Valve chief Gabe Newell is optimistic about the future of VR, considering the studio is in development of three VR titles—not mini-games or experiences, but “full” VR games—but what about the future of VR hardware?
During a recent press briefing reported by Gamasutra, Newell maintains he’s confident that PC-powered room-scale VR will no longer be defined by a single ‘VR capable’ room but rather progress to “house-scale” VR in the near future.
Valve’s laser-based Lighthouse tracking system is by design a scalable solution, with Valve hardware designer Alan Yates stating “you can in principle concatenate tracking volumes without limit like cell towers.” But for that to work, you’d need a wireless VR system to take advantage of the multi-room-scale space, a hardware issue Newell says is actually already a “solved problem.”
“My expectation is that [wireless] will be an add-on in 2017, and then it will be an integrated feature in 2018,” said Newell, as reported by Gamasutra.
Newell’s “solved problem” might be in reference to KwikVR or TPCAST, two light-weight aftermarket devices that both use a wireless compression and transmission system that effectively let you cut the cord while in VR. Or quite possibly this could be a clue as to the progress wireless VR company Nitero is making, which Valve invested in.
Saying PC VR headsets could come stock with wireless transmitters in 2018 may initially seem trivial coming from any old software company, but Valve has been intimately involved in researching VR hardware and prototyping room-scale headsets since at least 2012 with its marke-laden VR room. Valve later revealed in 2014 they were collaborating with Oculus “to drive PC VR forward,” consequently the same year that Oculus was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion and attracted key Valve talent such as Michael Abrash and Atman Binstock, both of whom were already working on Valve’s nascent VR hardware. The subsequent falling out would set the stage for Valve’s first SteamVR-capable headset, the, the Vive, which would go on to be manufactured by HTC.
Valve’s ongoing hardware projects, made public at last year’s Steam Dev Days, delve deeper into controllers, with their ‘hand presence’-inducing grip prototype, and a new single-rotor Lighthouse basestation coming later this year. Just what wireless PC VR tech they have up their sleeves, (or what sort of “house-scale” VR games you could play), we just can’t say, but we’d love to crack a drawer or two at their Bellevue, WA headquarters to find out.