HTC shrinks its VR Tracker, debuts new face-tracking accessory

HTC is today launching its third-generation Vive Tracker, which is significantly smaller in size and weight than its immediate predecessor. The Vive Tracker 3.0 is around 33 percent smaller than the 2018 model, and 15 percent lighter, with a footprint roughly 10 centimeters, or four inches, smaller. These quality-of-life size reductions mean that the device is much easier to strap to your body, or an accessory, something very onerous on the bulky older models. Oh, and it now uses USB-C.

Still of the HTC Vive Tracker 3.0 alongside some Vive Tracker (2018) models and some Vive Controllers which looks nice and arty.
Daniel Cooper

Despite the smaller body, the company says that the device will last up to 75 percent longer on a single charge, pushing the quoted battery life close to seven hours. HTC has made the point that the smaller trackers should make it easier to strap them to wrists and ankles for full-body tracking in VR. Compared to testing the bigger version in Rezzil Player 21 a few weeks back, the improvement is significant. But HTC has said that there is no compromise in the tracking precision compared to its older siblings.

Image of HTC's Vive Tracker 3.0 sat on a table, exposing its USB-C side.
Daniel Cooper

There should be no complaints about backwards compatibility between the new trackers and the older hardware. The company says that it’ll easily integrate with SteamVR 1.0 and 2.0, and remains compatible with any accessories you already own that use the pogo pin connectors. The HTC Vive Tracker 3.0 is available from today in both the US and Europe, priced at $129 / €139, both from Vive’s own site, as well as Amazon and other participating retailers.

Concept image of HTC's Vive Facial Tracker as shown on a rendered individual.

At the same time, HTC is also launching the new Vive Facial tracker, which “seamlessly tracks 38 facial movements across the lips, jaw, teeth, tongue, chin and cheeks.” The idea being to enable people in VR to project their own avatar with an accurate version of their own face, tracked in real time. The system uses an IR illuminator connected to two cameras that monitor (presumably similar to how FaceID works) the motion of your mouth.

The company says that it is both a new tool for gamers and developers, but also a way to “build momentum” for future methods of storytelling. It could also come in handy for enterprise users who need to monitor facial feedback during product testing, as well as in medical situations. Plus, it may offer cheap and cheerful motion-capture for filmmakers who can’t afford to shell out for pricier, more comprehensive methods. And this, too is available to buy from today, from HTC’s website.

Instagram Lite reboot squeezes the app into a 2MB package

Facebook is today relaunching Instagram Lite, a stripped-down version of the image-sharing app designed for users in emerging markets. Developed by Facebook’s team in Tel Aviv, the birthplace of Facebook Lite and Messenger Lite, the app’s package size is just 2MB. The team said that the focus, like with the other launches, was on users whose smartphones lack storage capacity, processing power and reliable data. In order to reach that size, the app focuses on images, video and messaging, ditching other features and flourishes that fade into the background on the full-fat version of the app.

Instagram Lite still has the main feed, as well as Stories — the ephemeral messaging feature cribbed from Snapchat — but not IG Live or Shopping. Engineering manager Gal Zellermayer said that, as well as live filters and other AR effects that wouldn’t work on low-power devices, animations have been edited down. He cited the example of the cube animation seen when swiping between different users’ Stories, a very processor and data-intensive transition that didn’t work well on older devices, which has been removed. Zellermayer added that a lot of extra compression work is handled on the server side to relieve the burden off the device itself.

Michelle Lourie, product manager, explained that there were a number of additional UI tweaks to better suit “new digital users.” This included ditching a trash can to represent a delete icon, in favor of an X, which testers found made more sense. In addition, Lourie said that GIFs and Stickers remain part of the app since, unlike AR filters, they were space efficient while remaining fun. Lourie added that the team is currently working on Dark Mode, a feature that users were requesting long before the app was released.

The first version of Instagram Lite was little more than a wrapper around a web app. Facebook shut it down that version in May 2020, and at the time said that it was working on a new version with better on-device support. This new edition has been in testing in several territories already, but is today rolling out to Google Play in 170 countries around the world.

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