I sit down with Valve Writer, Game Developer and seemingly omnipotent VR Evangelist Chet Faliszek to discuss the new Vive Pre, Valve’s focus on a safe VR experience, expectations for the upcoming VR content showcase and his startlingly sneaky cat.

On my final day at CES in Las Vegas, I managed to snag some more time on the new HTC Vive Pre, focusing this time on the new headline features, Mura correction and of course the new front-facing camera. Executive Editor Ben Lang went hands on with the new hardware and shared his thoughts here.

After the experience, I was able to sit down briefly with Valve’s most visible of virtual reality evangelists, Chet Faliszek.

Always pleasant and genial, I’ve included Faliszek’s answers pretty much verbatim below, with just my questions edited for clarity and to curtail the overt rambling brought on by a very long week at CES.

Road to VR: The new Vive Pre headset has a front facing camera, will Vive’s Chaparone system now alert you if, say, your cat decides to walk across your path whilst you’re in VR?

Faliszek: So, our original intent when we started working on the original Chaparone system has always been to make sure that you’re safe no matter what the conditions are going forward. So this was the first showing of our front-facing camera and its capabilities, and we’re going to keep to it. We’ll see what we’re shipping, I don’t want to make any promises of what we’re shipping and when we’re shipping it, but the goal is always for safety and always to help.

Shout out to my cat Bella … she already knows how to open every door in our house, she now realises when she comes in my office I have to get up and close the door, so she politely closes the door about 50% of the time, which means if I have the headset on, I don’t know she entered, but she’s there.

See Also:  Hands-on: HTC Vive Pre Brings Notable Improvements to Visuals, Tracking, and Ergonomics
See Also: Hands-on: HTC Vive Pre Brings Notable Improvements to Visuals, Tracking, and Ergonomics

Road to VR: It looks like you’re doing some edge detection with the front facing camera on the objects that are moving, is that purely an image processing effect?

Faliszek: Why we’re so careful about saying it’s a front facing camera over a pass through camera is that we’re not sending the video signal through, we’re sending the data through and that allows us to do things like the edge detection and some other features on there. One of the things you have to make sure is that as you’re sending that data back you’re not adding any latency, there’s no weird motion.

Road to VR: Are you saying you’re doing processing on the headset before you’re sending the data back?

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Faliszek: We’re not talking about what’s happening where, it’s more that we’re showing it happening. If you’re in the [VR] experience, feeling safe in that experience means that you feel a greater sense of presence. We’ve learned through experience that the more things you have to juggle in your head, the less you can lose yourself in the experience. And while it sounds counter intuitive to say “Hey! We’re going to show you the real world and that’ll help you stay in the experieince,” it actually does. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a 5 metre across office, my office is a bit more humble. So that means that my track space also includes above my desk and above my TV credenza, there’s a larger area I can physically walk, but now as I’m playing I can see this is a safe place to interact.

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See Also: Hands On: Audi’s Stunning Next-gen Showrooms are Powered by Vive and Rift

Road to VR: As VR headsets are now so close to consumer ready, the focus must turn to the content. Almost every developer we speak to seems to already have a Vive developer kit, which means you’ve sent a huge amount out there. Would you hint at the number of developers working on Vive content?

Faliszek: Lots! It’s just because some developers are private, some developers are going to surprise you, there’s just so much going on that we always just let the developers speak for themselves.

Road to VR: Are we talking 1000s or 100s?

Faliszek: I honestly don’t know the number. I barely know my name, it’s Friday at CES!

Road to VR: You’re ramping up towards release of the Vive now, and as you watch people using the system, and you’re thinking about what that launch content line up’s going to have to be, what are your thoughts on what you think should be in that line up?

Faliszek: Well I think you want a wide range of experiences. It’s weird, some things are no longer games, they’re experiences and then some things are passive content. I think just a wide range of what people want.  The device does lots of things really well and it’s nice to come home and put it on and you can just put some music on and play some Tilt Brush if you want, it’s a relaxing experience.

So, I’m a gamer. I play TF2 or Battlefield 4 every night. Battlefield lends itself to my play style, essentially I’m old and less reaction-ary. And I think in the same way that I come home and play those games, we’re going to start seeing those kinds of traditional experiences that I gravitate towards are coming out and will start being represented. We’re kinda holding stuff back for the Content Showcase at the end of this month, where people will start seeing those kinds of things. I think there’s a lot of people now who look at the content and think “Oh, that’s great I could play that, I wanna see that, this is really fun,” and there are some hardcore gamers that are like “I don’t know if I’m seeing the content I’m used to playing, I play this for a story but I also wanna play this and where’s this part of it,” and I think you’re gonna start seeing that kind of content that they’ll come back to and play.

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Road to VR: Do you have an idea for the exact set of games you’ll be launching with in April?

Faliszek: All of that stuff we’ll be talking more about at the Content Showcase. This week’s more about the hardware and how that allows for those experiences to happen.

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See Also: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steam VR’s Lighthouse Tracking System

Road to VR: I know that Valve’s Alan Yates, the engineer behind the Vive’s Lighthouse tracking system, is unhappy with the current crop of 360 videos being touted as VR experiences. Is that a view shared across Valve?

Faliszek: So 360 video on the desktop, let’s be super clear is super awesome, super fun. I think when people equate that to virtual reality, they’re short selling what virtual reality is. I mean when you move you wanna move, and see that reflected back to you. And I think also we’ve done so much work on the photogrammetry stuff – when you’re in the volcanic fields of Iceland you actually can move around in them and see them and you’re brain is just like “this is where I am, why isn’t it cold?”. And I think those move you so much greater than some of what you see with the 360 video.

There’s this rush of “Oh, we’re gonna be able to be ‘at’ concerts now,” but you know, they film concerts now. And what I actually find I like is, I like having a directorial voice showing me what to look at. Valve’s always been about trying to give you agency in the world, trying to have you ‘be’ that person in the world an to have those kinds of experiences.

Road to VR: How large an event is the Content Showcase coming up at the end of January?

Faliszek: We’ll be talking more about that soon. And to be clear, that’ll be highlighting [content], it won’t be like “this is it!”.

Road to VR: Will we find out more about that launch line up?

steamvr htc vive developer edition unboxing (16)
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Faliszek: Eventually we’ll start talking about that, well, probably the developers will start talking about that. I would much rather you be talking to developers than me, because I would much rather have them say the things they want to say and if they happen to be saying something negative about the Vive or whatever, we should fix that. And our goal’s always like let’s keep fixing things until there’s nothing negative to say but to always let them [developers] talk.

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Road to VR: Any surprises coming at the Content Showcase, do you have new content out that we haven’t seen before, something that you’re really proud of?

Faliszek: There’s stuff I’m really excited about now that I have a lot of fun playing.

Road to VR: That we have or haven’t seen?

Faliszek: That you haven’t seen. There’s stuff that I go home and I play regularly, every night (when I am home), that is stuff that no one’s heard about, don’t know is being made, and I think that’s one of the exciting things. There’s a bunch of content coming out and it’s a really exciting time for developers. We want VR to succeed, that’s super important for us. But more important than that is, that we want to make sure that developers don’t get burned. We’re trying to do everything we can for them. We’re [Valve] funding development as well, I know HTC is as well. You couldn’t guess who we are as we don’t think they should be exclusive to our hardware.

You know, I think you can look through the history of game development and there is a graveyard of companies that have pinned their hopes on that. And for us, we’ve been doing this for ten years, we’ve worked with these developers, they’re our friends, they’re our partners, and we wanna make sure they succeed. So, a lot of what we’re doing is trying to help them succeed. We hate the word ‘ecosystem’, but a good ecosystem of virtual reality where they can thrive on that. They should be on every platform, and that’s what we’ve always said to every developer.

Road to VR: So as you’re flying around the world, evangelising VR, is Bella the cat fed up with you not spending any time with her?

Faliszek: Oh I’m gonna pay the price for this one. She will sit on me and not get off.

My thanks to Chet for taking the time to speak with us. We’re now more curious than ever to see just what juicy content morsels turn up at Valve’s Content Showcase in Seattle at the end of this month. Road to VR will be at the event to bring you all the details direct.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • Oh lookie there, Disqus :p It actually signed in at once, shock and disbelief. Anyway, very nice interview, the processing of the camera happening [maybe] on the headset is interesting, perhaps it’s an entirely separate video overlay that happens on the device.

    The content reveal sounds exciting :) I know there was an uproar over it not having any specific content from Valve themselves, but eh… VR stuff is VR stuff. I’ll be camping the Internet so see what news leaks out of the event come the 28th :D

  • P. Pzwski

    Price, price, price… Only that matters now for everybody. More or less 599 fo HMD?

    • asdfggg

      Bet it’s $799 (or higher).

    • Bezki

      Price without specs is worthless.

      • P. Pzwski

        Really? Then why Oculus is already sold out(without almost any specs) ;)? And why ONLY thing people complaining about is the price?

        Believe me – no one will buy VIVE for 1000$ even with best specs.

        • Lamanuwa

          Oculus Rift is not sold out. It just has pre-orders, which can be cancelled at any time before they ship it. They have not made the sale yet.

          • P. Pzwski

            What’s your point? They sold more than they expected. And we know about VIVE as much as about Oculus.

            Same resolution, same content (yes…), same sitting/standing tracking (and you can buy another cameras for Oc., if one is not enough, and have ‘room experience’ – which is – in my opinion – totally worthless for games and videos), same PC requirements.

            ONLY difference for 2016′ consumer is the price. No one will buy basically the same product for more money – especially in high prices!

          • Is it really the same resolution? Doesn’t seem like it.

            Standing tracking maybe different

            Don’t see how a room experience is worthless.

            Doesn’t seem like you know anything about Vive and pulling facts out your ass sucking on that Occulus dick.

            Typical fangirls.

            The Rift is a great product anyway, though one editor has said that the Rift needs to catch up to the Vive.

            PS: They have also mentioned the PC requirements for Vive not being as high as Rift.

            Funny, folks said nobody would buy the Rift too :)

            Valve has far more worshipers that Occulus and folks on FBook are cheap.

          • P. Pzwski

            Well – I answer – despite fact you are vulgar and… not so smart. How old are you…?

            – Oculus demos are also standing demos (do some research…), and how long you will be standing while gaming or watching a movie? 10, 20 minutes, an hour…? You can stand showing new toy to colleagues from kids playground – not using something constantly.

            – there is no physical possibility for VIVE to have lower PC requirements (unless it has lower resolution…)

            – VIVE is much less known (because of DK2)

            One advice – stop worshiping, start thinking.

          • I see I’m dealing with one of them brain dead fangirls.

            By standing tracking, I meant a different tracking system and folks shall stand for as long as the game needs you to as you can walk around the world as folks want to be fully immersed. Research Omni Treadmill.

            HTC has said that their headset supports mid range PCs…Do some research.

            Everyone with a DK2 knows about HTC has HTC Vive is supported by Valve. And you can bet Steam is gonna have wave Vive is everyone’s faces much like all Valve hardware and you know how many users Steam has everyday.

            Facebook shall do the same except most folks on facebook can’t afford the Rift or are cheap as opposed to users on Steam

            So in the end, both products shall be in the spotlight alongside PSVR.

            Vive seems to to more than the Rift and has plenty of different features so it won’t be the same.

            Pulling facts out their ass is what a worshiper does and that’s you.

            Both products are great but it seems you want to belittle the Vive like a typical Worshiper.

            Your stupidity is oozing out of you.

            Just admit all 3 VR products are great in their own way and there is use for all their core features. Well, the Vie does have AR as well though.

            So in the end, users shall buy w/e they want and mostly go for the cheaper option despite features. All three VRs and thensome shall be a success :)

          • Lamanuwa

            True, but my point still stands. “Sold” is when money exchanged hands.

      • Lamanuwa

        Agreed. What about Specs without price?

        Isn’t that by definition, worthless.

  • user

    Check out the new mediaXstanford videos @youtube

  • REP

    Sounds to me they will have a 1st person VR game on Vive and it will look like Battlefield.

    • user

      Probably l4d 3 ;)

      • Shinra Tech

        or HL3 ???

  • release24

    Chet i know u read this – tell me where is l4d3, so many years, so many ppl left 4 wait

  • Lamanuwa

    I’m a little disappointed at how everything went down though. No media event or showcase, no initial lineup, don’t know how much it’s gonna cost.

    Find out midnight, 28th Feb, and buy it if you like it.

  • polysix

    Clearly VIve is the only VR system ‘doing it right’ from the start. Input and excellent (easily scalable) tracking is essential to feeling good and having fun in VR. Gamepad games on DK2 got old and made me use VR less and less. It was still ‘great’ but without input (at least) it felt like a tech demo more often than a new paradigm. I developed some VR stuff as far as I could before conceeding that without VR input I could progress no further (unless I wanted to severely compromise design and make underwhelming stuff that may almost have stayed non VR if using a gamepad)

    I craved to interact properly and the Vive provides that, and makes it standard, from day one. That is a valuable thing to the future of VR. Rift meanwhile will suffer a sea of tacky gamepad VR by encouraging use of that as the ‘standard’, even after touch ships it’ll only sell to a small portion of rift owners. If it’s bundled with CV2 then Oculus will be on the same level as Vive Pre, until then it’s not even close.

    And Chaperone *IS* a great addition, the times in DK2 I got annoyed at not being able to find X,Y,Z or worried about orientation in the real world (and that was with a SEATED HMD!).

    Just seems the Vive is extremely well thought out for VR while the shipped rift CV1 is doing VR a disservice (other than in the things Oculus pushed for early on – good screen, low persistence etc). Their audio and headphones are a decent addition too to be fair but to me it’s just a jazzed up DK2 in its current state while Vive is a whole new ballgame that lets me create as I need to and PLAY as I’ve dreamed of!

    Thank you HTC/Valve! :)

    • P. Pzwski

      Yes yes. Great advertisement;) Don’t compare old DK2 with VIVE… Now it’s the same thing (same specs). And VIVE losing. Why? Price. People in 2016 want just try VR – and that’s why price is crucial. As I wrote:

      same resolution, same content (yes…), same sitting/standing tracking (and you can buy another cameras for Oc., if one is not enough, and have ‘room experience’ – which is – in my opinion – totally worthless for games and videos), same PC requirements.

      • Is it really the same resolution? Doesn’t seem like it.

        Standing tracking maybe different

        Don’t see how a room experience is worthless.

        Doesn’t seem like you know anything about Vive and pulling facts out your ass sucking on that Occulus dick.

        Typical fangirls.

        The Rift is a great product anyway, though one editor has said that the Rift needs to catch up to the Vive.

        PS: They have also mentioned the PC requirements for Vive not being as high as Rift.

      • care package

        CES did all the advertisement for them. Pretty much every video I watched where they tried both preferred the Vive experience, for two main reasons. The hand controllers and a standing experience.

    • What do ye mean by gamepad games on VR getting old. You mean the VR games played with Dpad or the non VR games like GTA/Mirror’s Edge, etc.?

      Don’t really see how VR on non VR games get old though as VR itself is just a special screen. It’s like getting sick of playing games on a 4K or 3DTV.

  • Shinra Tech

    im assuming the vive will also rely on a strong graphics card?

  • Shinra Tech

    What price range are we looking at for vive?

  • Shinra Tech

    Driving, flying and Mech-warrior style games are conducive to VR since you are in a cockpit and dont need to get up and walk around. duh- I would have imagined this would have been the smart way for first gen VR headsets to go…

  • Great article. Much respect for Chet. However, can someone please clarify what’s going on with the DevKit situation or at least ask the people who might know. Is the sign-up process closed? Was it ever real?