HTC’s Vive virtual reality system requires a set of base stations in order to work at room scale, and those base stations’ next iteration will be simpler and easier to manufacture, which means that they may wind up being a little bit cheaper. A new design for the base station highlighted at Steam Dev Days uses a single motor for each station, as opposed to the two motors in the current version. Changes to the manufacturing process will make them easier and probably cheaper to make than their predecessor. According to Joe Ludwig of Valve, the redesigned base stations will be hitting factory floors at some point in 2017.
The current model of the HTC Vive base station, called Lighthouse, has to be set up in pairs. Each station contains two motors that sweep lasers throughout a room, which the Vive sees, and uses as a reference point for its current position in the room. The new model will sweep diagonally using a single motor, driving a single laser into more places than it could otherwise go. This single laser will allegedly be enough to keep the Vive on track. With fewer parts, they will be lighter and less susceptible to failure. Joe Ludwig did not outright state that they will be cheaper, but a streamlined manufacturing process and simpler parts imply such, as do statements from Valve engineer Ben Jackson and Reid Wender of Triad Semiconductor. Each base station currently runs $135 when bought directly, and likely adds most of that cost onto the total cost of a new Vive kit.
The new base stations may begin selling independently, could end up as the new pack-ins for the current iteration of the Vive, or could find their way into the box with a follow-up to the Vive. Rumor has it that HTC and Valve are hard at work on a new Vive that addresses many of the pain points of the current model, including the complex setup and all of the wires involved, which could seriously hinder gameplay in some cases. For now, nothing concrete has been said about any component of the kit besides the base stations getting a refresh, but if what has been reported thus far about the new base stations holds true, buyers of the second generation Vive may pay a bit less, and can expect easier setup.