A newly published patent granted to Valve envisions new Index headsets that could be wireless or standalone, and include new head-mounts for improved ergonomics.

Initially filed back in September, 2020, more than a year after the launch of Valve’s Index headset, a patent published today gives us a glimpse of some of Valve’s thinking about potential next-gen Index headsets.

The patent covers a lot of ground, ranging from wireless and standalone versions of the headset to new ergonomic approaches aimed at making easier and more intuitive adjustments for comfort. While patents aren’t a guarantee that a company is actually building a product, the new patent shows that Valve has been thinking in detail about the designs described therein, right down to the specific way that cables and straps would move and fold as the headsets are adjusted.

The patent appears to show three major versions of an Index-like headset, all of which include a large section on the rear of the headstrap which the patent says could contain hardware for operating the headset either wirelessly or in a standalone fashion.

Image courtesy Valve

The first version looks the most like the original Index, but with a bulky rear section and a new dial on the top strap with a stiffened section designed to make the headset’s straps easier to adjust.

Image courtesy Valve

Another version has a more sleek looking rear section on the headset, out of which a spring-loaded pad protrudes for gripping underneath the occipital bone.

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Image courtesy Valve

The third version of the headset seen in the patent has a rigid pad for gripping the occipital lobe, along with two dials, on the same plane, for adjusting the side and top straps.

In the latter two cases, it would appear that an objective of the design, beyond being more comfortable, may be to make room for wireless or standalone components that are kept somewhat away from the user’s head, potentially in order to facilitate heat dissipation. Cooling is a major challenge in both wireless and standalone headsets given the proximity to the user’s head. Keeping a rear section of the headset away from the user’s head brings increased surface area for heat dissipation, which could enable better performance that would be possible if the module was directly adjacent to the user’s head.

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While there’s no indication yet that any of these designs will see the light of day, the fact that the patent was filed in the latter half of 2020, well after the launch of the original Index in 2019—and the level of detail on display—suggests that Valve is still actively doing research & development on VR hardware.


Thanks to Ilja Z and Cat Noir VR on Twitter for pointing the patent our way.

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  • gothicvillas

    I want Index 2 now

    • Toothlover

      that’d be $2K

      • Amni3D

        That’s fine. Not everything needs to try to compete for lower and lower price points.

        The RTX 3090 is more than $1.5k), and there’s still a market for it. Nvidia’s not exactly crying. Similarly the Index and Reverb G2 are almost never in stock.

        • Andrea Teague

          Get $192 per h from Google~a1540x~ Yes this can be best since I simply got my initial payroll check of $24413 and this was just of a one week…I have aslo purchased my good BMW M5 right after this payment…~a1540x~ it is really best job I have even had and you will not for~give yourself if you do not check it >>>> https://plu.sh/love2020 ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤.

        • Carol Topping

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    • dk

      …both

    • I want Half Life 3 now

    • patfish

      Yes! That’s the way to go … a index with hires OLED screens for the same price.

      • Branton Dark

        OLED is the worst display technology for VR. Only advanced LCD and MicroLED can be used for modern VR. The amount of inherent latency and low PPI/PPD is why OLED is terrible for VR. It was only initially used becasue it was cheap.

  • 144Hz

    My body is ready

    • ymo1965

      .. but is your wallet? I can see valves next entry into VR as being considerably more costly than what we have atm.

      • Branton Dark

        Because it’s far better. You get what you pay for. You want facebook stealing your private data onto unsecure servers and ads in your face? You want a cheap device that has the bare-minimum vr experience, ruins games due to the high latency and low power of the device? Buy the facebook product.
        Do you want to put money into the company that invented modern VR in-house, created the VR industry we have today, created modern vr hardware and software that are both standardized across the entire industry, and is open source hardware and software? Buy from Valve.

  • As someone who never found the original Index very comfortable until modification made it tolerable, this is great news and encouraging to see valve’s potential development of future Index headsets.

    Will future Index headsets accommodate narrow and wide face users by offering two face gaskets and a wider IPD range (Index limited to only 70mm)?

    The wireless module is something I’d pay top dollar for, as using wireless on Vive Pro Eye was fantastic, whilst the tether is ongoing pain point and point of premature failure on index.

  • oomph

    design is good but
    I prefer nreal like (glasses type) headset

  • kuhpunkt

    My biggest question is how they would handle software distribution on a stand alone HMD…

    • Tabp

      Considering Steam’s main business is the store full of windows games, if they did a standalone mode, they’d presumably have it run things through Proton on a Valve Linux distro with a Steam client giving access to the store.

      However, the onboard system could just be for managing the headset and launching games that run on a PC.

      • kuhpunkt

        That’s the thing. Would they get a working PC in there? Oculus uses ARM processors that doesn’t run x86 software, like Steam games in general.

        • Tabp

          It would be quite an engineering challenge. They wouldn’t just have to squeeze a PC with sufficient performance in there, they’d have to do it at a reasonable price. Therefore I expect the launcher option, but full PC is interesting to speculate about.

          • kuhpunkt

            Yeah, I mean how much would that cost? A mobile GPU/CPU that’s powerful enough for VR would cost quite a bit, together with the HMD itself I wouldn’t expect it for less than $1000 at a minimum and that’s not even with controllers.

          • Amni3D

            You *could*. There’s the higher end Intel Skull Canyon NUCs which are good enough, but still on the bulky side, and expensive as heck.
            Totally possible to fit in a standalone form factor, but extremely unlikely.

          • kuhpunkt

            Hmm, but the Skull Canyon only has the Intel GPU and yeah, it’s pricey.

        • kontis

          The architecture problem (x86 vs ARM) is a much smaller problem than performance limitation of mobile device.

          You can rebuild some x86 games for ARM in few minutes, but porting a 5 TFLOPS GPU game to 1 TFLOPS throttled Mobile GPU may take months or even a year. Just ask some devs who ported PCVR games to Quest. Architecture is not even mentioned – all the problems are about optimization.

          tl;dr none of this matters. It’s currently technically impossible to make stand alone PC VR headset running the same library.

          • kuhpunkt

            That’s going back to my original question. If they actually develop a standalone HMD, how are they going to deliver the software?

          • Amni3D

            If I were to bet.. An Nvidia ARM device, to play to the DLSS strength at the same time.

            Personally I don’t think a Valve standalone is likely, but it would definitely be interesting.

          • I know, right …?
            An Valve XR2- or Tegra-based AIO will run the same apps
            as Quest 2 and definately cost a lot more.
            So why would people buy a Valve AIO?
            Just because it’s not Facebook …? Is the “I Hate Facebook!”
            AIO market big enough to justify the billion dollar outlay that it would cost
            a company to design, manufacture and distribute a AIO HMD …?
            I think not.

    • Matteo De Vellis

      If I were Valve, I’d add Arm-based games to Steam for the standalone HMD and then modify Proton to allow users to play Arm games on Windows(and Linux) through Steam and just use cross-buy for the games natively available on both platforms.

      • Matteo De Vellis

        Shouldn’t be hard to make Arm games for this HMD considering the fact that it will most likely use the same hardware as the Quest 2(i.e. a Snapdragon or perhaps a Tegra) will most likely run on Android or at least Linux just like the Quest and it will Steam’s VR tracking API (which basically all VR devs are familiar with).

        • Branton Dark

          Faecbook/oculus use a proprietary closed version of android which is not compatible with any systems but facebook products.

    • Adrian Meredith

      You do realise software distribution is their core business right??

      • kuhpunkt

        Yes, that’s why I’m asking the question. If they produce a standalone HMD, will their HMD have a x86 processor? Will it be an ARM processor? Because that’s important. If it’s ARM, they have some heavy lifting to do, because they don’t support that yet aside from the Steam/Steam Link app.

  • dk

    chonk

  • Lhorkan

    Very interesting! Notably absent in the latter two designs however: the speakers. Especially the middle design does not seem to cater to even having speakers mounted on the side straps. I hope they’re not planning on going down the Facebook road of tiny open ear speakers.

  • mirak

    Remember that eye tracking patent 3 years ago ?

    • MeowMix

      You talking about Facebook or Valve ?

      • mirak

        Valve one.
        It never led to eye tracking in the index

        • Branton Dark

          It was HTC (vive pro eye), and Valve has already done research, finding that the technology needed for the latency required for foveated rendering simply does not exist, and won’t for a very long time.

  • Toothlover

    A hunk of junk

  • Amni3D

    I love the 2 dial strap idea. The less time needed to adjust, the better.

    The idea of putting the processing in the back is what the Quest should’ve been, and actually was the original plan. No VR headset should be uncomfortable to use within 20 minutes unless you get an “Elite Strap”.

    However, there’s a lot of moving parts here, and durability sounds difficult to get down.

    Assuming they want an “all in one” approach, the base stations would need to be replaced with *something*. I think they entertained a basestation-less Lighthouse for a little, so I wonder how that turned out. At the very least, Pico Neo proved you can get Lighthouse tier tracking using magnetism, however the heck that works.

    Whether this actually becomes a product is another question, but a lot of interesting ideas all around.

    • Tabp

      Pico Neo tracking isn’t like lighthouse tracking. You can look up reviews on youtube to see the complaints about how it’s not good enough for gaming. They haven’t demonstrated full body tracking. Pico’s magnetism is really cool for its intended business use case, though, and if it’s cheap enough it could serve as a fallback method for when a device’s primary tracking isn’t available.

      As for Valve, the patent mentions support for base stations, and “basestation-less Lighthouse” doesn’t make sense since the word lighthouse is a nickname for the base stations.

      • Amni3D

        `”basestation-less Lighthouse” doesn’t make sense`
        Mistake on my end. I meant “Lighthouse” as in the entire tracking solution, although I guess that’s called “Steam VR tracking”.

        ` if it’s cheap enough it could serve as a fallback method for when a device’s primary tracking isn’t available.`
        I totally love the idea of a fall back for when there’s tracking occlusion issues. I don’t get why inside out camera HMDs don’t try to fallback to ultrasonics or what not, even the enterprise offerings just end where the camera ends.

    • kontis

      Stand alone tracking cannot support Full Body Tracking, which is one of the prides of the SteamVR ecosystems and is getting more and more popular in the biggest VR app of all time (VRChat), so it’s a very difficult choice to simply give up on this feature.

      It may be a niche but it’s the super enthusiast niche you they may not want to lose.

      There were many Oculus users who switched to Vive/Index because of FBT.

      • Amni3D

        Yeah, I get that.

        I’m referring to a talk years back, where it was said SteamVR tracking *could* work without base stations in theory. So I wish that R&D lead somewhere.

  • Always happy to see people thinking about the future of VR.

  • 3872Orcs

    Good! Wireless is what I’m waiting for! And standalone is certainly not a bad idea considering the success of Oculus Quest. But anything made by Valve don’t need to compete directly with Oculus/Facebook on price I think as long as the hardware is high-end and offer a different experience compared to to the lower end. I’m prepared to pay for good VR on PC.

    • patfish

      I’m not sure what is more annoying … a cable or a heavy headset with not that good latency and that I have to charge every 3h :-/

      • ymo1965

        I’m just hoping they make their controllers (rev2) more reliable and not prone to drift like the ones we have atm. They were the reason the system put me off. Don’t get me wrong, the tech is great and I really wanted them, but the reports of constant issues and RMA’s really turned me off. I also hated this ‘by design’ remark they always say. Something I’m sure they’re told to say when people comment on reliability.

        • pasfish111

          really? Lighthouse tracking is the one and only reason why I stay with valve/HTC.

          I had in 5 years only once a problem with one of the lighthouse station an a problem with one of the touchpads but since that no problem no drifting.

          • ymo1965

            I have an OG Vive and love the full room tracking. I’m on about those valve controllers. I’m not dissing HTC/Valve. I just wish the controllers were better made like the headset is.

  • TechPassion

    It will be heavy.

  • Alot of junk in that trunk. Hard to use if you want to lean back and chill to a movie or something.

    But it’s cool to see a Quest competitor. I hope they stick with STANDARD CONTROL INTERFACES, and not that crazy, lame, Valve touchpad this-and-that. I’m BLIND in a HMD, I can’t spend time figuring out where my fingers are.

    • kontis

      Hard to use if you want to lean back and chill to a movie or something.

      Oculus tried to retain this feature of Oculus Go in Oculus Quest and it caused huge problems with discomfort.

      Sometimes it’s better to focus on the main use case and do it well.

    • Branton Dark

      There is no such thing as a quest competitor. No amount of money, time and R&D could make a quest competitor at this present time. Not from google, apple, MS, valve, no one. Maybe in another 3-5 years if valve decides that mobile VR is acceptable and wants to partner the big manufactures like Samsung or LG (like they did with WMR/HP) create a device and spend years and hundreds of millions of dollars to create a space for tens of studios and developers. That won’t happen.

  • Ratm

    No way they would release smt monsterus like that, thats probably just and add saying index has future..
    Index aint bettet than a frigin quest 2 atm..

    • Branton Dark

      Samsung has nothing to do with VR, and probably never will. You are thinking of WMR, which is Microsoft. MS has already scrapped their VR division for AR R&D.

  • patfish

    Why Valve doesn’t give us a simple Index Pro? … = Index with 2160x 2160 OLED screens and anybody will buy it without any test.

    • benz145

      Index is already ‘Pro’ priced. I doubt they want to go over $1K.

      • pasfish111

        I would aspect (like with every hardware update) a price drop of the older device… I think Valve has to react on the market because 1K$ for a HMD with a lowes LCD will not be payed from a lot of people in 2021 anymore.

        • Branton Dark

          You are entirely wrong. Index is still the best vr system money can buy.

  • patfish

    It looks heavy :-/

    • Branton Dark

      OLED is the worst display technology for VR.

  • james drew

    It may look heavier, and probably will be but not by any noticeable amount because of the balance advantage you would gain. It wouldn’t hang of your face, but your entire head. Really good ventilation potential with the added bonus of keeping the wireless electronics away from almost touching the head. And keeping the brain melting to a minimum :)

    • Branton Dark

      Wrong. That’s not how these radio waves work, they can’t penetrate bio-material, and even if they were high powered enough to (you would need massive power), it’s still non-ionizing and can’t effect anything. Please go learn some basic science, ffs.

  • Branton Dark

    Not to mention no battery pack could power that.