After months of speculation, Valve has finally officially confirmed a new VR headset called Index that bears the company’s own name and will presumably be a first-party product. A teaser image for the headset may indicate a release date of May.
A new page posted to Valve’s Steam website revealed the Index headset today; only a photo with the text “Upgrade your experience. May 2019” is shown. We expect that May would be the release month, but it could also just be the month that the company provides a full reveal of the headset beyond this teaser.
From the photo we can infer a few things. First, the angle of the headset prominently shows a hardware IPD adjustment on the bottom of the headset, and we’d be surprised if this wasn’t specifically chosen to highlight the fixed IPD of the Rift S. Second, faint circles on the underside of the headset are the signature mark of IR-transparent plastic which would indicate that the headset will be compatible with Valve’s outside-in SteamVR Tracking tech. The cameras clearly seen on the front of the device may indicate that the headset will also, optionally, support inside-out tracking. If not that, the cameras could also be used for passthrough video, controllerless hand-tracking, or passthrough AR.
From the photo we also see that the Index headset itself prominently bears ‘Valve’ branding. This is significant because it suggests that Valve will be manufacturing the headset itself, a departure from its prior VR R&D efforts which had tapped HTC to handle headset manufacturing (which became HTC’s own ‘Vive’ brand).
And last but not least, the “Upgrade your experience” tagline in the photo suggests that this isn’t a dev kit, but rather a full-on consumer product. It seems quite likely that the Index headset will be shipped with Valve’s next-gen Knuckles controllers, which the company has been much more public about.
The reveal today ends months of rumors swirling around the company’s VR hardware plans, and confirms the legitimacy of photos of the headset leaked back in November of 2018. It also seems to put to rest some of the more audacious fears predicated on recent layoffs at the company.
The leaked photos may give us some hints about what else to expect from the headset come May, unless the design has changed significantly in the intervening months. From the photos, we can expect that Index will include built-in over-ear headphones and a rigid head-mount with an overhead strap.
We would certainly expect higher resolution panels than the original Vive; exactly how high is anyone’s guess, though at least matching the Vive Pro’s 1,400 × 1,600 per-eye displays seems likely. What appears to be larger lenses could also indicate a wider field of view, but there’s really no telling at this point.