackers for a strong connection.

Beyond the consumer Tundra Tracker and the multi-port dongle, Beno says the Kickstarter will also offer a ‘Dev Edition’ tracker which includes a “very comprehensive expansion connector,” which could be used by other companies to build functional, tracked accessories like VR guns, gloves, and more.

– – — – –

The Tundra Tracker represents a growing list of devices and use-cases enabled by Valve’s open SteamVR Tracking system, from high-end headsets and third-party controllers to styli and programming of industrial robots.

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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."
  • Xron

    Specifically the device is expected to be “60% smaller, consume about 50% less power, weight 50% less, and have twice the battery life,

    Now we need just decent tracking and more attention to this from hmd creators and game devs.
    Then Haptic suits ofc.

    • ViRGiN

      And then wait 6 months for $5 off sales? Cause pcvr users, especially steam ones, are dirt cheap and demanding.

    • Jerald Doerr

      I dont know about you but my Steam tracking is good enough to track the shift off my balls… How much more do you need?

  • Ryan

    This is long overdue. Vive trackers work well, but there is sooo much room for improvement. Smaller, USB-C, single USB port for multiple trackers, easier to mount.

    • Lulu Vi Britannia

      This, exactly. Honestly, what this company promises should have been done years ago by Valve. Body tracking is a necessity for VR. All they had to do to have a MAJOR advantage over Oculus was make their trackers better and cheaper, and include it as part of the headsets instead of an add-on. Imagine Half Life Alyx with Body Tracking. Being able to hit enemies with your feet, being able to avoid enemies in a more accurate way, and overall having a better immersion…

      VR is awesome, but as of today, it could already be much better.

      • Ryan McClelland

        I have full body tracking, but so far, it is mostly useful for VRChat, where it is a total game changer. I haven’t tried it in many other games.

      • Ad

        Alyx would not have happened, although they could add the building blocks for modders to make use of.

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    • Since there was no competition, there was no reason to improve them. I’m curious to see if HTC will react to this product that looks amazing to me!

      • Seeing how HTC has basically cut the cord with Valve (Viveport competing with Steam, inside-out tracking competing with Lighthouse), I don’t think any reaction from them is very likely…

  • wheeler

    Wow, that is a really decent form factor–not at all bulky like the Vive trackers. Very impressive. If there’s enough interest in these, I hope some devs that don’t mind targeting the high end stuff consider implementing waist relative movement systems

  • jiink

    It’s about time!

  • Sounds awesome! Will lay back money for the Kickstarter.

  • Rogue Transfer

    >build devices which are tracked by SteamVR Base Stations.

    This is false & incorrect – the devices(ie. trackers, SteamVR controllers & headsets) track the SteamVR Base Stations, not the opposite way. The SteamVR Base Stations are just specialised IR emitters, which don’t do any tracking at all of devices, just provide fixed-point reference information.

    Much like a lighthouse sweeps out light for a ship to steer by, in the sea. It’s the ships that track where the lighthouse beams are coming from to work out their position, not the lighthouse.

  • Chloe Mcholoe

    i wish it was also cheaper

  • PRGuy69

    have 3 vive trackers and I’ve barely used them. Damn.

    • Ryan McClelland

      You can probably sell then easily. They are very popular for VRChat.

  • Amni3D

    Devs need to get on this! I seriously want this to exist already. Imagine the possibilities once you remove the bulk of the Vive trackers.

    • kontis

      Devs are most likely scared by it being too niche to worth supporting. VR as a whole is considered by many a big risk industry and FBT lighthouse is a small fraction of that niche. It’s also quite expensive.

      A next gen kinect-like webcam with much lower cost and friction to use could change it, but the big guys like facebook don’t seem to be interested… for now. They do some incredible research in this area, but don’t release products.

      • Anonmon

        You wouldn’t believe people with FBT capability was a fraction of the VR niche if you hang around VRChat long enough. Nearly everybody absolutely not, but go into basically any lobby and there’s always about 20%-30% of users on average with full body tracking on show, frequently FAR more depending on the kind of crowd. And if the subject comes up, basically everyone who doesn’t have FBT already either plans on getting it, or wants to but the cost (frequently because they bought a Facebook device / WMR HMD) is too prohibitive. Or is using Driver4VR and a kinect to get a a taste of the experience, which then far more than not eventually turns into getting actual trackers.

        It makes perfect sense why HTC decided to dump a ton of money into VRChat, they alone are probably responsible for 99% of Vive Tracker sales, and they’re clearly killing it there if the fact they’re constantly out of stock is anything to go by.
        VRChat singularly made far more of the VR populous be 6 point tracking capable than it ever would have been otherwise.

        • fragments_of_a_hologram_rose

          Tried Vive trackers several times, my favourite was in mario kart VR (namco world) giving tracked hands for picking up/throwing game items on track whilst hands were using steering wheel.

        • Stormchaserguy

          I’m a frequent dancer in VRChat. On the weekends, we’ll have rooms with up to 80 people and a majority of them will have full body tracking. Those that don’t have it, want it and are saving up for it. This includes those with Rift S and Quests. It it keeps cheaper and more affordable, it will grow even more.

        • kontis

          You wouldn’t believe people with FBT capability was a fraction of the VR niche if you hang around VRChat long enough.

          Yeah, I know.

          But the point is those people specifically want it for social VR.

          The big question is: how many of them would also use it in an action game to kick enemies etc?

          The fear of devs is: almost no one…

          • Anonmon

            You don’t make it mandatory of course, but I could easily see it as a selling point if it were an available feature to make things more immersive. If you could find a game genre that overlaps well with the VRChat crowd, it would see a ton of use.

            Something Pokemon-like that’s about catching monsters that managed to get the tone right I could see doing gangbusters.

      • Ad

        We need software support. It’s not just FBT, it’s also being able to bring other things into VR. Imagine passthrough passing in your TV, another person, a phone, etc into VR with this. Even just one of these could have a lot of uses, and with enough support a bunch of people would pick them up.

  • Ikuma

    That could make the G2-HMD completely Trackable without increasing too much weight with light houses. Also the Dongle Problem to Use the Index controller without the Index Headset would be solved too!

    • Ad

      I think tracking the controllers and headset with different systems should still be an official use case, but this definitely needs supporting. It could be useful for lots of things, like you could take your AR glasses, stream VR to them, and use this to slot it into the Steam tracking system.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Great, except lighthouse is going the way of the dodo sadly, with new headsets only realy supporting inside-out camera tracking.

    • Anonmon

      Hardly, just because Facebook is actively trying to dominate all the discussion around VR with their Quests and VR headsets of any kind aren’t being announced and released every other tuesday doesn’t mean Lighthouse tracked headsets are “going the way of the dodo”.
      The Index was only released ~1.5 years ago, and Pimax are still going at it strong with their various flavors of HMD. Plus guess how literally any actually high end HMD (StarVR / Xtal) is being tracked?
      A single device should last a good number of years before they NEED to be swapped out for anything else. Hell, there’s still a disproportionate number of users still rocking original Vives (myself included) and that was released in 2016.

      You can’t beat the rock-solidity and “It just works” flexibility of Lighthouse tracking compared to “Who cares about tracking what’s outside your FoV? And full body? Who cares even more?” of anything inside-out.
      Inside out is great for something basic that gets a head and hands in, but just because the masses buy cheap laptops that can do Word and browse the internet, doesn’t mean capable machines with multiple GPUs and more CPU cores than you can shake a stick at don’t have their place.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Let’s see in two years time…. All major headsets released this year have been camera tracking, one with optional lighthousetracking, and I’ll bet next year there will be even more headsets without lighthousetracking released. And my experience with Lighthouse(v1) (HTC Vive (pro)) is that it’s also not perfect.. Valve said a long time ago they would simplify the lighthousebasestations and make them cheaper, well they did make them more simple, but instead of costing less, they cost more…

        • Anonmon

          Like anything, it’s not like Lighthouse is some wonder tech with zero flaws what so ever, there’s caveats to literally everything that exists. For lighthouse it’s mirrors and needing to put at least some thought into Lighthouse placement, for inside-out is tracking volume around the headset for controllers, featureless rooms, and processing overhead.

          And the thing with the V2 Lighthouses, the reason why they didn’t become cheaper was because Valve underestimated the tooling and QA required to make them mass market with absolute precision with just the one slightly more complicated spinning assembly doing all duties instead of two more simple ones. More requirement to make sure everything is absolutely perfectly aligned and balanced means more manufacturing effort and likely time, which extends to the final price.
          Annoying for end consumers, but Valve’s determined to have those Lighthouses be absolutely perfect. At least it means fewer moving parts.

        • johanbach

          yea we will see. because you have no clue what you are talking about incel.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            Well, sorry to say this, all I am is being realistic. I’m not saying it won’t be around, all I’m saying that it won’t be something being used in the mainstream VR community anymore by then (OR it really needs to come down in price considerably, so you can get a set of basestations AND some trackers included for less than $100).

      • Arno van Wingerde

        Hm… only having tried the Quest 2 I have no comparison material. But for me the Quest 2 tracks more or less “perfect” without need for stations, Simply put it on your head and play wherever you want to play. Sure, it does not track my feet, which could be issue for some applications… but as for mainstream, I tend to concur with Andrew. I think, and slightly fear, that the market will be overrun by the Quest, largely killing the competition unless a major player like MS or Google steps up to the plate, or Sony comes up with a really good PSVR2. I am certainly interested in alternatives like the Reverb G2, but stations I would only install if I perceive a major advantage… which I currently o not.

    • Kevin White

      If that is true, then it is quite sad.

    • Stormchaserguy

      Those HMDs still can use full body tracking with lighthouses. I know a couple of Quest users with full body tracking using the base stations. Until inside-out camera tracking can do it, we’ll need lighthouses. I really don’t see inside-out tracking doing it any time soon.

      • kontis

        The obvious solution is a puck with Snapdragon 820 (cheap), battery and 2 cameras for real-time SLAM (inside out tracking like on Quest, WMR).

        The bill of materials could be actually lower than of Vive Tracker or similar. But battery life could be a problem.

        Not sure if there is any good middleware tracking algorithm that is available and as good as the one Facebook/Google/Microsoft have.

        • Anonmon

          The problem there is all tracked elements in a system need to know where they are in relation to each other. This isn’t a problem with Lighthouse as the laser sweeps by nature make this an inherent baked in thing. For an inside-out tracking puck, every single tracker is in its own universe, constantly drifting around where it should be in relation to where all the other trackers are.

          Which if you make it so every puck can track every other puck like how inside-out HMDs track controllers currently, it could work. But you’re going to run into occlusion issues with different body types as they need to look up/down the body to track other tracking pucks. Unless you get hand controllers tracking themselves in the room and tracking other objects as well, then you might have a chance.

          • kontis

            You make a good point, but advances in CV should mitigate this problem. Add some object recognition and/or aglos that rematch the position in a previously known space (I’ve seen SLAM solutions doing it years ago) and you may have quite robust auto-recalibration to prevent drift.

            This may also be used for the initialization to know absolute positions of every unit.

            Facebook already demoed colocation with multiple Quests with journalists and it worked well enough, yet they should suffer from exactly the issues you described!

            AR headsets with all that mixed reality content will also need very good solutions to automatically locate inside out device in a known space without manual recalibration every time user enables it. It’s clearly doable. I assume Hololens already does it.

      • ViRGiN

        Oh yeah, all those vrchat fatties are ready to shell out money. What’s next voice-to-anime modulator?

    • kontis

      There are plenty of Quest owners, WMR owners and Rift S owners who buy lighthouse base stations as an addition to their headsets.

      Why do you think this happens?

      Three letters: FBT.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        I think that’s really a VERY small percentage of those owners. Personally I don’t know any.

        • AB

          You should look into LIV and see how many people have full body tracking for Mixed Reality Content creation. I don’t play VRChat, but I play games that support LIV.
          I bought the Vive over the rift S Because of the base stations and the tracking possibilities. I have the Rift CV1, but I decided I wanted the Vive instead.
          I have full body tracking and even then I’m considering swapping out my trackers for the Tundra ones as long as they work just as well or better.
          Those dongles will be a huge selling point for me! 1 dongle that can pair 7??? Count me IN! That would free up my USB ports like crazy! And only having to worry about the placement of 1 dongle rather than 7??? Heck yeah! I’m literally holding up my money screaming “Take My Money!!!” I have a quest 2, and while it is fun to take around with me, I dont use it for content creation because my vive with trackers just works so much better. I find myself preferring the vive because the tracking just works. I’ve played beat saber and It is better than the PSVR, but it does feel a little different from the vive. I don’t always look at blocks as I hit them. When I’m dancing around there’s a chance I’d miss a block I actually hit because it’s not in my tracking area with inside out tracking. I do the same thing in my vive and it’s fine. I love doing no look hits because it looks cooler. I got the knuckles controllers and not the index headset because the vive is wireless. I literally didn’t upgrade from my VIVE, the OG VIVE because of wireless. I bought the OG Vive while the Rift S and Quest 1 was out BECAUSE of base stations and the possibility of wireless (which I later added) The OG Vive still sells. It Just works and it is my go to headset until someone makes base station tracked headset with better quality that has Wireless capabilities. You say it’s dead, but yet people still buy the old headsets. Why? Because they just…work.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            Or upgrade to a Vive Pro if you can get it secondhand cheap, as it’s a MAJOR improvement over the OG Vive, at least IMHO..

          • AB

            Yeah, I actually did end up upgrading not long after my original comment. I was looking for the vive pro, but found the vive pro eye for cheaper, so I got that instead. I’m happy with my upgrade.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            haha, yeah that one is even better, more options and even cheaper is always a good choice.

          • Again, only Streamers and Content Creators care about these things. They have no use to most VR players.

          • AB

            While I don’t play VRChat, there are a ton of people who do, and they use full body tracking. That’s a game in vr btw. And in beat saber, there’s a mod called feet saber where you use your feet to hit the blocks. Once more devs make games that use it, it’ll be better, but it’s not just streamers and content creators.

      • ViRGiN

        “plenty” lol. Those nerds don’t make a market. Having to start a Kickstarter is a crystal clear red light. They will probably ask for silly $15k and of course achieve it. Lighthouse is dead you elitist.

    • Ad

      Needs software and use cases. Trackers this small and flexible have plenty of use cases if there’s software for it. Then it’s the inside out headsets that lose out.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Yep, but that’s actually the problem, with so few people buying these trackers, most developers won’t spend the extra effort in supporting them as it’s just a too small group of people actually having these trackers. VR is still a very niche market, and most people only have a headset with the controllers that came with it, and don’t want to fork out a couple of hundred extra for something only a VERY small ammount of games which support them (the larger group is still using VR only for gaming). As a VR-enthousiast, full body tracking is awesome, but being realistic, it’s only a very small percentage of even that group which will buy these trackers as it’s YET another extra they need to put on to be able to play.

        • Ad

          Okay but cheaper better hardware helps with this, especially if it’s so modular. I don’t use VRChat, but it’s a place where you can code entire small games so it is a nice starting point to find uses for these.

    • Maxwell Stein

      Ive had the Oculus Rift CV1 and now the Index, a few friends and my boss have the Oculus Quest and love the simplicity of it, literally plug and play. Will base stations be a thing of the past? of course, eventually. As for now, when im in VR i dont see the stations and have never lost tracking unless im clearly get outside of my bounds (which are pretty large) The Vive Lighthouses are (atm) an industry standard for working in VR.

  • Glad to see steps being taken to improve the body tracking experience. Really hope we can get feet into the mix in the near future. The lack of foot tracking isn’t as profound as hand tracking, but I feel like it’ll be one of those features that, once it’s been implemented well, you won’t want to go back to a footless experience.

    For me, the biggest moment where I really wished I had foot tracking was in Half-Life: Alyx and a headcrab was crawling on the ground near me. It would have been pretty awesome to boot it across the room to give me time to reload and aim my gun.

    • StarLightPL

      Except Alyx doesn’t do melee because they “couldn’t get it right”, sadly. Boneworks could ;-)

  • Super-excited about this. HTC failed so badly with the Vive trackers back in the day and ever since that, I’ve been waiting for someone to come along and build something that will actually work. We’ve had Vive tracker support in Holodance since they were made available to developers (and will, of course, also support them in Beat the Rhythm). But unfortunately, HTC priced them out of range for most people, plus, they are just too bulky.

    It would be great if they’d do special purpose body trackers, with battery, processing and radio built into a larger tracker that goes to the hip (where the weight doesn’t really matter much), and feet, knees and elbows just the sensors for minimal weight (and also, to minimize the costs).

    Include the straps as well, and sell the whole package at a reasonable price (tbh, I think going much above $150 or $200 for the whole package with at least both feet and hip will make it too niche).

    • Ad

      I think they should look into making a longer thinner one, or maybe they could make it work with this one, where it can attach to a phone. Imagine entering VR after you slip it around your phone, and then inside VR you can use your phone with its actual touch screen since it’s 1:1 tracked. Not just that but something like LIV wouldn’t need calibration and could work as a moving window into the virtual world, could even use that in gameplay.

  • Pulstar44

    Nice. Maybe these guys could make steam compatible controllers more like the Oculus touch controllers. I’m still surprised that no one has done this considering it’s open source. If I had the know how I would do it.

    • fragments_of_a_hologram_rose

      Yes, want a Rift CV1 Touch clone with steamVR 2.0 tracking (my Index controllers have been horribly unreliable).

      Technically it’s possible to prototype (can even buy steamVR tracking kit from Triad or tundra labs) but turning it into production is entirely different matter with expensive tooling and set-up

  • Ad

    Does Tundra Labs have a discord or some other way to contact them?

  • justin

    The most important problem to be solved is the detection range of the base station,
    7 meter is too short.
    Another problem is the limitation of the total number of base stations used.

    • StarLightPL

      Most normal users in blocks of flats are happy with 2x3m playspace, you know. IMHO the most important problem to solve is… price.

  • Very cool! I’m sure that the kickstarter campaign will be a success. These devices are very interesting for who does full body tracking, lbvr, etc!

  • Jerald Doerr

    Wonder why each tracker needs a devoted USB port? Doesn’t the the Index just use one USB for the headset and two hand trackers?

    Also, wonder if they took out the Blue Tooth connection?

  • A few streamers in VRChat rejoice, while the rest of us shrug and try to think of any real use they might have.

    Full body tracking is NOT important for most VR games. It would be nice, but not nearly as much as *ANY* form of tactile feedback. Or Eye Tracking. Or Face tracking. Or Lighter Headsets. Or better resolution. Or full wireless. Or ending the walled garden of Oculus. Or more headset competition. Or AAA Game releases. Or lower VR gear prices. Or SO MANY OTHER THINGS.

    Geezz, it’s hard to state how far down the list of needed things full body tracking is.

  • equal

    I really hope they will have ww shipping

  • Mario

    are they going to need base stations to track?

  • Mrquestion

    Crazytalk here: If the tracker allowed for USB controller peripheral interaction such as a USB riffle peripheral with built in controller and triggers. A “lightsaber” or golf club mount.