Last week HTC announced a new accessory, the Vive Facial Tracker. Though the device is designed to mount to the Vive Pro, it turns out it’s technically compatible with other PC VR headsets, provided you can find a way to mount it in the right spot.

HTC’s new Vive Facial Tracker accessory, set to launch later this month, promises to track “38 facial movements across the lips, jaw, teeth, tongue, chin, and cheeks.” When the company introduced the device, it only announced compatibility with its Vive Pro line of headsets.

Apparently that’s only half the story. The headset can technically work with any PC VR headset, according to host Mike from YouTube channel Virtual Reality Oasis who tested the Vive Facial Tracker with the Valve Index headset:

According to Mike, the Vive Facial Tracker ought to work with any PC VR headset as long as you can find a way to mount the tracker to offer a good view of your mouth. Of course, it’ll work best with headsets that have an on-board USB port (like Vive Pro, original Vive, Valve Index, and Pimax), though on some you’ll need an adapter for the Vive Facial Tracker’s USB-C port.

Clearly the Vive Facial Tracker will work best with the Vive Pro because its mount is specially designed to fit the headset, but pulling together a DIY solution seems straightforward enough. And we wouldn’t be surprised to see 3D printed mounts for other headsets start to pop up after the March 24th release date of the Vive Facial Tracker.

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As far as HTC is concerned, the company isn’t guaranteeing the product will work well with other headsets. Shen Ye, the Sr. Director of Hardware Products at HTC, says the camera’s computer vision model was trained specifically from the vantage point of the Vive Pro, so any mounting that deviates from that perspective could impact tracking performance. He also says that USB-A (male) to USB-C (female) adapters are “against USB-IF specs,” and notes, “these adapters have no spec to conform to, so attempt this at your own risk.”

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  • wow

    Why would they come out with a face tracker before eye tracker?

    • Rupert Jung

      And why did they use a cable with fixed lenght which cannot be replaced?

      • mirak

        Like all the webcams you mean.

    • mirak

      Have you heard about the Vive Pro Eye ?

      • wow

        that doesn’t help on a vive pro or OG vive does it?
        i’m talking about modules just like the article is…

        • mirak

          I think integration of eye tracking would be clunky, and would force a loss of FOV.

          Plus you would need to put the screen further back otherwise it would touch the nose.

          I have the Vive Pro Eye and it takes some space already, and almost touch my nose, so a retrofited one would be worse.

          • wow

            The pimax eye module isn’t clunky though and it has the largest fov even on it’s smallest mode. That’s what i was referring to.
            Eye tracking makes a lot of sense for when you are playing games with 2 4k panels.
            Pimax isn’t very good on my nose either. Havent tried the comfort kit though

    • There’s nasty little company called Tobii that has been sitting on all of the eye tracking patents. The Facebook paid $2 Billion for Oculus, they salivated like hungry dogs and have been trying to squeeze the VR Industry ever since. They are the sole reason Foveated Rendering has been held up for so many years now.

      This is why eye tracking, which is just a camera watching your eyes, is only available on a couple of extremely expensive headsets. It’s a feature that could have been added for $10, if not for Tobii’s steep demands.

      The fact that Facebook mentioned the next version of the Quest *might* support Eye Tracking must mean that a) Facebook finally ponied up the cash Tobii’s patent trolling, or b) they finally found some loophole to get around the patents.

      • Thomas Hall

        This is interesting- do you have any links to more information on this? Thanks!

      • Farnborough

        If eye tracking is “just a camera watching your eyes” it seems hard for me to understand, why Tobii could make a bunch of patents out of it. There MUST be more behind it!

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        The whole “Tobii is holding the industry hostage with patents” is unlikely to be true. Tobii was founded in 2001. In 2017 Apple bought SMI/SensoMotoric Instruments, a year after SMI had announced their eye tracking dev kit for the HTC Vive. SMI had been around since 1991. And eye tracking as a human computer interface has been a research object since the 1980. As patents usually expire after 20 years, it is very unlikely that Tobii could even own fundamentally important patents that nobody can work around.

        There are a lot of companies working on different aspects of eye tracking. While Tobii and SMI focused on tracking where the eye is looking, Google bought Eyefluence in 2016, which was working on detecting eye gestures, i.e. eye movement. So unless someone can provide some source that demonstrates that Tobii is sitting on essential patents, their success is more likely due to them developing a good (or at least somewhat working) product in an area that is a lot harder than just pointing a camera at an eye. The fact that they won a number of awards for innovation points in that direction.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      The HTC Vive Pro Eye has eyetracker, and they added this one for that headset to be the ultimate facetracker.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Because eye tracking has to be very precise to be useful, while face tracking just has to be good enough to add to the experience. Everybody has been working on eye tracking for years, but it has proven to be much harder than expected.

      The main purpose of eye tracking is to give more control for the user, either by using the eye direction to point at something or by using it it in foveated rendering to select the area that has to be rendered at high resolution. In both cases the user notices immediately if the tracking isn’t precise, when either the wrong elements are selected or the image gets blurry.

      In face tracking the user never sees the result, unless s/he looks into a mirror. Currently the only use for it is to show more realistic mouth movement on an avatar to other players. It doesn’t really matter if it is somewhat off, so you can get away with a much less sophisticated solution.

  • mirak

    lol, and now everyone will think it’s awesom and will try to get one.

    If the wireless adapter could work on the Index they would send shitload of them I guess.
    But then there is nothing much left for the Vive Pro beside OLED screens, and the Cosmos have absolutely nothing at all left.

    • Cless

      Were the Cosmos even a real option…? I mean… The only people I know that bought one gave me reasons similar to “I couldn’t buy a Vive pro/Index, so I bought the Cosmos” … which is not the best reason to buy any headset…

      • Margaret Stiltner

        Get $192 per h from Google!…~a1299~ Yes this can be best since I simply got my initial payroll check of $24413 and this was just of a one week…I have aslo purchased my good BMW M5 right after this payment…~a1299~ it is really best job I have even had and you will not for~give yourself if you do not check it >>>> ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

      • Caven

        In my case, I bought the Cosmos Elite over the Vive Pro largely because of the tilt-up feature, which I figured would be handy during VR development. As it turns out, not only has the tilt-up capability proven to be far more useful than I anticipated, but the design requires the halo strap to support all the weight of the headset. This means that I don’t have significant pressure against my face, which has been the primary source of discomfort when using other headsets.

        If I remove the face gasket, I find that it’s easier to adjust the headset for an optimal view through the lenses, and the headset doesn’t contact my face at all. Admittedly this does allow some light leakage, but I’ll happily accept that in exchange for the significant improvement in comfort. If light leakage ever becomes a problem for me, I can see about making a custom face gasket that uses rubber flaps like the ones found on the nose section of the standard faceplate.

        I sure wouldn’t mind a more vivid screen, but given the choice between deeper blacks or comfort, I’ll take comfort every time.

        • Cless

          Fair enough, still I think that developing for VR influenced your opinion towards comfort way more than the normal VR user, since most people only need to put up their headset once or twice tops during a VR session, from what I tested, I would say the index would win it in comfort if you don’t have to be flipping up the headset often enough (like in your case).

          In my personal case, at home I’m still sticking to my original Vive with DAS until a proper upgrade appears, I’m not paying hundreds of dollars to get a product that is worse in some way to what I already own (well, the pro would be an upgrade I guess even if I would lose screen brightness, but its so heavily overpriced that it isn’t really worth it unless you have money to throw away hahaha).

    • sfmike

      The OLED screens are enough. I’m so disappointed with the crappy black levels on even the best LCD screens.

      • It’s been revealing trying “experiences” like Gloomy Eyes and Afterlife on the festival circuit using Vive Pro/Eye.

        Then purchasing months later when released on Steam, and finding the experience less than ideal on Index, usually leading to refund.

        Would be ideal to have an oled headset for “experiences”

    • mepy

      The Vive is still the only headset with a wireless solution for PC VR.

  • What you should *REALLY* note is the entire device is little more then a camera. It’s the software that handles the “Face Tracking”, which is something Snapchat’s been doing for half a decade now on any old smartphone.

    This is why the next version of the Quest is mentioned to support face tracking. It’s little more then adding a single new camera to the bottom of the Quest.

    Really, what I’m wondering is why the Open-Source community doesn’t just make some code to do this themselves? Webcam’s are cheap.

    • Yeah, what does it take to train a ML model to track a face? Everyone can do it in 5 minutes

      • Eula Ferguson

        Get $192 per h from Google!…~a1359~ Yes this can be best since I simply got my initial payroll check of $24413 and this was just of a one week…I have aslo purchased my good BMW M5 right after this payment…~a1359~ it is really best job I have even had and you will not for~give yourself if you do not check it >>>> ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤.

    • anon

      you seem to misunderstand what the vive face tracker is its not 1 camera its 2 so they can then do the math to make it from a 2d image to a 3d image and theres also IR illumination as part of it there is already software that uses 1 camera to do face tracking its just a bit flat due to lack of 3d

  • TechPassion

    This should be integrated into future headsets. Another heavy brick added to your head.

  • kuhpunkt

    Pimax… haven’t heard that name in a while.

  • This is amazing news… the fact that it was compatible only with Vive Pro made it quite useless… now it becomes interesting

  • Dave4321

    I expect a bunch of 3d printed mounts for every headset.

  • Daniel Wasserott

    I have a Cosmos Elite and have been looking for a mod or hack i could use to attach the tracker to the headset to no avail. anyone got a lead?