Cloudhead Games CEO Denny Unger recently tweeted what appears to be an unreleased VR headset and motion controllers using SteamVR 2.0 tracking basestations.

Cloudhead Games have been at the forefront of VR development ever since the studio brought a 2013-era prototype of The Gallery: Call of the Starseed (2016) to the Oculus Rift DK1 and Razer Hydra motion controllers. About two years later the studio announced they were working closely with Valve and HTC to bring The Gallery as a Vive launch title, which makes heavy use of object interaction thanks to the Vive’s motion controllers.

With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Cloudhead has become a trusted name in VR, giving them a unique opportunity to get their hands on unreleased VR hardware from the biggest players in virtual reality.

Many key parts of the image have been blurred out, including most of the headset and all of the motion controllers. Unger deleted the tweet shortly after posting it on Friday, although it can still be found in Google’s webcache.

Despite the blur, the controllers really aren’t such a big mystery at this point, as they’re very likely some iteration of Valve’s Knuckles controllers, which feature an unmistakable hand strap and ‘open palm’ design.

Image courtesy Google Webcache

An active SteamVR 2.0 basestation can also be seen in the full image above, lending credence to the fact that both the controllers and headset are tracked by Valve’s recently updated positional tracking standard.

The blurred-out VR headset is a much larger mystery at this point however. While it’s impossible to say exactly what it is, we can tell you what it isn’t. The profile, which has been retained partially despite the laughing-crying emoji and blur, isn’t consistent with HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro, Oculus Rift, Windows VR headsets, Pimax VR headsets, or any other headset we know of. We can also see that the headset is indeed a tethered PC VR unit.

Here’s a closeup of the headset’s partial profile:

Image courtesy Google Webcache

Unger tweeted further to clarify his reasons for posting and subsequently deleting the image, saying that he deleted the tweet because “[i]t was honestly just a tweet about being in stealth mode for so long.”

Why being in stealth mode is important for the studio, we just can’t tell; it’s clear Cloudhead is working on a third episode of The Gallery, as the second episode is set up to continue in a sequel.

https://twitter.com/DennyCloudhead/status/1089049547634966529

Furthermore, Unger said that plenty of the VR hardware in the studio “is not fit for public consumption. From all major players. Small mods to existing hardware and previously publicly visible hardware that is just not primetime ready. Bla, bla, bla.”

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So while Unger can’t confirm or deny whatever nascent headset is in the image, that won’t stop us from blowing past the “bla, bla, bla” boilerplate for some healthy speculation.

The most tantalizing hypothesis: Cloudhead may have their hands on some version of the Valve headset recently seen in a series of leaked images.

Image courtesy 2flock

While there are some similarities between the leaked image and Cloudhead’s mystery headset—namely the small lip that could be one of the Valve headset’s protruding camera sensors—it’s simply too blurred to tell for now, keeping this squarely in the realm of speculation.

Images courtesy 2flock, Google Webcache

Valve hasn’t publicly commented on the leaked headset, which appears to be either a late-stage prototype or developer kit. We do know however Valve has been extremely interested in pushing both new VR software as well as new hardware. Last summer they affirmed VR’s role in the company’s future in redesign of the company website, showing an evolution of their headset designs including a bare-wire unit in its early phases of development.

Whatever the case may be, it’s clear Cloudhead Games is continuing in its tradition as an early VR pioneer. The studio is touted as one of the first to develop and utilize teleportation in a VR game. Although teleportation is somewhat of a given now (love it or hate it), at the time it was a breakthrough in VR-native locomotion that focused gameplay on object interaction as opposed to more of the high-speed, nausea-inducing early stabs at VR locomotion.

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  • Proof XR Lab

    No mystery headset really, more a panic after tweeting an identifiable image of the new Valve headset (its more obvious in the high resolution image)

    then taking the tweet down…well trying to, but the cat was let out of the bag so to speak?

    • lujho

      Yep, it’s definitely the Valve one – the protruding camera lens, the screw(?) hole and the rim around the rectangular gap are all in the right place.

  • wally

    Why not post the unblurred picture if there is nothing to hide.. and blurring the Valve knuckle controlers v3 has nothing to do with stealth mode.. I think it is more a NDA(non disclosure agreement) mode :-D….

  • JesuSaveSouls

    A headset that needs no motion controls…using leap motion and your actual hands.

  • Poor Denny and the rest of the Cloudhead team. They’re always so open with the community about new tech they get, keeping tight lipped about the headset is probably driving them mad.

  • Lucidfeuer

    So the next Vive is going inside-out tracking but still wired? Well, the wider aspect of the headset could suggest it may finally get a decent FOV°, but a cable solution even if using a VLink…meh.

    • 3872Orcs

      Next Vive is HTC Vive Pro Eye and Cosmos or any other headset HTC has in development. This is Valves headset.

      However I’m pumped for whatever Valve is putting out, but at the same time I also want eye tracking and wireless and I don’t think we’ll get it with this, it would make the headset too expensive if Valve’s focus is to get more people into VR. Though it might be a modular design and support the tech as an add-on.

  • Mentil

    The crevice in the middle, with what looks like a camera lens in it, looks like that of the Cosmos. It could be an early Cosmos prototype with outside-in tracking and a more angular shape. Could be the inside-out tracking isn’t quite working yet, thus why it wasn’t demoed at CES. Cloudhead Games themselves have shown off their various Knuckles prototypes a few times before, so it makes no sense they’d blur them out this time. It could be that HTC is working on their own Knuckles controllers for the Cosmos, that could be used instead of the Touch-like ones shown at CES. Or they were just blurring them out facetiously to poke fun at how secretive their operations are, like ‘unnecessary censorship’.

    • Rogue Transfer

      To use the Lighthouse beacons, the controllers and/or headset need sensors ‘inside’ to look ‘out’. Hence, ‘inside-out’ term, which only states the placement of sensors and direction of tracking. The Lighthouses don’t do any tracking(so not ‘outside-in’ – there’s no ‘in’, because Lighthouses are unaware of anything ‘in’ their light), they just provide reference markers, whereas onboard cameras determine markers from any high-contrast features in the environment.

  • Nosfar

    There is no mystery to this,its the Valve prototype. You can clearly see the camera, the hole for the screw by the camera and the lip of the area for the leapmotion or whatever they are putting in there battery pack etc….

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  • Liam Mulligan

    Yep, there are too many elements aligning for it not to be valve. If you look at how amazing the lab from valve and call of the starseed both were for its time from an interaction design perspective we are in for a treat. These things always seem to come out in march to may.

  • wheeler

    While this is exciting it’s pretty unfortunate. I’m sure Valve trusted these guys (and perhaps a few other trusted devs) to remain tight-lipped about this. That devs have Valve HMD dev kits is a big reveal and the competition will certainly seek out those dev kits now. Looks like Denny had a bit too much of that beverage on the desk. Hope it doesn’t hurt Cloudhead’s relationship with Valve going forward.

    • 3872Orcs

      I think this is just part of an approved leak campaign by Valve to slowly generate hype for an upcoming official announcement. If they did not reveal anything there would be more doom and gloom from the general public. Now there’s anticipation!

    • jj

      plus drinking and vr is one bad decision, drinking and programming or developing is a whole other headache, literally. so i doubt he was drinking to the point of making bad decisions otherwise he wouldnt even be productive ni the first place.

  • G-man

    theres no speculation, its clearly the valve headset.