Virtual Builds, a company spinning out of ASIC engineering firm Noisefigure Research, is a new entrant now selling SteamVR Tracking development hardware. With a full DIY kit starting at $200, Virtual Builds aims to make SteamVR Tracking more accessible for VR hardware companies and individual developers makers alike.

With goal of making SteamVR Tracking a royalty-free and openly accessible tracking system for VR and more, Valve allows other companies to manufacture compatible hardware and provide engineering support to customers that need it. Triad Semiconductor was among the first to offer a SteamVR Tracking HDK for sale, and now Virtual Builds is offering their own development kit

Starting at $200, the Virtual Builds ‘Pebble Kit’ is said to include everything one needs to construct a basic object compatible with SteamVR Tracking. The kit can be used as a starting point for hardware developers to prototype and design VR products that integrate the tracking technology, or for hacker/makers who want to experiment with the tracking technology for other uses. The video below shows the process of putting together the Pebble Kit’s various sensors, ribbons, and boards into a fully functional tracked object supporting SteamVR Tracking 1.0 and 2.0.



Virtual Builds’ CEO, Jerry L., told me that the company also offers its engineering expertise to clients looking to design and productize devices integrating SteamVR Tracking, which could be anything from a VR headset or VR controller, to very different products like tracked keyboards, peripherals, or robotics. The company claims to offer guidance at all levels of development, all the way from sensor placement and debugging to large scale production needs.

Hardware Developers Are Now Receiving SteamVR 2.0 Base Stations

“Our hardware is not just prototyping or development only,” Jerry L. told me. “You can order from us for your entire development and production goals. Our team of engineers
will set up the necessary commercial manufacturing chain depending our your desired quantities and product.”

A sampling of Virtual Builds’ SteamVR Tracking wares. | Image courtesy Virtual Builds

The presence of Virtual Builds as another developer and vendor of SteamVR Tracking hardware is a good sign for the adoption of the tracking technology. Not only does it mean that companies sourcing the tracking hardware have more options to choose from, but it’s also likely that Virtual Builds will compete with others like Triad Semiconductor, leading both companies to improve their offerings and drive costs down.

Update (4/26/18): A prior version of this article stated that SteamVR Tracking was “license-free,” but was intended to say “royalty-free.” This has been corrected.

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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."
  • Thetrick

    Why would anyone buy one of these for 200$ instead of just getting a vive tracker? OpenVR is open sourced anyways. Why would anyone want a more expensive custom tracker?

    • brandon9271

      I am wondering that myself.

    • JJ

      I think the pebble is an example and you can buy the parts for cheaper and 3d print your own pebble like device. But idk thats just a guess otherwise I was thinking the same thing

    • Flamerate1

      I’m pretty sure these types of kits are for the way more technical kind of people. They may be using these sensors for completely different purposes than as just normal objects in VR experiences. That’s just a theory based off my experience in the electronic hobbyist sections of the internet. (Arduino boards are cool if you search it up.)

      If I’m wrong, then it might just allow a person to be way more customizable. You could definitely make way more smaller objects with this kind of kit than just attaching a vive tracker to it.

    • mellott124

      It’s for new product development. Where I want a kit where I can integrate the parts into a new prototype for a SteamVR tracked peripheral.

    • Virtualbuilds Support Team

      Hey guys, this is the Virtual Builds team, and we’re glad to see the community support! It looks like a couple of you have hit the nail on the head for this question – the Pebble Kit is not an end-consumer product in itself. It is intended to be used by developers and is designed to be played with, taken apart, and then adapted to other designs. The Vive tracker is an end-consumer product in itself.

      Our goal is to provide quality, easy-to-use VR developer hardware at an accessible price point, so that more developers can make cool things and grow the community. We want to help wherever we can, so please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or issues!

      • Thetrick

        Oh I see, the aim is at hardware developers. I was having a hard time figuring out why a software developer would want to get one of these but I can see how someone developing hardware would benefit. It was the “pebble kit” mold that was throwing me off.

      • So you could fit trackers to anything, sensors to anything and they write software to automate something using the relayed positional / rotational information. e.g. auto-pilot space station docking.