Virtual Reality

New HTC Vive accessory turns bats and hoses into VR controllers

New HTC Vive accessory turns b...
HTC has announced the Vive Tracker, a little accessory that can be attached to objects to allow them to be tracked in the virtual space
HTC has announced the Vive Tracker, a little accessory that can be attached to objects to allow them to be tracked in the virtual space
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FLAIM is a simulator for training firefighters, which uses the Vive Tracker to keep tabs on the firehose
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FLAIM is a simulator for training firefighters, which uses the Vive Tracker to keep tabs on the firehose
HTC has announced the Vive Tracker, a little accessory that can be attached to objects to allow them to be tracked in the virtual space
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HTC has announced the Vive Tracker, a little accessory that can be attached to objects to allow them to be tracked in the virtual space
The Vive Tracker weighs just 3 oz (85 g) and measures 3.9  x 1.7 in (10 x 4.2 cm)
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The Vive Tracker weighs just 3 oz (85 g) and measures 3.9  x 1.7 in (10 x 4.2 cm)
HTC has also announced the Vive Deluxe Audio Strap, a set of headphones that can be easily adjusted with a sizing dial
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HTC has also announced the Vive Deluxe Audio Strap, a set of headphones that can be easily adjusted with a sizing dial
The Vive Deluxe Audio Strap will be available in Quarter 2, 2017
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The Vive Deluxe Audio Strap will be available in Quarter 2, 2017
The Vive Deluxe Audio Strap was just one of several devices HTC is demonstrating at CES this week
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The Vive Deluxe Audio Strap was just one of several devices HTC is demonstrating at CES this week

With the recent release of Oculus Touch, the Rift's hand-tracking controllers, the less polished ergonomics of the HTC Vive's wands suddenly seemed more apparent. They're good at simulating weapons, but they don't always translate well into other items. HTC has now announced the Vive Tracker, a new accessory for the VR system that can be attached to, or built into, anything from baseball bats to firefighting hoses. At CES this week, the company revealed a few examples, as well as detailing a new set of headphones and a subscription model for the Viveport app store.

The Vive headset is tracked to near-perfection by the two lighthouse sensors placed around the room. These devices beam invisible lasers into the play area, which are picked up by photosensors on the headset and the circular section of the wand to determine the player's position in space. The new Vive Tracker works the same way, allowing the system to track whatever its attached to.

Since it needs to stay relatively unintrusive, the round, three-pronged accessory weighs just 3 oz (85 g) and measures 3.9 in wide and 1.7 in high (10 x 4.2 cm). HTC plans to use the Tracker to lay a foundation for a future ecosystem of Vive accessories, and it's kickstarting that process by giving away up to 1,000 of them to developers.

"To foster the long-term growth of VR, we want to make it even easier for developers to prototype and market more immersive controllers and accessories," says Daniel O'Brien, GM of Virtual Reality at HTC. "The Vive Tracker is the first step in growing an ecosystem of third-party accessories that will change how we interact with virtual experiences and provide consumers and businesses with an unlimited amount of content opportunities."

FLAIM is a simulator for training firefighters, which uses the Vive Tracker to keep tabs on the firehose
FLAIM is a simulator for training firefighters, which uses the Vive Tracker to keep tabs on the firehose

HTC is demonstrating some of those future devices at CES this week, including a baseball bat, haptic gloves, rifles, and even a firehose for a firefighter training simulator. Our past experiences with games like Zero Latency really show how much more immersive VR can be when you're holding tactile objects that move with you in the virtual world.

Other items on display this week include the TPCast wireless adapter announced a few months ago, which aims to cut the cord that tends to wrap itself around a player's feet, and a pair of headphones integrated into a headstrap. The Vive Deluxe Audio Strap, as the company calls it, can be quickly adjusted to suit the size of your noggin by turning a dial, which should save some blind fumbling.

The software side of things – one of our long-standing gripes with the Vive – might be set to improve soon, too. Viveport, the system's app store, will introduce an optional subscription service later this year. For "a low monthly fee," users can access a select and apparently-ever-growing library of games and apps, in the same kind of model as Netflix, Sony's PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus, and Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold. Developers can opt-in to offer their titles on the service, or choose to keep selling them the usual way.

HTC has said the Vive Tracker and Audio Strap will both launch in Q2 this year, but hasn't given any pricing details yet. The TPCast has slipped back to the same period from its original first quarter release target, and untethering your headset will run you US$249. As for the Viveport subscription service, HTC hasn't narrowed the window beyond just "early 2017."

Source: HTC Vive

1 comment
AdamGarrity
I was a huge fan of Vive. Was. Until My controller broke for the third time. With a consistent repair fee of $110 from VIVE as they do not replace broken controllers. It is idiotic to invest in the vive system. Way smarter to wait a few months to even a year as something better will appear. Why? I have to wait over 24 hours for each response from vive support. It took a week just to go over the issue. Another week to send it. 3rd Week for them to reorganize the Reference repair Numbers. 4th week for them to send a $110 repair bill and pictures of the controller which no looks like they hit it with a hammer. So its over a month and I cannot play due to their poorly made controllers and worse customer service and warranty system. The controller repair deal is a consumer expiration scam. Games are under developed and short. HTC Vive will go down as blockbuster and Circuit city. Thus why all the executives are leaving the company. F U HTC