Alongside opening pre-orders for the headset, HTC today revealed that Vive Cosmos will support SteamVR Tracking with an optional faceplate ‘Mod’, one of several which the company says will expand the headset’s functionality.

Today HTC revealed the price, specs, and release date for Vive Cosmos—for all those details see here. Additionally the company announced an optional ‘Mod’ for the headset which will allow users to swap out the faceplate for one which supports SteamVR Tracking via Lighthouse base stations.

Image courtesy HTC

Out of the box, Cosmos supports ‘inside-out’ tracking which uses six cameras on the headset to determine the position of the headset and its controllers. This means the headset doesn’t rely on external trackers like the prior Vive and Vive Pro headsets.

While we’ve seen solid inside-out tracking in recent headsets, the outside-in approach with external trackers still tends to offer the best tracking performance in terms of accuracy, precision, latency, and coverage.

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SteamVR Tracking is one of the leading outside-in tracking systems and it powers headsets like the Vive, Vive Pro, Valve Index, and Pimax, as well as input devices like the Vive ‘wand’ controllers, Index ‘Knuckles’ controllers, and Vive Trackers.

HTC designed cosmos with a modular faceplate and today announced the ‘External Tracking Module’ which will supplant the inside-out tracking system with SteamVR Tracking. This allows users to tap into the SteamVR Tracking ecosystem, enabling the headset to work with 1.0 and 2.0 base stations.

Image courtesy HTC

HTC tells Road to VR that the Cosmos controllers, which are based on the headset’s inside-out tracking, will not work when the headset is used with SteamVR Tracking. Instead users will need to use the original Vive controllers, Index controllers, or other controllers which support SteamVR Tracking.

The External Tracking Module faceplate for Cosmos appears to only have 10 SteamVR Tracking sensors—less than half of the number found on the original Vive—though HTC says users can expect the same level of tracking performance as they would from the Vive.

Image courtesy HTC

This modularity is a boon for early-adopters who may have already invested in SteamVR Tracking base stations when buying into the original Vive, those who would like to use Valve’s advanced Index controllers, and anyone who doesn’t mind setting up external trackers for extra tracking performance.

HTC says the Cosmos SteamVR Tracking mod will cost less than $200 and launch in Q1 2020. Cosmos itself is priced at $700 and launches October 3rd, 2019. HTC says that in the future it plans to release other Mods which will offer other expanded functionality for the headset.

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  • Rogue Transfer

    SteamVR tracking isn’t outside-in, as it doesn’t use ‘external trackers’. The external base stations(aka Lighthouses) are not trackers, but just ‘dumb’ emitters sweeping IR light. This is tracked SteamVR controllers/headset’ sensors ‘inside’, looking ‘out’ for this reference light.

    • brandon9271

      People never get those two right. lol Look at the Wii. Even Nintendo called it a “sensor bar” when it didn’t have anything resembling a sensor in it. Emitter bar would have been the correct term but I guess that doesn’t “sound” right or marketing didn’t like it. *shrug*

      • mirak

        They didn’t say it was a “sensing bar”.
        A “sensor bar” is a bar for sensor.

        • Popin

          What sensor is in this bar and more importantly what drink is the sensor going to order?

          • Caven

            The sensor bar contains a voltage sensor. IR LEDs illuminate to indicate the presence of adequate voltage. ;)

            As for what drink the sensor is going to order, a “light” beer, obviously.

    • Caven

      I’d rather see VR headsets get described as using self-contained tracking versus external tracking hardware. After all, what most people really care about is whether or not there are external tracking devices, not which way the tracking system is looking.

  • Jarilo

    Oh snap! nice !

  • Harold T

    ok, it should be free with the Cosmos. Dumb Idea to charge more for upgrading customers with existing lighthouse investment. I see ZERO reason to buy this for $700 + ~$100-200 face plate, over a Valve Index HMD for $500, or $749 with 2 controllers. VS $400 Quest 64 gb instant un-tethered experience.

  • MosBen

    What I’d like to see is a headset with inside out tracking paired with a single depth sensing camera; like the Xbox Kinect camera. The external camera would round out the tracking provided by the inside-out system, but would also allow for body tracking.

    • brandon9271

      Yeah, I think a single camera would at least improve the tracking when you reach overhead or down by your waist. There’d still be times it was occluded and also out of the FOV of the HMD but it’d be better than nothing.

      • MosBen

        It’s a tradeoff between features, ease of use, and performance. The systems used by Quest, Rift S, Cosmos, etc. seem to be pretty good, and are easy to set up, but there are definite shortcomings in tracking the controllers that come up enough to be noticeable. A camera like the Kinect raises the complexity of the setup a bit, but plugging in one thing and pointing it at where you’ll be playing isn’t super difficult. And while there would probably be some way to occlude your controllers still, I think that it’d be really rare, and the ability to track your hands and feet would go a long way to improving presence, particularly in multiplayer games where you’d be interacting with other players.

  • Yeshaya

    If this combined + compatible phone + adapter is somewhat affordable, I think this will get an extra level of appeal as a device that can go from all-in-one inside-out to PC powered external tracking. I suspect it’ll be too expensive though.

  • Hmmm. Piecemeal. interesting Approach.

  • The Bard

    Too little, too expensive. Odyssey+ for 299$ is better in terms of image quality and blacks. Sure, this one here has 6 cameras, very good, but come on. 700 USD? Toooo muuuuch for this in 2019!

  • Trenix

    So inside out tracking that can also support outside in with a mod? Hell yeah, I think I’m finally sold.

    • Fdruid

      The “mod” is throwing more money at it. And it replaces inside out tracking. So if you’re going to use external tracking, you’re better off buying another headset.

      • Trenix

        Some people like options. Some people don’t have the space or can just setup external tracking whenever they want. Some people may also want to have a portable option, like connecting their headset to a smartphone. The Rift S is a joke, I wouldn’t even spend $100 on it. The index is also highly overpriced. I rather just buy this, then upgrade with a mod in the future.