At Steam Dev Days in November 2016, Valve said that it was working on a new and improved version of the base stations of the HTC Vive virtual reality headset.
The base stations, which house what is known as the Lighthouse tracking system, allows wearers of the HTC Vive to plunge themselves into room-scale virtual reality, and are considered to be an integral part of the HTC Vive experience.
New HTC Vive Base Stations Coming This Year
In a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session for Gabe Newell, co-founder and president of Valve, it was revealed by the company's Joe Ludwig that the manufacturing line for the new base stations of the HTC Vive are being developed, and that the devices will be launched within the year.
The second-generation base stations are said to be easier to manufacture, which increases the likelihood that they will be cheaper than their predecessors and could lead to a price drop for the HTC Vive 2.
What's New About The New Base Station For The HTC Vive?
The current base stations of the HTC Vive are set up in pairs, with each station containing two motors that sweep lasers across the room in a horizontal and a vertical line. The HTC Vive gathers information from these lasers and utilizes them as a reference point for the current location of the headset and its wearer within the room, while also monitoring the movements that the user makes.
The second-generation base stations, however, will drop the two-motor configuration and instead utilize only one motor, which would be sweeping lasers diagonally in opposite directions.
According to Valve, the efficiency of the positional tracking information that will be acquired by the base stations will not be affected by the change, though it will greatly reduce the complexity of the devices.
"What better way to make [the Base Station] lighter, quieter, cheaper, and more power efficient, than to chop out half the parts?" said Ben Jackson, an engineer for Valve. Reid Wender of Triad Semiconductor, a company that worked with Valve in the creation of components for the Lighthouse tracking system, said that the move would likely lead to quick reductions in the cost to manufacture the base stations. With fewer parts, the base stations would also become less susceptible to failure.
The Second-Generation Base Stations And HTC Vive 2
A single unit of the base station currently costs $135, and a pair for $270 makes up a significant percentage of the $800 price tag for the HTC Vive. If the new base stations will indeed be cheaper to manufacture compared with the current base stations, Valve and HTC might be able to pass the savings down to consumers and reduce the price for the HTC Vive 2 system.
Exactly when HTC Vive 2 will arrive, however, is still unknown. It was rumored that the update to the virtual reality system, which would be wireless, would be unveiled at this year's CES. However, HTC shot down those reports, claiming that the company is currently focused on the growth of the HTC Vive's ecosystem.