It has long been known that Half-Life developer and Steam creator Valve has its own virtual reality (VR) headset in the works at its offices in Seattle, Washington. Former employee Michael Abrash had been working extensively on the device before he moved to Oculus VR earlier this year. That said, given Abrash’s departure, mixed with a number of other employee moves and Valve’s open support for the Oculus Rift headset, we weren’t sure we’d see it again. Now a new version of the device has appeared at last week’s Boston VR Bender.
New images of the event have surfaced online, as collected by one Reddit user, including one that labels the headset as Valve’s own. As seen below, they show off a version of Valve’s hardware previously unseen, suggesting that the technology has undergone a range of updates, though not actually confirming any specifics. Developers had originally seen the device first-hand during the Steam Dev Days sessions that took place in January 2014, and this is the first we’ve seen of the headset since.
The original Valve VR headset was said to be situated in a specific room in Valve’s offices, plastered with QR codes. This allowed for precise positional tracking. The images from the Boston event show the headset on display in a large room, with none of these QR codes on the walls. This suggests that Valve has developed a new means of tracking, possibly to do with the various dots that can be seen covering the front of the device. A camera can be seen facing the user in one image, suggesting that the company is perhaps using a method similar to the Oculus Rift’s second development kit (DK2), which uses a camera to track positional LEDs fitted to the device.
Reports of the original headset also suggested that Valve’s device was ‘naked’, leaving its various wires on display. This latest version is now fitted with a casing that hides and protects the innards, but also provides some surface area for those dots.
Valve’s VR headset has previously been described as ‘light years’ ahead of the original Oculus Rift development kit (DK1). Of course, that was before Oculus VR revealed its DK2, which matched Valve’s 1080p OLED displays, though only consisting of the one panel where Valves had two. It isn’t clear if the headset on display in Boston kept this resolution or had perhaps improved in this area as well. The company has previously confirmed that it doesn’t intend to release its headset, instead supporting the Oculus Rift.
Will we see more of Valve’s VR headset? Why does the company press on with the device if it doesn’t plan to release it to consumers? VRFocus will continue to follow the device closely and report back with any more updates.