Hands-on: HTC’s New Standalone Vive Tracker Effortlessly Brings More of Your Body Into VR

With three versions of SteamVR trackers under its belt, HTC has been a leading enabler of full-body tracking in VR. Now the company’s latest tracker could make it even easier to bring your body into VR.

HTC’s new standalone Vive tracker (still unnamed) has a straightforward goal: work like the company’s existing trackers, but easier and on more platforms.

The ‘easier’ part comes thanks to inside-out tracking—using on-board cameras to allow the device to track its own position, rather than external beacons like those used by the company’s prior trackers.

Photo by Road to VR

To that end, things seem really promising so far. I got to demo the new Vive tracker at GDC 2023 this week and was impressed with how well everything went.

Photo by Road to VR

With two of the new Vive trackers strapped to my feet, I donned a Vive XR Elite headset and jumped into a soccer game. When I looked down at my feet, I saw a pair of virtual soccer shoes. And when I moved my feet in real-life, the soccer shoes moved at the same time. It took less than two seconds for my mind to say ‘hey those are my feet!’, and that’s a testament to both the accuracy and latency being very solid with the new tracker.

That’s not a big deal for older trackers that use SteamVR Tracking, which has long been considered the gold standard for VR tracking. But to replicate a similar level of performance in a completely self-contained device that’s small and robust enough to be worn on your feet… that’s a big deal for those who crave the added immersion that comes with bringing more of your body into VR.

Throughout the course of my demo, my feet were always where I expected to see them. I saw no strange spasms or freezing in place, no desync of coordinate planes between the tracker and the headset, and no drifting of the angle of my feet. That allowed me to easily forget that I was wearing anything special on my feet and simply focus on tracking to kick soccer balls into a goal.

While the tracker worked well throughout, the demo had an odd caveat—I had feet but no legs! That makes it kind of weird to try to juggle a soccer ball when you expect to be able to use your shin as a backboard but watch as the ball rolls right over your virtual foot.

Ostensibly this is the very thing that trackers like this should be able to fix; by attaching two more trackers to my knees, I should be able to have a nearly complete representation of my leg movements in VR, making experiences like ‘soccer in VR’ possible when they simply wouldn’t work otherwise.

I’m not sure if the demo app simply wasn’t designed to handle additional tracking points on the knees, or if the trackers are currently limited to just two, but HTC has confirmed the final inside-out Vive tracker will support up to five trackers in addition to the tracked headset and controllers.

Trackers can, of course, be used to track more than just your body, though apps that support these kinds of tracked accessories are rare | Photo by Road to VR

So the inside-out factor is the ‘easier’ part, but what about the other goal of the tracker—to be available on more platforms than just SteamVR Tracking?

Well, the demo I was playing was actually running purely on the standalone Vive XR Elite. To connect the trackers, a small USB-C dongle needs to be connected to the headset to facilitate the proprietary wireless connection between the dongle and the trackers. HTC says the same dongle can plug into a PC and the trackers will work just fine through SteamVR.

The company also says it’s committed to making the trackers OpenXR compatible, which means (in theory) any headset could support them if they wanted.

– – — – –

I only got to use it in one configuration (on my feet) and in one environment (a large office space). So there’s still the question of how robust they will be. For now though, I’m suitably impressed.

If these trackers really work as well as they seem from their first impression, it could open the door to a new wave of people experiencing the added immersion of full-body tracking in VR… but there’s still the lingering question of price, which historically never seems to be quite right consumer VR market when it comes to HTC. Until then, our fingers shall remain crossed.

‘Another Fisherman’s Tale’ Shows Off More Mind-bending Puzzles in New Gameplay Trailer

InnerspaceVR is bringing its sequel to the VR puzzle adventure A Fisherman’s Tale soon, aptly named Another Fisherman’s Tale. And now both InnerspaceVR and publisher Vertigo Games have released a new gameplay video showing off just what awaits. Detachable body parts, galore.

Revealed today at the Future Games Show (FGS) Spring Showcase, the new trailer shows off some of the upcoming VR puzzle game’s mind-bending universe, which this time is said to use the player’s own body as core puzzle mechanic, tasking you with detaching and replacing key body parts to solve puzzles.

Check out the trailer below:

InnerspaceVR says the sequel brings a new chapter to the story of Bob the Fisherman, “weaving a magical and moving narrative about the meaning we create through building and rebuilding our authentic selves.”

In it, the studio says players will do things like throw Bob’s hand across a ravine and then make it crawl to retrieve an object, or send your head elsewhere for a different point of view.

Limbs are also modular, as you replace them with a variety of objects to unlock new skills, such as a pirate hook hand to let you scale walls, a crab’s claw to cut through a rope, and a fish’s tail to improve your swimming ability. Puppeteering hands will also let you pick up distant objects, items and tools.

InnerspaceVR says Another Fisherman’s Tale will be a five to six hour adventure, putting you in the shoes of Nina, the daughter of the series protagonist. Here’s how InnerspaceVR describes it:

“Recollecting Bob’s grandiose stories of pirates, sunken ships, treasures and mystical locations, Nina begins re-enacting his adventures and dives head-first into an imaginative world of memory and fantasy. Will she be able to separate fact from fiction and uncover the hidden truth behind the fisherman’s tale?”

And yes, it appears French comedian Augustin Jacob is reprising his role as the game’s smokey, baritone narrator.

Another Fisherman’s Tale is slated to launch in Q2 of this year, coming to PSVR 2, Meta Quest 2, and PC VR.

New Quest 2 Accessories From Razer Launch With an Unsurprising Price Tag

Razer has officially launched two new Quest 2 accessories. The company is seemingly hoping its brand name will justify hefty prices that are well above similar products on the market.

Update (March 23rd, 2023): After announcing a Quest 2 headstrap and facepad at CES back in January, Razer today announced that both are now available for sale, priced at $70 each.

The Razer Quest 2 headstrap and facepad are available on Amazon and direct from Razer.

At $70 a piece, these are some of the highest priced versions of these accessories we’ve seen. Even more expensive than Meta’s own Quest 2 Elite Strap ($60) and Fit Pack ($50) which includes two facepads and lightblockers for more immersion. Not to mention similar and even more affordable offerings from smaller VR accessory companies like Kiwi Design, Rebuff Reality, and others.

Whether Razer’s offerings can be competitive at this price thanks to its larger brand name remains to be seen, but we’re all for having more options for customers.

The original article, which covers the original announcement of Razer’s Quest 2 accessories, continues below.

Original Article (January 5th, 2023): The accessories were built by Razer in collaboration with ResMed, a San Diego, California-based medical equipment company that knows its way around all-day comfort.

“Designed for long-lasting comfort and weight-balanced support, the Razer Adjustable Head Strap System was created with all head shapes in mind. The high-performance nylon material provides reliability, comfort, and durability while the optimized weight distribution allows for more balance during active gameplay. The soft adjustable straps will help gamers find their perfect fit and quick slip-on design ensures little interruption in resuming gameplay,” Razer says in a press statement.

Image courtesy Razer

Razer’s headstrap is said to be made from a high-performance nylon material that ensures optimized weight distribution, a slip-on design, and soft adjustable straps.

The Razer Facial Interface is said to offer extended comfort and optimized support, owing to its “ultra-thin textured and profiled membranes,” the Razer Facial Interface is said to eliminate facial pressure. Made from medical grade, hypoallergenic materials, the interface blocks light while still providing ventilation.

Image courtesy Razer

Both of Razer’s VR peripherals for Quest 2 are slated to launch in the US sometime in Q1 2023, with plans to expand into other regions in the future, the company says. There’s no word on pricing, but knowing Razer, it’s definitely going to beat the third-party white label products awash on Amazon and eBay.

Additional reporting by Ben Lang

Report: Pico Delayed GDC Announcement of Quest Competitor’s U.S. Launch Due to TikTok Congressional Hearing

Pico Interactive took to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco this week with a massive booth, hyping the event as a “treat” that would be a “Journey to Infinity”. Strangely, there were no substantial announcements from the company there, however a report from The Verge now alleges Pico intentionally delayed its planned announcement of Pico 4’s US rollout due to increased pressure from US lawmakers on sister company TikTok.

Update (March 24th, 2023): The Verge’s senior editor Sean Hollister says in a brief report that a Pico employee told him the planned release of Pico 4 in the US was put on hold due to TikTok weathering a US congressional hearing this week. Both Pico and TikTok are owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance.

We’ve reached out to Pico for comment, and will update if/when we hear back. In the meantime, we’re labeling this a report since the company has yet to go on record. We’ve also included that information in the article below:

Pico, the creator of the Pico 4 standalone, is arguably one of the biggest untapped threats to Meta’s market supremacy in the consumer VR standalone segment. At least for now.

Owned by TikTok parent company ByteDance, many speculated that the China-based Pico was finally ready to announce the consumer launch of Pico 4 in the United States, a step that many (including us) have been waiting for following a US hiring spree last summer.

At the time, a Protocol report maintained the move would usher in “a major focus on content licensing as well as marketing its hardware to U.S. consumers.”

Image courtesy Pico

So, is Pico 4 coming to US consumers? We spoke to the company at GDC this week, and despite the flashy ‘save the date’ countdown to its ‘Journey to Infinity’ and a massive booth on the show floor, there’s simply nothing to report.

To boot, Pico’s Twitter presence isn’t very large—it has less than 10,000 followers at the time of this writing—but the initial countdown tweet promising to kick off “a new journey” managed to take the record for the company’s most-viewed tweet at more than 67,000 impressions. People were expecting something big from Pico at GDC, and it simply didn’t manifest.

But timing is everything, it seems. This week US lawmakers hauled in TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to testify before congress in a bid to crack down on the ByteDance-owned video platform, emphasizing the platform’s harmful content to children and the spread of misinformation. Adding fuel to the fire with the US release of its VR products likely isn’t in ByteDance’s best interests right now.

Pico is probably the only company right now with both a capable device and the market stability to directly compete with Meta, the undisputed champion of the consumer standalone segment with Quest 2. Under the wing of the Chinese ByteDance media empire, Pico not only has the sort of cash reserves to subsidize hardware, but also a growing ability to attract developer interest.

Launched in October 2022 and priced at €420 (~$455), Pico 4 is available across Europe, China and a number of APAC countries, including Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. The missing puzzle piece is undoubtedly a North American release.

We have boots on the ground at GDC this week, so make sure to check back on all things AR/VR as we dive into developer sessions and see everything on the show floor.

One of VR’s Most Veteran Studios Has Gown to 200 Employees While Continuing to Double-down on VR

Having been exclusively building VR games since 2013, nDreams stands as one of the most veteran VR-exclusive game studios to date. And with more than 200 people, one of the largest too. The studio’s CEO & founder, Patrick O’Luanaigh, continues to bet his company’s future on the success of VR.

Speaking exclusively to Road to VR ahead of a presentation at GDC 2023, Patrick O’Luanaigh talks about the growing success of nDreams and why he’s still doubling down on VR.

Starting in 2013, O’Luanaigh has navigated his company from the earliest days of the modern VR era to now, which he believes is VR’s biggest moment so far—and growing.

Between the company’s own internal data and some external sources, O’Luanaigh estimates that VR’s install base is around 40 million headsets across the major platforms, excluding the recently launched PSVR 2. At least half of that, he estimates, is made up by 20 million Quest headsets.

While it’s been a challenge to keep all those headsets in regular use, O’Luanaigh says the size of the addressable VR market today is bigger than ever.

That’s why he’s bulked up the company to some 200 employees, nearly doubling over the course of 2022 through hiring and studio acquisitions.

O’Luanaigh says, “this is the biggest we’ve ever been and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. […] In a decade of exclusively making VR games, we’ve never seen that growth before.”

O’Luanaigh knows well that content is key for getting players into their headsets, and to that end his efforts to scale the company are about building bigger and better VR content to keep up with the growth and expectations of the install base, he says.

“Setting up our fully-remote nDreams studios, Orbital and Elevation, was significant for us in establishing a powerful basis for developing multiple projects in parallel,” he says. “It gives us the specialism to develop the variety of VR titles, across multiple genres, that the growing market now demands.”

O’Luanaigh points to nDreams developed and published titles Phantom: Covert Ops (2020), Shooty Fruity (2020), Fracked (2021), and Little Cities (2022) as some of the most successful VR games the studio has launched thus far, with Phantom: Covert Ops specifically finding “important commercial success” on Quest 2.

With the release of those titles over the years and their ongoing sales, O’Luanaigh shares that nDreams doubled its year-over-year revenue over the last 12 months. And with multiple new projects in the works, including Synapse, Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord, and other (unannounced) projects, he believes the company is on track to more than double annual revenue again by 2024.

Phantom: Covert Ops | Image courtesy nDreams

Though he’s leading a company of 200 employees, O’Luanaigh calls himself a “massive VR enthusiast,” and is still very clearly in touch with makes VR such a unique and compelling medium.

He says his studio aims to build around five key pillars that make for compelling VR content:

  1. Aspirational roleplay – first-person embodiment of appealing roles or characters
  2. High-agency interaction – tactile 1:1 mechanics in a freely explorable world
  3. Empowering wielding – Feel, hold, and use visceral weapons, tools, and abilities
  4. Emotional amplification – Immersive situations that provoke strong, diverse feelings
  5. Fictional teleportation – Presence within desirable locations, inaccessible in real life

And while O’Luanaigh could easily steer this studio away from VR—to chase a larger non-VR market—he continues to double down on VR as the studio’s unique advantage. Far from moving away from VR, his company is actively trying to bring others into the fold; O’Luanaigh says nDreams continues to expand its publishing operations.

“The success of Little Cities, which has just launched its free ‘Little Citizens’ update, has been a great validation of our investments into third-party publishing and we are actively on the lookout for more amazing indie developers to work with.”

With the scale that VR has now reached, O’Luanaigh believes the market is truly viable for indie developers. And that’s why he’s glad to see the rise of VR publishers (and not just his own company); having the benefit of longstanding expertise in the medium is crucial to shipping a shipping a quality VR title, and that’s why O’Luanaigh believes VR-specific publishers like nDreams will play an important role in bringing more developers and great content to VR.


That expertise is increasingly building upon itself in the company’s VR games which have shown impressive mechanical exploration, giving the studio the chance to test lots of VR gameplay to find out what works.

Few in VR have had the gall to prove out something as seemingly wacky as a ‘VR kayak shooter’ and actually take it to market in a large scale production like Phantom: Covert Ops. And you can clearly see the lineage of a game like nDreams’ Fracked shining through in upcoming titles like Synapse. Though the game is an entirely new IP and visual direction, the unique Fracked cover system is making the leap to Synapse; a clear example of leveraging a now battle-tested mechanic to enhance future titles. But more than just a reskin of a prior shooter, nDreams continues to experiment with unique VR mechanics, this time promising to harness the power of PSVR 2’s eye-tracking to give players compelling telekinetic powers.

Synapse | Image courtesy nDreams

To that end, the studio’s lengthy experience in the medium is clearly an asset—and one that can only be earned rather than bought. Where exactly that experience will take them in the long run is unclear, but even after all the ups and downs the industry has seen, O’Luanaigh and nDreams remain all-in on VR.