Gaming giant Valve has announced that they’ll be revealing a “previously-unannounced SteamVR hardware system” at GDC 2015. The company has been actively engaged in R&D in the AR/VR space but hasn’t previously broken into the hardware market. This new information makes it look like they might be gearing up to do just that.

Valve’s early 2014 prototype VR headset and ‘Valve Room’ covered in fiducial markers

Valve, creators of the massive digital software distribution platform, Steam, made its first public foray into the consumer virtual reality space when the company added early support for the Oculus Rift DK1 to Team Fortress 2 (2007) way back in March, 2013. At the beginning of 2014, the company revealed SteamVR, a virtual reality adaptation of Steam’s ‘Big Picture’ mode which allows gamers to browse their game library and play supported titles with headsets like the Oculus Rift. Following this, the company showed off a prototype head mounted display in a room full of fiducial markers, with the experiencing quickly becoming known as the ‘Valve Room’.

See Also: 30 Minutes Inside Valve’s [2014] Prototype Virtual Reality Headset

Valve had been collaborating with Oculus early on and didn’t seem to have any plans to launch their own VR hardware. After several key VR researchers at Valve jumped ship to Oculus, and Facebook snatched up the company, however, things between Oculus and Valve haven’t seemed quite the same.

Now Valve seems ready to reveal their own VR headset. Writing on their website that Valve is “actively seeking VR content creators” for a “previously-unannounced SteamVR hardware system” which they’ll demonstrate at GDC 2015 next week. The company is soliciting folks who want to try the “SteamVR Dev Kit,” language which closely resembles that of Oculus and other VR hardware companies with publicly available developer hardware that to be iterated upon until a consumer release. We’ll definitely do our darndest to get our hands on whatever Valve is revealing next week at GDC.

Valve Launches SteamVR 2.0, Brings Long-awaited Platform Features into VR

Valve HMD with Reflective Spots and Light Projecting Camera
Valve HMD with Reflective Spots and Light Projecting Camera

In June, 2014, an apparently updated version of Valve’s prototype VR headset made a surprise appearance at the Boston VR Bender Meetup. Instead of a room full of markers, the headset used IR-reflective dots which reflected IR light from an array of IR-LEDs mounted to a camera. By tracking the dots on the headset, the camera could positionally track the headset through 3D space. The Oculus Rift DK2 also debuted with similar technology, using active IR-LEDs integrated into the headset itself, instead of reflective dots.

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  • Alkapwn

    This is very interesting news indeed. If they pull this off, they’ll have a stake in every aspect of VR, complete vertical integration.

    – Gaming Computer
    – OS
    – VR Headset
    – Controller
    – Engine
    – And last but not least, The Games

    The compatibility and consistency that they could guarantee is incredibly impressive. I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of this sooner. I can’t wait to see what they have to show at GDC. I hope you guys get a chance to check it out! We await your review.

    • Jacob Pederson

      Yea, if anybody can make VR work, it’s Valve. Very happy to see some competition for Oculus :) I don’t think that Valve’s current controller design is a good fit for VR, but the experience in developing a controller will be helpful in creating a more VR friendly one quickly. In this case, Valve’s outdated Source engine might actually be an advantage as it will be able to hit the high frame rates needed for VR on more hardware than either Unreal 4 or Unity. Very exciting times!

    • Druss

      Now, I don’t mean to be ‘that guy’, but please read on.

      When Half-Life 1 came out, it was a game-changer. Half-Life 2 did very much the same thing, setting new standards by utilizing the new features in modern PC’s. For many years it has been a theory of mine that Valve was waiting for the next-big-thing to release HL3 alongside with, so it too could be an example for games to come.

      I just hope I’m right. If they really put all their heads together they could make a VR experience that would be unrivaled for years to come.

    • Wow, true, even the OS. I hadn’t thought of the entire pillar before, sure makes the possibility of a Valve headset quite interesting indeed… GDC is ramping up to become a VR circus, looking forward to the flood of news to come! And no sleep!

      • Curtrock

        Yup….VR circus indeed…shit is gettin real! Good times.

  • MaxSMoke777

    Enough of these headsets, where is the talk of Interface? After using the Leap, I have NO faith in optical hand tracking. I need a joystick I can move in space, like the STEM, but made from a reputable company that isn’t trying to gouge the community with vaporware. (Don’t tell me it’s not until YOU have one in YOUR hand. How far back has that release date slipped now? Over a year?? Base model’s price has risen to $300?!)

    Where is the VR headset with a 1st party 3D joystick? The lack of a first party interface is a huge problem for launching the consumer Rift, and I don’t see Oculus’s purchase of Nimble VR overcoming that. Optical hand tracking just doesn’t work. It’s clear that everybody and their mother can make a HMD with head tracking, but there is only one company with a decent 1st party solution for hand tracking, i.e. Sony.

    Sony has a powerful game console in millions of living rooms, with a perfect head and hand tracking solution. Sony could really win this whole thing…you know… if it wasn’t Sony. They’ve blown so many technological revolutions, from MP3’s to smartphones. It’s going to be so sad if they blow this one too….