Valve announces SteamVR Tracking developer kit

HTC Vive Demo

Valve have just announced that it will be licensing SteamVR tracking to third-party hardware makers royalty-free, meaning anyone can use the technology without having to pay licensing costs.

The specific tracking technology that has been opened up by Steam is the same that is currently being used in the HTC Vive.

“It’s critical to the future of the Virtual Reality Ecosystem to open up the tracking technology to support the growth of a healthy portfolio of products that work together with HTC VIVE,” said Raymond Pao, HTC VR vice president.

Not only this, but Valve is also offering up free training for the first wave of licenses that are used in order for developers to become more familiar with the technology and how to use it.

“Making this tracking technology available to more partners is an extremely important step in the evolution of virtual reality and 3D tracking,” adds Alan Yates, Valve engineer. “We are very confident that doing so will result in new and innovative experiences for all VR customers.”


A hardware development kit is being made available to each licensee who wishes to take advantage of the SteamVR Tracking technology. It’ll contain all the necessary sensors and software tools to get started:

  • A modular reference tracked object suitable for attaching to prototype HMDs or other devices
  • Full complement of EVM circuit boards to enable rapid prototyping of your own tracked object
  • 40 individual sensors for building your own tracked object
  • Accessories to enable custom prototypes
  • Two HTC Vive base stations
  • Software toolkit to assist with optimal sensor placement
  • Calibration tools for prototyping and manufacturing
  • Schematics and layouts for all electronic components
  • Mechanical designs for the reference tracked object and accessories
  • Datasheets for the sensor ASICs

What is SteamVR Tracking?

The SteamVR Tracking Basestations sweep the room with multiple sync pulses and laser lines, reaching out to about 5 meters. By keeping careful track of the timings between pulses and sweeps, the SteamVR Tracking system uses simple trigonometry to find the location of each sensor to within a fraction of a millimeter. By combining multiple sensors, 2 basestations, as well as adding a high speed IMU (inertial measurement unit), SteamVR also calculates the tracked object’s orientation, velocity, and angular velocity, all at an update rate of 1000Hz.

“This is an amazing way to compliment the HTC Vive and spur further innovation in VR. We will also offer training in the Asia region in the coming months to support the adoption and licensing of SteamVR Tracking. We’re thrilled to see the world of tracked devices expanding and growing.”

Opening up the technology used in the HTC Vive tracking mechanism is great for developer who want to get into the virtual reality game but perhaps don’t have the resources that Value do. By using a tried and tested method, it gives developers a solid foundation to work on, and the best part is they are not constrained by expensive license fees.

Cool move Valve! If you’re interested in finding out more about licensing SteamVR Tracking, you can visit the official site here.


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