Valve, the beloved makers of the Steam digital game distribution service and a number of famous games like Half-Life 2, Portal, TF2, and more, has never made any hardware products. New broke last week that they were looking to hire someone with hardware expertise and that they are doing so explicitly to explore potential hardware devices. The head of Valve, Gabe Newell, and Valve’s AR/VR researcher, Michael Abrash, have both publicly endorsed the Oculus Rift — could this upcoming hardware product be related to virtual reality? Meanwhile Oculus is doing it’s own hiring, the company is looking for experienced individuals to assist in the production of the consumer version of the Oculus Rift head mounted display.

Valve Hiring for Hardware

Valve’s job posting page calls for an industrial designer. Here’s the listing:

As an Industrial Designer at Valve, you will join a world-class group of electrical, mechanical, software engineers and designers who are busily defining new entertainment experiences through both hardware and software. We’re hoping to add your expertise in product design and manufacturing, ergonomics, usability, aesthetics, and surfacing to our team.

Valve is an entertainment and technology company driven to design and deliver rewarding experiences to customers. We hire generalists who also exhibit deep expertise. Designers at Valve contribute in a wide variety of ways: We define and articulate goals, we design and ship products, we create and implement user studies, we write press releases and blog posts, we manage projects, and much more. We also recruit designers. People like you.

Valve is traditionally a software company. Open platforms like the PC and Mac are important to us, as they enable us and our partners to have a robust and direct relationship with customers. We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in. Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.

At Valve, our design process really gets going once products are in customers’ hands. Our best work is the result of an ongoing dialog with customers. Through years of shipping software as a service through Steam, our digital distribution platform, this has become fundamental to the way we create great products. With an engaged community of millions of users, what will you ship? What will you try, and what will you learn through doing so?

Do you prefer to define the work that you pursue, rather than simply following a vision that’s been set for you? If you’re seeking an opportunity to steer product definition, functional exploration and design decision-making, consider joining Valve. We can’t wait to see where you’ll take us.

I put the key paragraph in bold. This is the part that the major gaming and tech blogs have been pointing to and concluding that Valve is probably working on their own console. Most seem to be entirely disregarding the part that I’ve put in italics. This section speaks very loudly to me that Valve is looking to create something related to virtual reality. It could be a high-fidelity motion peripheral or even an HMD — whatever it is, I think it’s more ambitious than a set-top Steam box that will be used with a mouse and keyboard.

Update: Apple Analyst Claims Mixed Reality Headset Announcement May Come January 2023

Oculus Looks for New Employees

Oculus LLC, creators of the forthcoming Oculus Rift HMD, is a growing startup that has added a number of new hires over the last few weeks. Most recently they brought on board former Gaikai chief product officer and Scaleform CEO, Brendan Iribe, as CEO, as well as Michael Antonov as chief software architect, and Jack McCauley who previously worked at ROR3 Devices.

Now Oculus is looking to fill 6 new positions. Maybe one speaks to you?

  • Senior DSP Engineer/Scientist
    • Responsibilities:
      • Lead development, design, testing, and release of Oculus’s motion sensing solution for the next generation of virtual reality
      • Work closely with engineering team to integrate motion control system into the Oculus SDK and explain algorithms/technical details
      • Architect and implement signal processing and motion management engine
      • Design DSP algorithms and motion control system
      • Research graphics algorithms, TV technology
  • Engineering Lab Technician
    • Responsibilities:
      • Manage, maintain, and improve the Oculus lab to ensure the most efficient development environment
      • Ensure all Oculus hardware testing equipment and tools are always calibrated and working
      • Assist in the design of new prototypes and solder/rework existing designs
      • Travel between offices to work with software team and assist in delivery and setup of equipment
  • Component Sourcing Engineer
    • Responsibilities:
      • Build and maintaining close partnerships with suppliers to develop and continuously improve the Oculus supply chain
      • Negotiate with distributors, vendors, and manufactures for the best products and the lowest price
      • Track critical path items throughout the supply chain and ensure delivery
      • Make sound recommendations about component purchasing
      • Collaborate and coordinate with internal/external teams to assure smooth flow
  • Senior Hardware/Firmware Display Engineer
    • Responsibilities:
      • Lead development, architecture, testing, and release of hardware and firmware design for Oculus display controller technology
      • Program and design LCD controllers and new display drivers for cutting-edge virtual reality technology
      • Provide leadership and expert insight into existing and upcoming display technologies
  • Senior Web Developer
    • Responsibilities:
      • Architect and lead the development of the front-end experience and back-end systems
      • Convert designs from concepts to pixel-perfect interactive HTML and CSS content
      • Develop high-performance client-side JavaScript apps and web services, which fully support multivariate (A/B) testing, analysis, and deployment
  • Senior/Principle Mechanical Engineer
    • Responsibilities:
      • Translate industrial design into tooling drawings, working closely with industrial designers
      • Build and test mechanical models for our head mounted displays
      • Architect and lead development of our head mounted display designs
      • Work with the mechanical engineering and R&D of our Asian contract manufacturers
      • Work with our head mounted display and virtual reality experts to translate concepts into reality
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It’s clear to see that Oculus is building up their employee force to work on the consumer version of the Oculus Rift (which I’ve been calling the Oculus Rift 2.0). Developer kits ordered through the Oculus Rift Kickstarter are going out in December, while the Oculus Rift 2.0 is expected in 2013 — likely Q3 or Q4.

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  • Great find! Thanks Ben!