HTC Teases New Vive Product Likely Aimed at Virtual Production

HTC shared a curious sneak peek revealing a new Vive product that appears to be part of a system that takes advantage of the company’s Vive Trackers for virtual productions.

HTC’s Vive brand has been focused exclusively on XR technologies, but late last week the company teased a new Vive product that’s probably more tangential to the XR space than part of it.

The new product was essentially shown in its entirety, which gives us some strong clues as to what it will do.

Image courtesy of HTC

The little box clearly has a screen showing that it can detect three Vive Trackers and four SteamVR Tracking base stations. And while the DisplayPort, HDMI, and three USB ports might suggest this is a compact PC that can handle its own VR render, other suggestions point toward a less powerful control device designed specifically to sense, capture, and stream virtual reality. tracker position

Why would you want such a thing? Virtual production, which uses technologies similar to mixed reality to shoot movie productions, is the obvious answer. This is further enhanced by the ‘Timecode’ and ‘Genlock’ readings on the box display, which are commonly used to keep audio and film equipment in perfect sync.

Positional tracking is very important in virtual production, especially for tracking cameras, whether you’re shooting entirely against a green screen or an LED wall.

In the first case, accurately capturing camera movement makes post-production much easier when CGI comes into play. Instead of manually aligning the actual shot with the CGI elements, the virtual camera can be easily aligned with the real camera to keep everything in sync.

If you are shooting against an LED wall (a large widescreen display that displays real-time rendered background images at the time of shooting), you need to know the precise position of the real camera so that the background images move realistically in real time. real. weather.

Beyond camera tracking, precise position tracking in production can be used to track props, actors and more, making it easier to replace or modify them in post-production.

Of course, there are plenty of positional tracking technologies that have been used in the film space for decades at this point…so why would HTC get in the game?

Well, compared to most things out there, Valve’s SteamVR tracking system is affordable, easy to set up, fairly accurate, and very cheap. And HTC is the leading provider of SteamVR Trackerssmall tracking discs that are compatible with the system.

For around $1,000, not including the price of HTC’s new…let’s call it ‘Vive Tracker box’, you can have a reasonably sized tracking volume with four SteamVR Tracking base stations to accurately track three trackers (though hopefully the box will support more than just three, which would make the system easily extensible).

Compare that to something more commonly seen in the virtual production space, like Opti Trackwhich can do more, but starts closer to $10,000 and can easily exceed $100,000 if you want to increase the size of the volume.

Let’s go back to HTC’s new Vive product; It’s already possible to use SteamVR Tracking for virtual production use cases, but it’s not exactly a straightforward process. Not only do you need a dedicated PC with some rare (in the movie space) software installed (SteamVR), but you also need a USB dongle for each Vive Tracker you plan to use.

The HTC Vive Tracker box is likely designed to be a turnkey solution that is ready to go with no additional software or dongles to install, plus the ability to accurately time-synchronize positional tracking data with other hardware. on-set production.

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The ultimate goal here is not just for HTC to make money selling the box, but also selling more of its Vive Trackers. The company’s tracking discs are popular with VR enthusiasts who want full-body tracking, but that’s a very specific audience. General-purpose tracking, for virtual production or otherwise, is a much bigger potential market for HTC, even if it means stepping out a bit from what has been the usual Vive brand wheelhouse.

And while the Vive follow-up box probably doesn’t mean too much for the XR industry itself, it may give us more insight into how HTC’s XR arm Vive is doing right now.

With its last four major VR headset launches seemingly not generating much traction for the company in the consumer VR space where it once dominated, Vive is pushing into new territory in search of business. Beyond the box Live Tracker here, another recent example is Vive Artsthe company’s effort to position itself in the NFT art scene.

So far, HTC hasn’t officially announced the Vive Tracker box beyond the teaser photo, so we don’t yet have details like when it will launch, what it will cost, or what specific features it will have, though we hope those details come soon.

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