SteamVR updates tracking technology

Valve have posted an update on their VR tracking technology via their community blog.

The big news from this is that two base stations will be supported by the SteamVR hardware development kit (HDK), which means that tracking can be done in much larger volumes than presently possible.

In quite a tech heavy, through the looking glass style update, Programmer Joe for Valve also said that the sensor in the tracking device itself is reciving an upgrade of a semi-conducter.

The TS4231 part uses five components compared to the older TS3633 part which is currently installed in SteamVR’s tracking device. This means that the technology has iterated enough to become cheaper to produce. It also means that the data the sensor collects will be more precise thanks to larger amounts of data collected compared to the current system, which uses an singular ‘envelope’ pulse to track everything in a larger scale.

As part of this. SteamVR tracking 2.0 will have smaller base stations, as well as the support for multiple base stations and will have an increase in performance compared to the current models. Valve is aware that developers may also have older technology and can’t afford to completly replace their development kits to take advantage of the new sensors, so the new tacking 2.0 bases will be backward compatible, albeit mirroring the capability of the version 1.0 bases. The exisiting 1.0 bases however will not work with future technology from SteamVR.

This mix in compatability has caused some split in the comments for the blog. User "Graham J" said" "while I appreciate the forward movement of this excellent tech, fragmentation of tracking devices seems like a bad thing. Making these 2.0 devices backwards compatible should be a priority."

Another commentor, "roothorick" said: "I’m okay with the asymmetric backwards compatibility, personally. There was an expectation (though no guarantee) of full backwards compatibility, but current owners are highly unlikely to have a reason to upgrade their base stations."

The split is also seen as part of the risk of early adoption, as another user "BOLL" comments, saying "If we want the cost to go down for next generation VR, so more people will adopt it, we will just have to accept the loss of complete backwards compatibility. This is the cost of being an early adopter."

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