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 Gabe Newell | Photo courtesy Kotaku
Valve’s Gabe Newell | Photo courtesy Kotaku

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.

wireless-htc-vive-accessory-tpcast
wireless, room-scale VR made possible with TPCAST

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.

SEE ALSO
HTC: Vive Pro is Targeted at Prosumers and Will Be "more expensive" Than Consumer Vive

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.

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  • Joan Villora Jofré

    HTC Vive 2 confirmed for 2018?

    • Sch@dows

      To be fair, I wouldn’t be surprise if a HTC Vive Refresh was avaiable this year, integrating lighter and redesigned headset, plus the new Deluxe Audio Strap.

      Than, 2018 could indeed include Wireless, but also the eyetracking / higher resolution screens combo (the former making use of the latter without increasing the computing power necessary).

      • Brandon Smith

        Personally I think 2 years is kind of the accepted turnaround for technology, these days. I think people are acclimated to a 2 year upgrade scheme.

      • Joan Villora Jofré

        I really want a good foveated rendering

      • Wireless, sure, but I have some doubts about eye tracking. Does anyone have a FOVE headset yet? That’s been on the verge of coming out for at least 2 years now, right? That was that company’s entire focus (pun) and the FOVE still hasn’t been seen (pun) in any consumer hands. I think eye tracking for the VIVE is a few years off.

        • Sch@dows

          FOVE have eventually been release for backers but it is still hard to judge since it lacks applications that use eyetracking for now.

          • You give Unreal Engine 4 developers Blueprint level support and there won’t be a lack of applications! Epic has been very generous about including any and all hardware.

    • Get Schwifty!

      I think everyone feels v2.0 versions are likely to be announced in Q1 2018 for Rift and Vive both… and as I was saying, the minute there is any press on Oculus a newsfeed for Vive appears like clockwork…. not saying it’s bad, but I was waiting for it based on the release showing the Oculus lab… and there it is :)

      • user

        zuckerberg posted the photos after gabe newell had the roundtable with journalists.

        • Get Schwifty!

          Possibly – but at the same time look back.. it’s like clockwork. And I don’t blame them, perhaps the reporting on sites like this then is designed to undercut Oculus by always posting them first then following on with VIve, which wouldn’t surprise me.

          • juicylucy

            Wut? If anything, it’s easier to post photos than writing an article summarizing an interview.

          • John

            You like Oculus, we get it. But do you really have to post about it on every rtvr article? This is a Valve/Vive article, let it go.

          • Get Schwifty!

            Actually I like both, but since you apparently read all my posts you should have figured that out by now.

            How about asking the incessant drive bys on every article about Oculus by the Vive fanboys on here to stop as well? I guess it only works one way with folks like yourself.

    • DaKangaroo

      Vive 2 in 2018? Probably.

      But there will never be a Vive 3.

      • Joan Villora Jofré

        Jumping to Vive 4? ha ha.

        • DaKangaroo

          My guess it’ll go:

          Vive 1
          Vive 2
          Vive 2.1
          Vive 2.2

          • Joan Villora Jofré

            My guess:
            Vive 1
            Vive 1.5
            Vive Gold, Vive Silver, Vive Greatest hits…

        • Actually DaKangaroo is referencing to Half-Life ;)

  • Xron

    Hmz… atm, they’re rdy to do this gen hmd’s wireless, not sure if they’re up for 2nd gen yet, as it will require higher bandwith. As I’m sure new gen will have higher resolution and fov…

    • Gerald Terveen

      From what the companies claim they are able to do 4k@120Hz. I am still doubtful and can’t wait to try it myself with content I select before I settle on an expectation on image quality impact. But I am now at the point where I expect 4k won’t be a deal break for wireless VR.

      • DougP

        Re: “From what the companies claim they are able to do 4k@120Hz”
        Do you have a source link to that claim?

        That’s impossible to believe they can achieve at this point over wireless, not without extreme (read: horrible!) compression artefacts.

        You can’t even do 4K@ 120Hz OVER WIRE at the moment!

        • Gerald Terveen

          Sure: http://www.roadtovr.com/imr-building-wireless-video-system-power-4k-per-eye-vr-headsets/

          But you might want to look up the latest cable specs as well …

          • DougP

            That link is to some *claims* about compressing & achieving 4K @ 120Hz. Not proof nor product (yet).
            As well, my point is that even if/when this becomes something beyond an idea it will not be able to do it “without extreme compression artefacts”.

            Re: “look up the latest cable specs”
            Again, my point stands.
            There are no mass market/consumer video cards & cables (DP or HDMI) that can actually produce 4K at 120Hz even WIRED on a monitor today.

          • Gerald Terveen

            “From what the companies claim” is literally how my post started, what made you assume there is any proof.

            As far as the cable goes fair enough – but the next DP version that is supposed to arrive any day now does exactly that.

          • DougP

            I was pointing out that 4K @ 120Hz over wireless (wireless also being what this article is about) is not feasible for the foreseeable future.
            I then pointed out that it’s not even available to consumers over cables today.
            Yes, future versions of DP/hdmi, alongside video cards that can support it, it will *eventually* become a reality for wired connections…but wifi ( w/o basically unusable compression artefacts/lag ) is not on the horizon/any time soon.

  • VR Geek

    Valve is so on point. Wonder is Michael Abrash is regretting his move to Oculus’s sinking, corporate ship?

    • Get Schwifty!

      Sinking ship? Really? My we like to judge prematurely don’t we… the reality is that FB/Oculus has much deeper pockets than HTC/Vive could ever dream of. In effect, they can afford to fail and keep going if they decided to completely change, and by all accounts they are in for decades of commitment. I predict in three years no one will remember much about 2016/2017 except for the trial, and even then no one will give a shit as they will be having too much fun either in Rift or Vive… and Michael Abrash will be a very wealthy man still employed at Oculus.

      • VR Geek

        I am sure you are right, but Oculus is still acting like a corporate douchebag whereas Valve is much more abundant and open in their approach. No matter what, everyone including Oculus are going to have some steep competition in this space and while really deep pockets help, it does not buy you a guaranteed spot in the sunlight. I think Oculus has very much underscored that point so far. As a VR business owner, I just want VR and AR to grow but truthfully, I have a bit of hate on for Facebook and Oculus based solely on their behavior. That could change as I believe in forgiveness when people/corporations make positive changes. The next 3-4 years the top 2-3 platforms will emerge. Will it be Oculus? Not if they continue to act like they are.

        • Get Schwifty!

          Truthfully the general market doesn’t give a shit what people like yourself that hate Facebook think, it matters not one whit. I dont mean that with disrespect, its just a matter of fact. People will pick up a technology regardless of what the company really does if they like it/need it. IF Oculus supplies that technology in an efficient manner people will buy in, if they don’t they won’t but it won’t be wrapped around a question of exclusives. I also still cannot believe the VIve set can’t grasp that putting the fate of your product in the hands of a company who co-designed a product with another company is not wise and calls for a different play to bring people in, why is this so hard to grasp? It’s not just “being selfish” or “mean”, it’s a decision based on business necessity, not being “douche-bags”.

          The timed exclusive thing is such an overplayed card really, people get all butt-hurt over it and its honestly no different than when people waited like 18 months for Grand Theft Auto V to appear on the PC instead of getting it day one on a console…. and you know what, no one died from it. Let’s not even mention how Revive is tolerated…

          • Cl

            People dont buy stuff because of what the company does all the time. The moves oculus made is what made me decide on vive. once i get one…soon hopefully.

            Timed exclusives are fine for me as long as they are released for others in a reasonable amount of time. Problem is they arent all timed exclusives from what i read.

          • conall tully

            so true I couldn’t wait for the oculus no exclusives $350 it was looking great…WELL IT WAS ALL LIES

          • Get Schwifty!

            Early adopters yes, not the broad market that doesn’t read the press articles on sites like this.

      • Patrick Lyle

        “They can afford to fail and keep going” They will. And they will.

        • Get Schwifty!

          Please show me where to buy that crystal ball….

          • Patrick Lyle

            You think you can by that kind of omniscience? Please.

          • Get Schwifty!

            lol it’s obvious you guys pick at Oculus but don’t bother to actually read the press on them much… they have been very clear on this point and how they see the long term investment with Oculus and VR taking several decades.

          • DougP

            Re: buy that crystal ball…

            You wrote:
            “by all accounts they are in for decades of commitment. I predict”

            So maybe you can direct Patrick to where you bought yours?!

          • Get Schwifty!

            Easily – there are numerous comments by Zuckerberg that it will take a decade or more for adoption and they intend to be there. Seriously – go do some reading, it’s stated in multiple places and was referenced in the article showing Zuckerberg in front of the graph.

          • DougP

            Re: “numerous comments by Zuckerberg ”
            I don’t care about these numerous comments from your boss.
            *Decades* – who knows if Facebook will even exist in decades. That’s just silly.

            Also, I specifically quoted you saying the words “I predict” – ironically just before you then ask someone about a “crystal ball”.

          • Get Schwifty!

            Okay – so if they say they have a decades long commitment, somehow its not true? No arguing with that kind of emo-logic.

            I can predict all day… the point is its founded in some kind of logic, not just emotional thinking when the company clearly is stating to the contrary.

          • DougP

            “I predict” …”omg – you must have crystal ball!”…yeah, right.
            How much do you get paid being a Facebook apologist?
            What kind of exercises did you do to prepare for the mental gymnastics?

      • JustNiz

        > Sinking ship? Really? My we like to judge prematurely don’t we…

        You’d be crazy to think that its just business as usual at Oculus after that $3 billion fine.

  • Gerald Terveen

    “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.””

    Aren’t there some pretty critical limitations to the range/setup with the current wireless solutions? Until they can do some sort of extender I do not consider it a solved problem.

    • Not sure if he was referring to Lighthouse for multi-room scale being solved…

      Project Tango and I think Hololens as well can map a location, storing information about the environment, then during later use give you consistent positional tracking at house scale. They could also learn the wall from the depth sensors and provide chaperone-style playspace for the entire facility.

      How the games/experiences are going to adapt on the fly to a world with bounds unknown in advance will be an interesting challenge!

      • Gerald Terveen

        I was not referring to Lighthouse either … I was referring to the wireless adapter that needs to be able to connect to the PC over longer distances for multi-room scenarios to make really sense.

        But otherwise I fully agree and I am super excited for spatial sensors to be widely available so it makes sense to target them in development.

    • towblerone

      If Gabe says it’s a solved problem then it’s a solved problem.

      • Gerald Terveen

        from the original source: “… but Newell believes they’re a “solved problem” that are right around the corner.”

        Sounds like he said he believes they are a soon to be solved problem …

        • Get Schwifty!

          Never mind the Cult of Gabe…

  • MosBen

    Hmmm, if Valve really thinks that house scale is something that they’ll be headed towards, my guess is that they’re working on some sort of inside out tracking solution. I don’t believe for a second that Valve thinks that it would be practical for people to have multiple Lighthouse stations in every room of the house to enable them to walk around wirelessly. That’s just so wildly expensive, cumbersome, and impractical (don’t Lighthouse base stations need to be plugged into an outlet?) that even to suggest it makes me think that the Vive 2 will map the room(s) that you’re in and guide you with a chaperone system.

    • 12Danny123

      They REALLY need to move quick, Oculus and particularly Microsoft aren’t staying still with Inside out tracking and wireless VR.

      In fact I think the future of VR is standalone HMD VR, like Project Alloy with wireless capabilities for intensive games and applications to allocate the resources

      • Get Schwifty!

        Like it or not, the reality is Vive will only be one player among probably a half dozen or more in 8-10 years. I get people are in love with their toy (Rift or Vive) but the market will require more players and certainly support in the long run… be open to more than just Rift or Vive :)

    • Get Schwifty!

      I think personally the whole “house scale” is a lot of bullshit. I say that because everyone’s house is pretty different, what kind of environment would you be plotting for in VR?

      This frankly sounds like a “Gabe Newell special” soundbite designed to grab press for nothing. All I think this really means is “hey, we can reliably use more units over a larger space, approximately say 1500 or so square feet and little more. Not saying that isn’t nice, but placing it with a name like “house scale” is just marketing speak.

      • user

        its not that hard to imagine that he expects that people can create 3d meshes of their houses and play games that can adapt to different environments.

        • Get Schwifty!

          Do you really, really think that is going to happen? Of course its technically possible, but for what application? Are you honestly going to go traipsing around your house or apartment with all manner of furniture etc. to simulate some procedural dungeon run or play with elves sitting on your sofa? A couple games might work with this, but over all it’s sort of like the headset cam, a bit of a gimmick without serious application in limited cases.

          • user

            idk what kinds of games devs will come up with. but i imagine that newell sees lighthouse as the solution for many vr and ar systems. a family could have different ar/vr glasses and some of them could be tracked with the lighthouses and others have inside out tracking but use lighthouse to track hand controllers (and other things like feet, guns, tennis rackets).

          • JustNiz

            The headset cam is a bit of a gimmick? From this and everything else you’ve written, you sound like a totally biassed Oculus fanboi with no actual experience of a Vive. The camera is VERY useful for roomscale and placing yourself in the real world with the headset on., both from the virtual display on one controller and also the chaperone/room view. Admittedly It would be far less useful on the rift though given its limitation of being mostly for seated-only experiences.

      • Blue Tooth/Wifi.

        Could b possible with smart use.

        No one thought VR would be possible :)

        • Get Schwifty!

          No one said it wasn’t possible, only that it’s sort of silly when you think about it with very few significant applications. Am I going to simulate a sub and go lay in my bunk (real bed) for instance? Perhaps an AR scenario makes some sense, with virtual monitors around my space, or little creatures to play with… I would see this more of an application in business than home, but still. If that is the case some real camera sensor deployment is going to have to happen on the Vive front.

      • J.C.

        I actually agree with Schwifty on this. A variable size squared-off space to play in is one thing, but once you add multiple rooms into it, game development is a nightmare. House-scale only makes sense for AR, and even then, game types would be severely limited due to developers coding for unknown playspaces.

        • user

          with AR you can set up one room as a play area and one room as a work area and one room as a music, video, family area and move between the rooms seemlessly.

      • N P

        Same as room-scale, but instead of your chaperone bounds forming a square play area, they’ll form a layout of all or part of your house. Just like room-scale, you’ll have to make sure your play area is clear of obstacles. When you approach a wall, your chaperone bounds will appear just like they do now. Transitioning to house-scale is really a no-brainer and completely expected for the Vive.

      • N P

        What will be awesome is when games use procedural generation to map the level to your multi-room play area. That way, there’s no mismatch between your play area and the level, meaning you can turn your chaperone bounds off and trust in the game environment to keep you from bumping into walls. It’s gonna be wicked.

        • JustNiz

          I believe “Unseen Diplomacy” already does that.

      • JustNiz

        Its not bullshit at all. I have lighthouses in both my main spaces and 60ft long HDMI/USB cables so I can move the breakout box around easily, so I pretty much have that already.

  • This is all very nice, but most of us can’t afford the computers needed to run even the VR headsets. Either bring the price of the hardware down to an affordable level or rejig the VR software so it runs on cheaper minimally speced computers.

    • Caven

      It’s going to take time for that to happen. In the early days of GPS and cellphones, they weren’t affordable for the average person either.

    • towblerone

      The buy-in cost for PC-based VR was cut by around 35% within the first 6-7 months of the Rift and Vive getting commercial release. Prices will continue to shrink. First-gen is never for the casual consumer.

    • Narabel

      Keep an eye out for Ryzen. The announced prices already kneecap Intel’s monopolistic prices which will help a lot with VR ready PCs.

    • Get Schwifty!

      My advice – get a used computer or VR capable laptop (they will run oh around $800 in about a year). If you piecemeal it, you could probably get a system for about that today. Have you considered a PS4+VR setup as an alternative?

  • Mageoftheyear

    TBH, as someone interested in using VR in a sim cockpit I am far more interested in HMD makers using 10-bit (RGB 4:4:4) HDR panels in their next versions than I am in wireless. I’m not knocking the importance of wireless (it is probably a more popular feature request) but for me the quality of the pixels is more important.

    I just hope HTC and Oculus manage to find a way to get rid of or drastically reduce the “god-rays” effect – besides preaching that devs should avoid high contrast – because I wouldn’t want to buy either until that glaring issue (heh) is sorted. High contrast is after all one of the most visually pleasing benefits of HDR content. :p

    • Get Schwifty!

      I agree with you – wireless is nice, but I would take better visual fidelity first too.

    • Sam Illingworth

      Yep. Before I bought mine, I thought the cable and the FOV would be the biggest problems with V1, but now I think it’s the screens & optics and the comfort.

  • OgreTactics

    Another non-sensical unperceptive strategy. By 2018, nobody but a niche smaller than the current one will want to invest in PC VR HMDs which just so happens to finally be “wireless”.

    • Rayza

      derp

  • NooYawker

    Wouldn’t AR be more suited for moving around room to room?

    • user

      Newell about Lighthouse: “What we want is for that to be like USB.”
      they want to license it to everybody.

  • NooYawker

    I think the biggest issue is video quality and how to get it. A top of the line 1080 doesn’t even seem to be enough power.

    • Sam Illingworth

      What makes you say that? My 980 run great looking games in VR, so a 1080 should be able to handle a higher res VR no trouble (especially with foveated rendering).

      • RFC_VR

        1070 and even 1080 will struggle with supersampling and graphics turned up (to clean up, especially text display), better software optimised for the new GTX cards will really improve efficiency – The Lab runs beautifully with its dynamic supersampling.

        • Sam Illingworth

          Yes, better software and foveated rendering will make a big difference, but if a 980 can run current VR well then a 1080 will surely run a considerably more demanding VR just as well.

          • RFC_VR

            I agree optimisation and FOV render will make big strides. Its scary how quickly even the new GTX cards run out of room if playing with SS in demanding titles

  • DaKangaroo

    If I was Valve, I wouldn’t hold back anything or wait, I’d go hard as possible right now. VR isn’t like the game console industry, people aren’t going to sit around happily waiting and enjoying what they have for 5 years while they wait for the next generation. VR is new, and the hardware still has massive need for improvement, and every day that the Vive/Oculus represent the best options available on the market, is in my opinion a day where the window for VR succeeding has closed a little without the industry getting closer to making it through. Yearly hardware refreshes would be best until around 2020.

    • JustNiz

      Why do you think they’re not pushing hard? Valve are notoriously secretive, but we already know they have at least one AAA VR title in the works.

  • JustNiz

    Headsets with integrated wireless? With the advent of TPcast like 3 months ago, and now Intel doing their own thing, this hardly seems like insightful news.

  • DougP

    Lord Gaben spoketh – “Let there be wireless….and there was!”.

  • Zerofool

    A recording of the entire interview:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMpQWSqQFK0