Valve licenses its VR tracking tech and APIs for free

— 5:24 PM on August 5, 2016

Looking to develop a VR application, perhaps a headset accessory, or maybe your own VR headset? Valve's got you covered. The company is opening up its SteamVR Tracking tech for anyone to use, with no strings attached.

In the SteamVR Tracking FAQ, Valve states that "[it believes] that the largest value for [its] customers and for Valve will come from allowing SteamVR Tracking to proliferate as widely as possible, and that "having a wide community of hardware developers pushing the platform forward will result in innovations that [Valve] would never think of or pursue on [its] own."

The company says it'll charge a royalty of exactly zero dollars per product, and insists there's no catch about its free licensing model. Mr. Wonderful is probably having a heartburn crisis right now. Companies don't even need Valve's review or approval to ship products using SteamVR tech, too.

The SteamVR Tracking technology is the same that powers the HTC Vive headset, and it comprises multiple components, all familiar to anyone who's used a Vive. First, there's a laser-firing base station (shark nose-straps not included), and another two optional base stations for full 360° tracking. Next up, there's a sensor kit and Inertial Measurement Unit for placing on the tracked object, which can be a bog-standard VR headset or something else entirely.

Finally, there's the bits that handle the bits—the Steam VR API, tasked with translating all the sensor data into actual positional information. Valve says its solution has sub-millimeter tracking accuracy with a sampling rate of up to 1 kHz. The Inertial Measurement Unit should be able to track fast movements, too.

Interesting developers will have a Licensee Dev Kit at their disposal, which includes two HTC Vive base stations, a generic-looking object with some accessories, a 40-pack of sensors, and EVM circuit boards. Along with all the physical bits, Valve throws in a software toolkit to assist with sensor placement, prototyping calibration tools, schematics for all the components, ASIC datasheets, and mechanical design files.

The hardware is part of a training course that Valve is offering SteamVR by way of a partnership with Synapse. That course comes with a price tag of $3000, though it apparently doesn't include the flight out to Seattle you'll need to take to attend. Valve is hoping to eventually "figure out a way to serve licensees without the training component," though. If all this appeals to you, all you need to do a Steam account, become a Steam partner, and sign up as a SteamVR Tracking licensee.

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