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Ahead of Steam Dev Days, the annual conference where this year Valve will demonstrate VR hardware and hold several talks on VR, the company has released a beta for ‘SteamVR’ a new way to interact with Steam using the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

Update (1/14/14): The first video of SteamVR has surfaced and has been added above.

Original article continues:

The quiet announcement came from Valve programmer Joe Ludwig a few hours ago who noted under the newly created SteamVR app section of the Steam Community website:

As of the most recent Steam Client Beta steam now supports an experimental VR mode. If you own an Oculus Rift dev kit you can try it out by starting Steam with “-vr” on the command line. Then press the Big Picture button to enter Big Picture + VR mode.

The first time you run you may need to do the following:

  1. Run Steam in the desktop client without the -vr option
  2. Find “SteamVR” under “Tools” in your library. (If you don’t have it installed, install it.)
  3. Bring up properties on SteamVR and opt-in to the “Beta Update” beta. Let the update download.
  4. Quit the Steam Client again and start it with -vr

Initially a bug was preventing these instructions from working properly. Ludwig seems to have fixed the issue and asked users to download the latest update to SteamVR to get things working correctly. Reddit user Cunningcory has detailed instructions for Oculus Rift users:

  • Go to “Library”, “Tools”, and download SteamVR
  • Opt into SteamVR Beta. Make sure it’s up-to-date
  • Set Steam to start in Big Picture mode.
  • Create a shortcut to Steam and add -vr to the launch options
  • IMPORTANT: Set the Rift as an extended monitor and make sure it’s the secondary.
  • Start Steam using your modified shortcut.
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It seems that others are still having trouble launching SteamVR with the Oculus Rift. Cunningcory reports that the experience is basically Steam’s Big Picture mode on a curved screen in front of the player:

It looks pretty good! It’s a giant floating curved screen in front of you. Head tracking works fine. Everything is big enough to read that I’ve looked at so far. Don’t try it for too long though—there seems to be a bit of lag in the tracking.

Valve appears to have worked closely with Oculus to implement SteamVR—launching the tool from Steam’s Tools list without the aforementioned -vr option launches the Oculus Rift Configuration utility.

Valve Goes VR

valve dev days steamvrThis development comes on the eve of Steam Dev Days where the company will reveal prototype VR hardware which they believe represents “what affordable VR hardware will be capable of within a couple of years.” The event will also feature several talks about changes that Valve plans to make to Steam for VR, and one talk from Oculus co-founder and Rift inventor, Palmer Luckey, titled ‘Porting games to Virtual Reality.’

According to the BBC, last week Valve designer Brian Coomer said that the company was “days away” from releasing a VR SDK that will provide a standard way to interface with “VR controllers” (that’s the BBC’s language, which is unclear about whether they mean HMDs or actual HCI interfaces).

A few weeks ago, Valve added a ‘VR support’ category to Steam to help users find games with support for the Oculus Rift. The category is now home to at least 10 titles.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Mageoftheyear

    What I wouldn’t give to be a nanomite on the wall at that conference.

    • WormSlayer

      Yeah wish I could afford to go! I know a few people who are though and they have promised to report any important revelations so we wont miss everything XD

      • Mageoftheyear

        Ssh! Valve may be watching… :P

  • Andreas Aronsson

    Finally got this working yesterday :) Not sure how to get games to play on the curved surface though, if it is at all possible yet, I am very keen to try it out but every game that does not have Rift support just boots normally.

    Just seeing the splash screen in the Rift, even though not in stereo, makes me want to play them on the huge curved surface :/ Hmm… will experiment more with it tonight.