Late last year at Steam Dev Days, Valve talked about a new and improved design for the SteamVR Tracking / Lighthouse base stations, a core component of the Vive’s tracking technology. Now the company says it plans to launch the new version later this year.

During a Valve Q&A session on Reddit, Valve’s Joe Ludwig, who has been closely involved with the company’s VR efforts, confirmed development of a manufacturing line for the new base stations, and that they’d “start showing up later this year.”

“The controller production line is still going strong and churning out controllers. The next line we’re building is for the base stations we talked about at Dev Days,” he wrote, responding to a question about the company’s work with automated manufacturing. “Using automation allows us to keep production local, which means our employees can be much more hands-on with the manufacturing process. That works a lot better with how Valve works, so we’ll probably keep doing that going forward.”

The base stations that ship with the Vive today have two rotors with are used to sweep lasers in a vertical and horizontal line across the tracked volume. Those lasers are detected by sensors on the Vive and used to determine its location in space.

present-and-future-base-stationThe major difference in the new base stations is the move from a dual-rotor to a single-rotor design. Instead of a horizontal and vertical speed achieved with two rotors, the new base stations will use a single rotor with two diagonal sweeps leaning in opposite directions.

base-station-linesValve says that the same precise positional tracking information can be derived in this way, with the added benefit of greatly reducing the complexity of the system. As Valve engineer Ben Jackson put it, “What better way to make [the Base Station] lighter, quieter, cheaper, and more power efficient, than to chop out half the parts?”

According to Reid Wender of Triad Semiconductor (who worked with Valve to create components for Lighthouse tracking), the new approach could lead to “rapid cost reductions.”

SEE ALSO
HTC Confirms Each Vive is Sold at Profit, "Much More" Than 140,000 Units in Sales

Reduced price would be a welcome change; today’s Lighthouse base stations cost $135 each when bought directly from HTC, so they’re surely adding a nice chunk to the Vive’s $800 price point.

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  • VRgameDevGirl

    If it drops the price of vive below $600 I’ll be tempted to but another one!! I would like to wait till vive 2.0 comes out though.

    • hyperskyper

      Maybe it will always just be the Vive. They might just upgrade the individual components over time. I kind of doubt that they would do that but it would be nice for existing users such as myself.

      • benz145

        Interesting. I guess that would be like the Macbook model, where they don’t give it a model number, they just call them all “Macbook” even as new ones are released.

      • Cl

        Maybe they will sell a vive pro with the new headstrap, new base stations and new controllers for same price. wireless would be nice, but that would add a couple hundred probably. Making it a bit lighter would be cool too.

      • DougP

        Re: “They might just upgrade the individual components over time.”
        I can honestly see this happening.
        It would be great for the consumers (& early adopters) & doesn’t seem too far fetched & they seem to be embracing a very Open+Modular design: from new strap (for those wanting integrated audio) to wireless to add-on *puck* for 3rd party controllers…to new lighthouse.

        All they’d really have to do is:
        1) Offer a new HMD as stand-alone addition
        2) Offer a new *bundle* with all the latest/greates

    • Raphael

      You will have a long wait. There won’t be any Vive 2 this year.

      • OgreTactics

        Yes there will be.

        • ShiftyInc

          Nope, no new headsets in 2017 from both HTC or Oculus, they both mentioned this a couple of times already last year.

          • MosBen

            I guess it depends on what counts as a new headset. My guess is that HTC/Valve starts selling a new box with updated controllers, new base stations, and better HMD ergonomics this year. But it will keep the same screens, system reqs, etc.

          • DougP

            Re: “I guess it depends on what counts as a new headset.”
            Everything you described wouldn’t count as a “new headset”.

            New screen, sure…but that ain’t happening this year/for a while.
            GPUs aren’t even up to pushing more pixels (enough to make a difference) yet & consumer/mass-market priced ones won’t be out until late this year at earliest, more likely next year.

            The modular approach makes sense, as well offering different *bundles*.

        • Raphael

          oh no there won’t be.

          • JustNiz

            Please quote your sources.

          • Raphael

            Quote your sources…

          • OgreTactics

            Please quote your sources.

          • Raphael

            Please quote your sources first. Or we appoint a middle person to handle the exchange of sources.

          • OgreTactics

            If you have enough incentive for me to burn my source…hum nope not even. The only way for you to be certain, is to wait for the 31 december 2017 to be sure about whether it’s bullshit or indeed, it was true.

        • JustNiz

          Please quote your sources.

  • evo_9

    Is this solely to reduce the cost of the HTC VIVE retail package, or is this to allow one to add more basestations to their existing VIVE setup to increase the size of their play-space? Or both?

    • benz145

      Could be both but it isn’t clear yet.

    • VRgameDevGirl

      That would be amazing. I would love to make my area larger. Image setting them up throughout your house.

      • evo_9

        I think AR/VR hybrid is going to be better suited for whole house stuff like that. Worth taking a look if you haven’t checked it out; probably a year or so out from really good commercial options but I could be wrong, I have followed it that closely yet.

    • EY

      I read somewhere that the diagonal scanning requires different calculations, so it’s unclear if it’ll be possible to mix-n-match.

      • evo_9

        I’ve read a vague comment or two alluding to some limitation in either total boxes that can be scanned effectively enough that would impose a limit. But I guess I’m wondering being a software guy and not a hardware guy if that’s a limit on the transmission technology employed or a sort of processing limit in the Lightbox, etc. I know there is a commercial installation going into one of the Vegas hotels that uses a modified Vive and additional lightboxes to support a much larger play area (and two player co-op in the same play space). Apologies I cannot find that link. Anyway, that’s what got me thinking maybe these boxes would allow for a similar play space expansion.

        One of the Vive hardware engineers was commenting on a hacker-news thread a few days ago, I think I’ll PM him and see what he says.

  • Negcreep

    Good to know that there’s no need to purchase these if you have the originals. I thought for a minute there that I’d need to buy these to use the new ‘knuckles’ controller.

    • NooYawker

      I thought the same, I just bought my Vive and I didn’t want to have to start replacing parts.

      • DougP

        It’s actually been one of the very encouraging aspect of Valve & HTC’s approach:
        1) Open
        2) Modular – from wireless, to 3rd-party add-on, to options (new strap for those who want integrated audio), to incremental component upgrades

        Heck, Valve’s mentioned that other manufacturers have HMDs in works which will work with Lighthouse tracking.

        Modular & Open for the win!

  • OgreTactics

    Vive is a failure. As much as the Oculus.

    • NooYawker

      So.. why do you come to a VR site again?

      • evo_9

        You are unfamiliar with trolls?

        • NooYawker

          Yea but this is above and beyond. Going specifically to a VR site to troll about VR? That’s serious dedication, his basement must be very musky.

          • evo_9

            Nah as Gerald Broflovski on the awesome/recent South Parks has shown this is textbook 101 trolling.

        • OgreTactics

          You must be a damn loser to user the world troll in 2017 to cry about people disagreeing with your politically correct and limited vision.

      • OgreTactics

        Pssst, I have a secret: VR =/= HTC or Facebook companies.

    • ummm…

      that doesnt’ say much. if they are ranked 1/10 on the failure scale then they are by and large huge success. Herego, them being equal in “failure” means nothing if their shared failures are small and unnoticed.

    • Get Schwifty!

      Geeze dude – opine much without substance? I guess you’ll just have to settle for a Gear LOL.

      • OgreTactics

        I don’t have any proof to provide on a forum, unless worth the discussion. They are failures by any means just by comparing initial projected sales and actual sales, and then other sales numbers of the market, and then basic market and business rules etc…

        • CaptainHappy

          Projected sales from who? It seems that Valve/HTC and Facebook/Oculus weren’t expecting the crazy sales that analysts were predicting.

          Let’s look at this rationally for a second.

          You’re putting a product out that costs £800 and it requires, at least, another £1000 in terms of prerequisites that people may or may not already own – is it going to sell like heavily subsidised smartphone that has a VR accessory? Hell no. Thinking anything else is just ridiculous.

          You know what the Vive and the Rift prove? People love VR. People that can afford it will pay for it. The only battle now is to reduce cost so that more people can afford it.

          • OgreTactics

            Because your not look at it rationally but with rationalisation. You are constructing a seemingly logical (not reasonned or rational) narrative with partials informations, deconstructions and analysis of the subject.

            First, there’s this lie that consist in saying HTC or Oculus didn’t expect crazy sales: here they projected north of a million units http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/06/oculus-expects-to-sell-north-of-a-million-units-for-first-consumer-rift/ then here they project 600k by year end and 2.5 millions http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-expects-to-ship-26-million-oculus-rifts-by-2017-2016-4?

            Not only are these not analyst prediction, but also it’s the basic hypocrisy that ends being false rationalisation that they don’t actually have internal sales projections…which clearly if it was just around the 160k headset wouldn’t have been made into a hundred-millions or billion investment.

            You’re second argument doesn’t stand either: I don’t remember where I saw the article, but I know for a fact that all the people (about 40 or more) I know who bought Oculus/Vive already had a compatible PC. And in this case, you can also compare the incentive have buying a full proficient 800$ smartphone + an untethered but limited, cheap and untracked VR headset with a supposedly high-end powerful motion-tracked VR headset.

            So your last point makes me want to puke so much it’s hypocritical bullshit kool: People love VR because they sold a 10th of the projected STARTING sale of this new market, while the first iPad sold 3 millions and even the 20 year old Virtual Boy sold 800k? You’re so far from a basic understanding of both market and VR that you obviously jump on the bandwagon really recently. Enjoy your VR HMDs until you get “bored” of it’s system and limitation, and hope a drastically better Virtual Headset comes out before this market dies for another cycle.

          • CaptainHappy

            Okay, I looked at your first link. Those ARE analyst projections by Cantor Fitzgeral, one of the premier capital markets investment banks. You need to check the sources of the numbers on Ars.

            You actually proved my second point also, ‘… all the people I know who bought the rift/Vive already had a compatible PC…’. Yes, I expect this. If you don’t already have a compatible PC the cost of entry is the most limiting factor.

            So, your sources are inaccurate and don’t actually back you up and your challenge to my main argument (VR is actually great but too expensive right now) actually proves my point?

            My last point stands. People love it when they try it. No one I’ve demoed my Rift to has gone “Eh? I don’t get it? What’s so good?”. No, they play and they get immersed in what they are doing/playing and when they take the headset off they’re smiling and laughing like children again. If I turned round and told them it cost £2/300 they’d buy it in a heartbeat but the fact it’s £800 for the HMD and the controllers plus £2000+ for a PC comparable to mine is just too much for most people.

            I think you may live in a fantasy world where everyone can afford to buy this kind of stuff, but sadly it isn’t so. I’m fortunate that I have a good job and get play around with all the latest gadgets that I want to but I’m fully aware that I’m in a minority.

            I like your iPad argument. iOS was already established, the App Store was already there and people that like Apple products tend to buy more Apple products. Not only that, the iPad was significantly cheaper than a current tethered HMD and PC.

            I don’t think I’ll get any more bored of the Rift than I would my phone, PC, console, etc… to me it’s a gaming device and it’s the best gaming device I’ve bought since putting together my first PC. At the moment I’m seriously regretting purchasing my X34 ultrawide monitor as it’s not getting the use it deserves but it’s still fantastic for work.

            Enjoy… not being happy with the things you have?

  • OgreTactics

    Terrible news. Who the fuck are they wasting their budget off who doesn’t even understand let alone read the noise around VR, external tracker is a NO-NO?

    I think I’ll start pushing to drop the Vive has a demo and tentative ad platform in my agency (in fact no client ever wanted to bother with a Vive budget). The Vive is worst VR headset, you can tell it on the surface by the design, but now clearly their off sense, conception and strategy understanding.

    • ummm…

      lucid you are not.

      • OgreTactics

        lucid is my job. A job that convinces some companies or brands to invest or not 100K/1M budgets into VR. And guess what device they never want to touch despite me promoting it’s superior experience and potential? The Vive.

        • ummm…

          an why is that? i think you may be having a problem – or possibly your investors – because you are just as clueless as they are.

          • OgreTactics

            yeah right.

    • ?????

    • ra51

      Not sure if trolling….or just…

      • DougP

        Re: “….or just..”

        Remember kids – just say no!

    • dogtato

      inside-out is not currently better than lighthouses. It’s also not available in any consumer headsets. I’m using my Vive TODAY, I don’t want to wait for years until inside-out is better than outside-in just so I can play games at home where it’s easy to set up external trackers.

      • OgreTactics

        There’s you, an amateur like me, that’s why you are one of the very few with a Vive, and then there’s the actual market which doesn’t want shit to do with Lighthouses and it’s understandable. Of course inside-out tracking is not better yet, but it’s archly better still for the fact that it’s mobile and untethered.

        That’s why the GearVR with Galaxy S7/Note which only as 360° rotation sold 40 times mores than Oculus and Vive. As limited as it is in graphics and tracking, the fact that it’s light, untethered and all-inclusive FAR outweights the incentive of a powerful but fucking bulky, cabled-up until suffocation and bulky controller and hardware that accompany these PC HMDs.

        • dogtato

          Samsung gave away a bunch of GearVR, so it didn’t “sell” 40 times as much. The fact that it’s cheap enough for them to give it away is the reason it’s way more popular.

          • OgreTactics

            Bullseyes. They only gave out about 500.000 headset which is fraction of what they sold. Also the price people paid is in the system which is the Galaxy S7. All the people I know, including me, who bought a S7 or Note was for the sole added functionality of VR. Because the incentive of a fully operation 800$ smartphone with a 100$ untethered mobile VR headsets far outweighs the value proposition of a Vive or Oculus even if you already have a PC. In fact that’s the reason why the PSVR sold so many: it’s not about the price, it’s because the the experiences and the quality works far better in the context of a standard straight-forward living-room console.

  • Albert Hartman

    As far as acoustics reduction, do what the hard disk drive industry did to quiet their BLDC motors. Fractional pole/slot ratios, bonded-neo rings magnetized w/hallbach patterns (zero-cogging), replace ball bearings with hydrodynamic fluid bearings, full 3-phase sinewave commutation (vs 6-step block) drives. Of course 2-plane rotor balancing.

    • Surykaty

      hydrodynamic bearings a.k.a air bearings are hard to manufacture large scale for new companies… sourcing them in large batches is difficult too

      • Albert Hartman

        they use oil – not air as the working fluid. about $1 each

        • Surykaty

          you’re right, only some very specific few non-consumer models actually had air bearing spindles.. they are tougher and more expensive to manufacture due to the insane tolerances .. somewhere around 50 millions of an inch

          • Albert Hartman

            that’s about correct for the clearances of the oil bearings used. however the HDD’s have stringent stiffness requirements, much higher than the Lighthouse needs. the industry is already manufacturing these bearings in high volumes.

    • SHunter

      Sounds god dam expensive for a non issue. If you think these are loud you need more problems in your life to complain about. A tiny motor that shoots some laster light seems way less complex than all the needless r and d to fit all that crap

      • Albert Hartman

        HDD low noise motors are among the cheapest motors you can buy. anywhere. this is due to their massive scale – 100 million units/year. no other motor is even close.

        • SHunter

          We don’t want cheap. Inexpensive? Yes. But not cheap.

          • Albert Hartman

            HDD motors are the highest tech motors on the planet.

          • SHunter

            Cool. No one needs them anymore. SSD is mainstream.

            Don’t you think an intelligent company like Valve already considered this option or are you just some marvel genius that they forgot to hire?

          • Albert Hartman

            SSD’s are totally cool vs HDD’s. Valve probably doesn’t know about them – the drive industry only looks to itself, not to outside markets.

          • SHunter

            To clarify, I’m sure they are well aware of drive motors for sourced parts.

          • Charles Poulin

            I think you may be underestimating Valve a bit, the Lighthouse already uses HDD motors: http://hackaday.com/2016/12/21/alan-yates-why-valves-lighthouse-cant-work/

          • Albert Hartman

            very cool! i hadn’t seen this

      • DougP

        Re: “If you think these are loud you need more problems in your life to complain about.”

        I can’t imagine anyone actually thinking they’re *loud*.
        I’ve never even heard mine (& yes, I have great hearing). However, I do have a large room-scale setup & these aren’t like sitting on/next to desk/chair where I’m working – they’re on opposing walls.

        Particularly once you’re *using* VR = meaning having headphones/earbuds in use.

        I unplug/turn-off mine when not in use…so even if they did make noise I could hear (read: were very close to where I sat & very quiet room)… non issue.

        • J.C.

          I have mine turn off when I shut off the system, but if I have a power outage, they’re on until I boot the system up and shut it down again. They’re not LOUD, but they’re audible. My setup is in the garage, tho, which sees very little playtime in cold weather anyhow.
          I’d like to get one of the new Lighthouse sensors for the computer room, so I could move the Vive easily between the two. The Lighthouse is the primary issue with doing this, and I’m not $150 interested in being able to move it. I’d be $90 interested though.

          • DougP

            Re: “move the Vive easily between the two”, “not $150 interested in being able to move it. I’d be $90 interested though.”

            Really great points.
            I’d also like to be able to move the Vive between couple locations & you’re spot-on that the Lighthouse is the challenging part. I’ve got mine attached to walls (up high) & have only moved once (entire system brought to family over holidays). Once setup, it’s annoying to tear-down & re-configure.

            I’d spend $90 for xtra set!

            Hehe…. def “1st world problems” – multiple VR rooms/spaces. ;)

  • Travel Trousers

    One of my rotors also broke, but you clearly don’t understand why the motor is the key component to achieving accuracy and lowering cost. There is no other viable solution…. unless you’re proposing using magic or something :p

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Or using magnets to control the lasers..

      • John

        Yeah, some king of magnets that move it laser around! Oh, wait…

  • Chip Weinberger

    How do they make the laser shoot out both of the slits? Before they had 1 45 degree mirror on the axis shooting the laser at the slit. Now they have 2 slits that have to share the same mirror? But how?

    Edit. Ah, I figure it out. there are 2 mirrors. One on top of the other. I wonder if the first mirror is half silvered.

  • Rex Thorne

    Hopefully this reduces the vibration so we don’t need to keep running Floor Fix as the lighthouses slowly tip downward over time due to vibration.

  • Benjamin Turner

    It’s a shame they can’t make it work with the existing HMD with a software update, but this new design is really frickin’ clever.