I’ve been harping on and on about how great VR is, but there’s always that one little thing that stops people from trying it out, and it’s usually cost. Just like PCs and smartphones and how cost continuously went down with every technological improvement, there’s a ray of hope down the road.
Taking the HTC Vive as an example, anybody who has seen the components making up its complete package can see that there’s a lot of hardware for the price paid – $800 for a retail package. Commenters in forums has posted various estimates accounting for how this price was arrived at, but without an actual tear down, we can only speculate so much, but we can still make a conservative guess.
The Vive package consists of 2 sensor “lighthouses”, 2 controllers, the actual VR head-mounted display, and various wires, mounts, and cables. Valve has shown the possibility that the lighthouses, officially called “base stations” will soon benefit from cost reductions through simplification of the hardware – considering that there are two base stations per package, and the complexity of the units, it’s very possible to cut down the $800 (when taken together with other cost reductions to the other parts of the Vive).
To understand how the cost can be reduced, a little understanding of how the base station works is a must. The base stations scan an area using lasers mounted on two motors per base station, representing the vertical and horizontal axes to detect the headset and controllers in the tracked space. Supporting hardware for each motor include diodes, wheels, receivers and receiving/processing circuitry to translate the tracking information to signals usable by a computer. During Valve’s Steam Dev Days, Valve showed a base station design that uses only a single motor per base station to do the same job as two.
This translates directly to less cost since the aforementioned motor and associated hardware is taken out of the equation. Multiply this cost saving by two, you immediately have a less expensive product. According to roadtovr‘s rough calculation, this could save around 17% off of the $800 cost of the Vive, based on rough estimations on HTC’s own accessories page. A replacement base station costs $134, pretty much the most expensive portion of the Vive not counting the headset itself. I’m looking forward to VR becoming mainstream.
Watch the original Steam Dev Days source: