HTC just announced two new products in its Vive VR hardware lineup. The company is releasing a revised Vive Tracker, and it just introduced a facial expression tracking camera.
HTC's new Vive Tracker 3.0 is a significant change from the previous generation tracking pucks. The Vive Tracker 1.0 and 2.0 are virtually the same, with the only real difference being the device's tracking sensors. The Vive Tracker 3.0 is a complete redesign from the ground up.
The new tracker is smaller, lighter, and offers dramatic battery life improvements. HTC said the new Vive Tracker is 33% smaller than the previous models, which resulted in a 15% reduction in overall weight. The batteries in the Vive Tracker 3.0 provide up to 75% more runtime per charge, which gives you up to 7-hours of use per charge.
For gamers, the battery life probably won't be as much of a benefit as you already get several hours of a charge on the old Trackers. In professional use cases, such as film production and enterprise training, the extra battery life will undoubtedly come in quite handy.
"The VR community has far surpassed our expectations in developing an ever-expanding library of useful and entertaining applications for the VR ecosystem with the VIVE Tracker," said Dan O'Brien, GM of HTC America. "With its smaller design and more efficient energy management, this next generation of the VIVE Tracker will increase the utility and immersion of VR, further enabling the adoption of the technology across industries and use cases."
HTC said the new Trackers maintain compatibility with old Tracker accessories and have the same feature set, including the Pogo pin connection and tripod mount. The new trackers will also work side-by-side with pre-existing models.
Alongside the new Vive Trackers, HTC introduced the Vive Face Tracker, a camera that can track up to 38 facial movements to bring your facial expressions into VR. The Face Tracker can track the movement of your lips, jaw, teeth, tongue, chin, and cheeks. HTC said that the Vive Face Tracker uses dual infrared cameras, enabling accurate expression tracking even in low-light situations.
This isn't the first time we've seen facial tracking in VR. HTC showed off some experimental work in this field a few years ago already, and last year MegaDodo games announced the DecaGear VR headset, which is set to launch this year and would include a facial camera.
Games for this technology are few and far between, but as more face tracking solutions hit the market, game developers will have a reason to support this kind of hardware. Multiplayer experiences will feel much more realistic when avatars have animated faces that map your real movements. This sort of tech will be incredibly beneficial for virtual collaboration and film production situations as well.
The new Vive Tracker and Vive Face Tracker accessories will be available later this month. HTC said both products would sell for $129.99 each, and they will be available in the US on March 24. Vive Trackers are compatible with all Vive headsets with SteamVR Tracking. The Face Tracker is compatible with the Vive Pro lineup.