DecaGear 1: Development update January 2021

Here is an update about the development of the DecaGear project, and where it stands right now.

In the first blog post from October 10th, I tried to summarize why VR needs to be around social experiences and what the hardware should feature based on the current technological constraints. And in short the plan was to:

  • Release a PC-VR, high fidelity headset built especially for multiplayer gaming and experiences with facial tracking, natural locomotion based on the hip direction and pressure sensitive hand controllers with all finger tracking.
  • The system will be available for pre-order in late 2020 for US$459.
  • SteamVR support means immediate access to thousands of VR games from day one. 
  • The DecaGear SDK allows developers to easily and quickly integrate all of the system’s unique features.
  • Future plans for a DecaSpace SDKs will allow players to communicate and navigate between games seamlessly in VR.

Developing a complete tracking system for VR from scratch is stupid, its taking lots of time and effort to make something which basically exists, its like if Apple developed a new Bluetooth protocol instead of using the standard one for their Airpods. And for what? Users don’t really care how it works as long as it works, right?

As of 2021, we have 4 commercial indoor positional tracking systems implemented in VR headsets – WMR, SteamVR, HTC Cosmos and Oculus insight.

Half of these 4 systems are problematic and have their own issues and it’s affecting the overall VR experience. 

VR is still a niche market and aside from SteamVR, there are not that many options to integrate a 3rd party tracking solution. Most of them are not good enough or targeted for VR and all of them, including SteamVR, do not meet our costs target. 

So most of our focus right now is to tweak and tune our own tracking implementation in order to make sure that your hands are being tracked everywhere even when you drop them to your waistline, as you often do in VR.

DecaGear headset visuals are stunning, screens are pushing pixels efficiently at 90hz per second and the custom lenses we designed are clear. As I answered to some in the community, we are also experimenting on a second iteration of the lenses, which will maybe be implemented in v1 as well. It’s too early to share details about the enhancements these bring though.

Audio – both integrated microphone and speakers are done and we are pretty satisfied with the results. Basically, everything regarding hardware is done and we are waiting for manufacturers in most positions.

I already posted about DecaMove and in short it now supports most of the games in SteamVR without the need of implementing the Deca SDK. By implementing the SDK games will be able to access accurate rotation data which can be translated for better lower body IK, access the haptic engine so haptics can be triggered on interactions (i.e: taking out ammo magazine) or hit, and the DecaMove button for extra control (i.e: show inventory)

Price – In our interview with Sebastian from MRTV we said that VR should be an accessible tech and we are not interested in making a $1000 headset, especially when it comes to PCVR where the user needs to invest in a PC. Above and on top, if we find that we cannot deliver the Decagear at a very reasonable price, we will not do it at all. So that’s it guys. Sorry! Gameover. 

Just kidding! Don’t worry, our efforts aren’t as bad as our jokes. But let’s discuss the price for a second and our efforts around that.

The total price is mostly affected by the bill of materials, enclosures / build quality and assembly costs. All of these are greatly affected by the production volume.

That is why consumer electronics  have at least one year iteration between versions, because quantities have to be big in order to sell at the desired price. An IC component usually priced x10 more for a small quantity compared to huge quantity, yes it’s ridiculous but that’s how the industry works.

Your pre orders are really helpful here – thanks to all of you.

Higher volumes also means longer lead time, and I am pretty sure that we will unfortunately not be ready this May as we targeted before. Supplier’s lead times are totally out of our control and there is a worldwide shortage right now for many of the DecaGear system components. And above all, the COVID-19 situation pushed many consumer electronics companies to stock up which also adds stress to lead times.

So this will definitely affect the first batch release date, and we will update a new date as soon as we will know it for sure, probably after the Chinese new year (beginning of March).

The DecaGear v1 MSRP is still on track for $450.

In addition to the DecaGear hardware, we are consistently working on the Deca SDK.

In the current version, All finger tracking, DecaMove rotation data and the controller pressure sensor data are all sent directly to the game through SteamVR. So these will work out of the box without any special support from us. So right now, the SDK is for supporting facial tracking and the goal is to release it as soon as possible,  with the DecaGear development edition, so game developers will be able to add facial tracking support quickly. 

So to sum up – moving from a prototype to mass production is totally not straightforward:

  • We need to make sure that whatever works in our development floor will work everywhere through extensive checks, tweaking and tuning.
  • First batch release time will be delayed, we are not sure by how long yet, but we will update soon. It all comes down to the longest lead time of a single required component. 
  • Production unit price is affected by many aspects and we are actively making sure the headset price will be no more than $450 (USD – stop declining please!) 
  • Finger tracking, pressure sensing gripping and DecaMove are all being supported by SteamVR directly – out of the box, Deca SDK will be needed for facial tracking only and we will send it soon, alongside the DecaGear development edition, to game developers for adding quick support.