Right out the box, the HTC Vive comes with two controllers and two base stations. This is sufficient for the majority of VR experiences, however we’ve been tinkering with the hardware and software to see what can be accomplished outside of the standard setup. In these experiments we observed the capacity of Vive’s tracking power.
How Many Controllers Can You Run in SteamVR?
Prior to the release of the Vive trackers we wanted to explore the viability of implementing foot controllers to the Vive for added experiences such as kicking or juggling a soccer ball. In order to prove the concept, we synced another pair of controllers to SteamVR and strapped them onto sandals.
We were able to enable successfully foot interactions in our freestyle sports demo, which allowed a user to control both their feet as well as their hands simultaneously (video below).
There’s no secret to syncing four controllers, SteamVR will pick them up. However, in order to pair even more, you’ll have to directly connect controllers to your system. Regarding the maximum amount of controllers tracked, Nat Brown from Valve was able to pair 12 controllers to SteamVR.
Expanding Play Room with Additional Base Stations
The typical dimensions for a Vive setup are approximately 10 x 10 feet, while the minimum is 5 x 5 for stationary experiences and the maximum being 15 x 15 feet according to HTC. Our intent in attempting to expand the “maximum” reach, up to an area of 2500 square feet, is to test whether the lighthouse tracking technology can be modified for warehouse scale experiences.
We wanted to first know if the tracking range could be expanded by incorporating additional base stations. Since we knew SteamVR could track more than a single pair controllers, we assumed the same could be done with the base stations.
We set up 2 sets of base stations in adjacent rooms and found that SteamVR will actually pick up both sets, although only a single play area was able to be activated at a given time.
When walking between the two rooms the headset would temporarily show a flat grey color, but after about 6 seconds SteamVR would recalibrate tracking and we were able proceed in moving around the second room.
The next step would be mitigating the lag time on the headset for a smoother transition when going from room-to-room.
In the first two experiments we ran, we were able to incorporate additional components into SteamVR, but we also already knew about the capacity of the base stations. At the All Things Go Music festival we wanted to explore ways to simplify setting up, especially in the confined tent we were given to run two systems. In the process we found out that two sets of headsets and controllers can actually function with a single pair of base stations.
This ideally works with stationary experiences so users do not move around and block each other from picking up the base station frame of reference. We first made this assumption after learning all of the sensing hardware is in the HMD and controllers themselves; the base stations only provide a reference system.