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HTC’s new Vive Tracker can turn anything into a VR controller

HTC Vive Tracker

HTC has talked a lot about getting all kinds of people and companies to use its Vive virtual reality headset, and it’s taking some steps toward that today. At CES, it announced something called the Vive Tracker — a small attachment that adds motion tracking to any third-party accessory.

The Vive Tracker is supposed to let accessory makers easily create VR peripherals that work with the Vive's laser towers. Round and three-pronged, it's slightly smaller than the head of an ordinary Vive controller, weighing 85 grams. HTC says that it lasts for 6 hours on a charge, although peripherals may need their own separate batteries as well. HTC is naming eight partners already using the tracker at CES. Their projects include a VR "camera" for a Vive game about photography, a pair of motion control gloves paired with a tracker, and a real baseball bat with a tracker on one end.

O'Brien says HTC is giving 1,000 trackers to developers in the first half of 2017, and they'll go on sale for consumers and businesses in the second quarter, with a price announced closer to launch. Valve, which co-built the Vive with HTC, announced third-party tracking options some time ago, opening a course for building them. HTC virtual reality VP Daniel O'Brien says that the Vive Tracker is meant to provide an easier, plug-and-play route to creating a peripheral.

There are definite tradeoffs to this approach. On one hand, the tracker looks easy to add to a peripheral. On the other, it’s distinctly an extra piece of somewhat clunky hardware. In some cases, like the baseball bat, a player might barely notice; in others, like the glove, it feels like you’ve got a gargantuan watch on each wrist. We’ve only gotten to try a few of the experiences, though, so we’ll have more complete impressions once we check out the rest tomorrow.