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.

Hands-on: Vive Cosmos Aims to Reboot the Vive Experience

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.

Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.

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."
  • 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.

    • fddsfsdfdsfasadffdsa

      What kind of game would anyone ever want to play off of a phone? I don’t understand this functionality at all and see no benefit to it whatsoever.

      • Yeshaya

        Maybe games like Beat Saber. I’ve heard the Quest’s GPU is close to a high end smartphone, so I guess they’d be able to run a similar catalog of games.

  • 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.

      • Glenn Powell

        I agree with Trenix, disappointed in Rift S, its a downgrade from the first Rift. I want external tracking or an option to use it, this provides that, there may be times i’m okay with inside-out tracking and I like it as an option if a sensor were to go out or something so I can keep playing while I wait to get a new one. This headset looks amazing, especially with Oculus Rift discontinuing accessories like the hdmi cord for their Rift (CV1) and only supporting that Rift S Lenovo crap. I love Oculus home over steam home and thats the only reason I haven’t got a new headset, but now they are forcing me to and this is coming along right in the nick of time.

  • just got this in the mail. first vr headset. very disappointing. tracking is horrendous. could barley fucking play duck season. the thing is not compatible with many games. batteries die in less than 12 hours. 4 AA batteries required to play.

  • J J Whitehead

    I think it is a direct money grab the way htc has set up the cosmos Interface. I bought the vive cosmos. For a reasonable $1500 and thought cool but this has to be better. So I purchased basestation v2. 0 for an other 480$ witch comes with only the power cable. And no real literature to install and set up. I needed to buy a Bluetooth dongle to update. And finally I purchased a vive tracker for another 180$. Here’s what they don’t tell you. But for me to use these external tracking devices to optimise my vr experience. I need to spend another $400 for the external tracking faceplate and then another $400 for v1. 0 or 2018 controllers. Wtf htc cause getting your programmers to write a simple interface device update is too hard to do while your counting all thehard earned money you’ve pilfered from your consumers. In short I’ve spend nearly 7000$ for a vr system and because of the way the cosmos is setup. It’s a clunky slow to respond loose my hands if I move them to fast bullshit system. With another wasted 600$ of useless accessories because of the way htc have their software and hardware set up for the cosmos. Unless I want to come up with another $800.. Get your shit together. I’m sure you can easily fix this issue with an update. Or maybe caviar toothpaste and ivory back scratchers are all you (htc) care about.