Some days ago I read a super interesting article on RoadToVR: it was about a new kind of sensors that could reduce the overall cost of Lighthouse technology of the HTC Vive. You can find it here.

I published the article on reddit, where it gained a lot of interest… 466 karma points! W00t! A record for me! But why is this so important? And what are we talking about?

Well, we’re talking about the sensors that the HTC Vive uses to locate itself in space to perform the Lighthouse tracking. These are that little dots that are present in the “valleys” of the HTC Vive plastics. The base stations locate them and from their position reconstruct the position of the user’s head and controllers, thus allowing for VR room-scale. At present time 41 of these sensors are needed, with all the circuitry to manage them… and this makes the HTC Vive quite expensive (well, this is not the only reason, but surely one of them).

Vive triad sensor VR
HTC Vive with all his typical valleys… that little dot inside each of them is a Triad sensor

But there is a good news: Triad Semiconductor has created the TS3633 integrated circuit, that allows to perform improved room-scale using only 9 of these sensors. Furthermore, since the number of the sensor is reduced, all the managing circuitry can be reduced too and this could lead to a lowering of the price of the next generation of HTC Vive. We don’t know when this generation will come out (maybe at end of 2017 or beginning of 2018, since HTC has declared it has still not created the specs of the new version of the headset, since they’re still trying to push present version), but this news can mean that next gen will be cheaper.

Why is this so important? Because one of the main reason of slow adoption of VR is the high prices of the headsets and their companion VR-ready PCs. If next year VR headsets manufacturers will become lowering their prices, maybe we’ll finally reach the stage of consumer adoption and VR will begin its revolution. That’s why that article has become so popular inside Vive communities.

HTC Vive Lighthouse station - VR
Vive Lighthouse station

One last scoop (that you can’t read in the original RoadToVR article!): I got in touch with a guy having these innovative sensors on his desk and he reported me some feedbacks about it! You can read them here. The most important part of his feedbacks are these ones:

I’m running a few of these on my desk right now… there’s no doubt they can reduce cost. I’m not sure I’d expect much improved tracking though (it’s already pretty good).

So, the initial promise of better tracking won’t be that noticeable (I agree with him… room-scale of Vive is awesome enough… any improvement won’t be that noticeable by us humans).

From a few initial tests, they seem to be more sensitive than the discrete circuit (and with slightly less jitter), but also a lot more susceptible to interference (from other light/IR sources). Maybe it’ll help tracking at longer distances from the base stations (I haven’t done any range testing).

Longer range would be great, but not that interesting for consumers, since 4.5×4.5m is already enough to cover most of a room of a house (at least in Europe, if you’re not super-rich). But for business companies (e.g. in training) can be very important.

The bad news for us of Immotionar is that it is more susceptible to interferences and the Vive has already huge interference problems: so our Kinect + Vive setup could become even more problematic… is HTC going to solve it using some kind of filters as Kinect do?

Gianni playing full body virtual reality with HTC Vive and Kinect... will it be possible with Vive 2?
Gianni playing full body virtual reality with HTC Vive and Kinect… will it be possible with Vive 2?

And when running, they’re a bit more power hungry than the discrete circuit, but have a standby mode that could be used to save power for some portion of time.

So I imagine that in total they’ll consume more or less the same.

Ok, over with this news… what do you think about it? Do you like this article? If yes, please share it on your social channels!