Valve’s new SteamVR Home Beta just launched and it represents a vast improvement on what has gone before with fully 3D, customisable environments, a glut of new social features and a fully featured Steam interface. Will you ever want to leave VR?

Valve launched its SteamVR Home in beta form on Friday and it represents their vision of both how to bridge the gap between the desktop steam interface we all know while integrating meaningful and functional social interaction with your friends whilst in VR. It’s the most comprehensive and wide reaching update that SteamVR’s UI has seen and it’s extremely promising.

Anyone who has used the HTC Vive on a regular basis will be familiar with Steam VR’s base interface, the ‘construct’ from where you can browse, buy and launch games immersively. This interface has received countless updates since its release, but the core experience hasn’t really advanced. You could plop in low resolution spherical images as your backdrop to customise your space and you could skin your motion controllers if you so chose, but in general it wasn’t a virtual space you wanted to spend much time in. With SteamVR Home however, Valve want you to re-consider that position, adding in a raft of new features to keep you and your friends stay in VR for longer.

4 Videos That Take You Inside Valve's 'The Lab'

The first major update adds support for fully 3D, navigable environments. Gone is the flat, unconvincing spherical photo, now you have the ability to select from Valve or community supplied 3D scenes. These new environments are powered by the same underlying technology that drove Valve’s impressive photogrammetry experience ‘Destinations’, which formed part of Valve’s The Lab that launched alongside the HTC Vive last year. As with Destinations, you can navigate to fixed points within the space, with the world made up from a mix of photographic and geometrically rendered assets. It’s a huge improvement, but more than just a visual overhaul, this new technology provides a great canvas for SteamVR Home’s array of other features. Assets to create these new environments will be added to SteamVR Workshop with tools there enabling content creators to build and submit new environments.

Once you have your base environment looking the way you want, you can import 3D props to place in the scene and, should you feel creative, scribble into that 3D space using Home’s integrated ‘Tilt-Brush-like’ 3D painting function. Once you’re happy, you can then invite any friends who also own SteamVR compatible headsets into your virtual home and spend time customising your avatar with a fairly comprehensive set of options, all via the now familiar floating ‘holographic’ style Steam interface.

From a functional standpoint, the new beta also adds UI options to reduce the time you spend traversing Steam itself. The ‘Quick Links’ feature holds your most used games, applications and your friends list in a triptych of at-a-glance tiles. These can then be embedded into your Home scene at your discretion.

How to opt into SteamVR Beta:

1) Open Steam on your desktop
2) Find ‘SteamVR’ in your Library under ‘Tools’
3) Right click and go to Properties
4) Select the Betas tab and pick SteamVR Beta from the dropdown

It’s an important move from Valve and shifts SteamVR from a functional yet somewhat uninviting venue for the base VR experience to something much more inviting, collaborative and ultimately much more enjoyable. There are clear parallels of course to the work being done elsewhere in the VR space, not least Valve’s direct rivals in the VR ecosystem Oculus and Facebook. But unlike other options for social VR, SteamVR Home is integrated into a tool mant of us use daily and in a way that’s seamless and non-disruptive. Doubtless we’ll see Oculus Home evolve along similar lines, with applications like Spaces better woven into the fabric of the experience, but right now Valve has a march on its rivals and is leading the way.

Facebook Launches Social VR App 'Facebook Spaces' in Beta for Rift
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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 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.
  • Xron

    This Island looks awesome, is it just photo?, or a 3d model where you can walk?

    • Firestorm185

      I believe it’s 3D, as it was kinda shown off along with the basic room landscape, although I haven’t personally tried that one yet. The “SteamVR Home” base one though is definitely that way (and this new home allows you to teleport in previously un-navigable SteamVR environments, which is pretty cool. )

    • craylon

      The island is indead awesome and you can walk around.
      The one thing I dont understand is if the hilltop apartement is the only environment with the new interface or if that will be available in the other destinations as well in the future

    • robert cole

      these are all existing environments in “destinations” a very cool app especially the visit to Valve HQ. the new steamvr home beta has been built using all that tech :)

  • Firestorm185

    I’d love to see someone come out with a knockoff minecraft environment where you actually have to make the house around yourself. That’d be pretty cool.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Still think PlayStation Home was also a good experience. It only (for me) needed 2 fixes. First one, streaming world instead of the level/switching slow loading as they did now (streaming world was already supported on other engines on the PS3). Second, real fullscreen video’s instead of the zoomed in crap they did which made the videos look awfull.

  • hyperskyper

    The current version of SteamVR always you to have full highly-detailed 3D environments when you start up. You can’t move around the environments but the most impressive ones are extremely detailed. The statement: “You could plop in low resolution spherical images as your backdrop to customise your space…” should be corrected.


    As someone who up until today used Oculus Home exclusively, I will say the SteamVR beta is a huge step in the right direction for both Rift & Vive users. Many environments, ability to teleport around, interactive elements, quick loads, friends list, multiplayer + more = WIN! Also, only a few functional tweaks away from making certain other apps/programs redundant.

  • Well, cool! VR interfaces of Steam was too rough… something like this had to be made!