We’ve already seen Valve tease the next generation of SteamVR controllers, now the company has offered a peak at a new base station too.
Company Programmer Joe Ludwig showcased a prototype for the next iteration of the hardware at a press event inside the Valve offices earlier this month, captured on video by the Valve News Network. Base stations use Valve’s Lighthouse tracking system to find the positions of a VR headset and controllers in a tracked area, and relay that information into a VR experience, giving the user positional tracking and, in a big enough space, room scale VR experiences.
Ludwig described the prototype on display as “an early engineering model” that was subject to change. He pointed out that a base station used with the HTC Vive has two spinning motors inside, while the new device only has one. As a result the device is “cheaper, smaller, lighter”, producing less noise than the low hum you’ll hear in current base stations and using less power too.
Sadly, Valve didn’t get into the specifics of how much cheaper, smaller, and lighter the device would be, though these elements likely aren’t set in stone yet.
“We think it will track a little bit better, have a wider field of view,” Ludwig added. “[It’s] basically the next generation. Better in every way.”
It was following this that Valve co-founder Gabe Newell talked about a vision for “house-scale” VR in which several environments could be knitted together for more elaborate experiences.
This device will be shipping out to Lighthouse licensees later this year. Valve noted that it now has 500 of these licensees, working on everything from headsets to controllers. The Vive may not be the only major SteamVR headset for much longer.
Obviously these new base stations are big news for the future of SteamVR tracking, a technology that could be the most important to the VR industry in 2017. Cheaper tracking means that VR systems can come down in price, opening up the technology to a wider audience, and better tracking will give everyone more solid experiences.
Along with hardware, Valve is also making three full VR games that we’ll hopefully see later this year. GDC is just around the corner; is the company planning some big announcements?