Steam In Your Eyes: Big Picture Now For VR Headsets

By Graham Smith on January 14th, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

SteamVR will make loading TF2 marginally easier. Yay!

Years of only seeing the “VR” suffix in fiction has made it feel futuristic and unreal, but now it’s popping up everywhere. Valve have just quietly slipped support for virtual reality into Steam, letting you use their Big Picture interface while wearing a headset. It’s called SteamVR of course, and it’s in beta.

Big Picture mode was originally created for use with television sets, and turns the greys and greens of Steam’s interface into electric blues and chunky buttons. The VR version places the interface on a curve screen that hovers in front of your viewpoint, so you can clearly see all of it between games.

I used an Oculus Rift for a period of months, and needing to change or restart games always meant removing the headset, as neither Windows or Steam supported the Rift’s unusual resolution or shape. I’d welcome anything that means I’m not being blinded by a glowing desktop and mouse pointer every time I quit out of Euro Truck Simulator 2.

The beta was launched ahead of Steam Dev Days, a two-day conference hosted by Valve which is due to start tomorrow. Valve are expected to show off their own VR prototype to the invited developers, as an example of where the tech will be in the near future. Oculus Rift’s Palmer Luckey is also expected to be there to give a presentation about how developers might port their games to their system.

If you want to try the SteamVR beta for yourself, a Reddit user was kind enough to write some detailed instructions:

  • Go to “Library”, “Tools”, and download SteamVR
  • Opt into SteamVR Beta. Make sure it’s up-to-date
  • Set Steam to start in Big Picture mode.
  • Create a shortcut to Steam and add -vr to the launch options.
  • IMPORTANT: Set the Rift as an extended monitor and make sure it’s the secondary.
  • Start Steam using your modified shortcut.

If you have any problems with it – and you might, since it’s an early beta – then you can easily turn it off again and revert to your normal UI.

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35 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Martel says:

    Interesting. I hope they come out with the consumer version of the Rift this year, I’d love to use one.

  2. almostDead says:

    For the love of God, a new photo please, when talking about this thing.

  3. yhalothar says:

    RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH FOR FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUCKS SAKE SELL ME THE OCULUS HD ALREADY GRRARAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    • staberas says:

      feel your pain bro…

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      STOP OVERHYPING A THING THAT WAS ALREADY OLD-FASHIONED IN THE 50’S ALREADY!
      3D CAN DIE IN A FIRE!

      • yhalothar says:

        THE KIND OF 3D YOU ARE REFERENCING CAN INDEED GO DIE IN A FIRE BUT THIS IS SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY!!!!!!!!111!

        • SominiTheCommenter says:

          NOT IN THE BROADER SENSE. I CAN GET IMMERSED ALLRIGHT WITH DEUS EX-ERA GAMES, THANKYOUVERYMUCH. THE PROBLEM IS THAT THERE AREN’T THAT MANY GAMES LIKE THAT.
          I JUST THAT IT ISN’T THE NEXT BIG THING AS MANY ARE SAYING, JUST ANOTHER GIMMICK!!!one!eleventy!

          • Premium User Badge

            Clavus says:

            I DISAGREE COMPLETELY AND DARE YOU TO REPEAT YOUR STATEMENTS AFTER A SINGLE PROPER PLAY SESSION WITH THE ACTUAL DEVICE.

            No seriously, VR is anything but a gimmick. Anyone who says it is is spouting complete nonsense.

          • Juan Regular says:

            I give you about 5 seconds in Skyrim with the rift before you change your mind. It’s awesome in the most literal sense of the word. Everything is so huuuge.

          • Loopy says:

            Actually the mere idea of Skyrim on the OR sounds mind-blowing, I’d be quite happy to fork over good money for that experience! :)

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            I wonder if it would even have to be 3D to be effective. I imagine just something that covers your field of view and responds to your head motion would be enough. IMAX films (filmed in the IMAX format) are incredibly immersive, and they don’t have the latter bit.

          • fish99 says:

            3D isn’t a gimmick. I’ve played about 260 hrs of Skyrim, all in stereo 3D and it’s been fecking awesome. I played 125 hrs of Amalur in 3D as well, and again it was awesome, a much more immersive experience. Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were great in 3D as well. Trine 1/2 are both great in 3D, also F.E.A.R, Far Cry, Left 4 Dead, and last year I replayed Thief Gold and Thief 2, again all in 3D.

            Your vision works in stereo. All 3D does it send slightly offset images to each eye, your brain gives it the depth the same way it does looking at the real world. Honestly I find it weird gaming without 3D now.

            VR + 3D should be even better if it’s done well.

      • Entitled says:

        STOP PRETENDING THAT ANYONE HERE IS OVERHYPING 3D, AS OPPOSED TO VR!!!

        • SominiTheCommenter says:

          3D IS JUST A POOR MAN’S VR!!!

          • Tiax says:

            I’m actually pretty sure that’s precisely what he just said.

            And yeah, as mentionned above, just try the OR for a few minutes.

    • Premium User Badge

      amateurviking says:

      LOUD NOISES!

  4. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    This marks the first time I have watched a 1st-person rift video on youtube of a 1st-person rift video on youtube on a rift:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=zgP7dei0hzc#t=143
    (via roadtovr)

    Not helped by the outer video’s vertical offset, I think the only reason my head didn’t explode is because it’s just about shut down for the night.

  5. Vinraith says:

    Am I the only one that thinks strapping a monitor to your face sounds like a bad idea? Have we got any studies as to what this does to your vision over a long period?

    • RProxyOnly says:

      “Am I the only one….?”

      This is t’internet, you are NEVER the only one.

      ..and yes, I agree. I think in the long term it would certainly do damage to one’s sight, possibly other damage also… I think that is a very likely and obvious conclusion.. and I think the damage would be worse and quicker acting in children…. I REALLY fucking hope parents don’t just let their kids put this on, and not monitor them and the time they are spending with it on their head…. FAT FUCKING CHANCE THOUGH.

    • Voxel_Music_Man says:

      I remember as an 8 year old kid my mother always told me I’d get “square eyes” if I kept my face up against that “bloody computer screen” all day. 20 years later and I have better eyesight than anyone I know.

      And hey; anecdotal evidence is always reliable … right?

    • roryok says:

      I do wonder about having a screen that close to your face though, purely from a point of view of focus. If you put your phone 2 inches in front of your face you can feel your eyes straining to focus on it (although granted their both trying to focus on one screen rather than one per eye

      • quintesse says:

        That’s what the lenses are for, you can just relax and focus on infinity

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorManiac says:

      Its an interesting problem isn’t it. I just hope they have set up a system of lenses that force the eyes to focus on the near distance, rather than a couple of inches away from the face.

    • sophof says:

      What kind of magical death-rays do you think are coming out of a screen? And why do you think getting a couple of cm closer will suddenly activate them?

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        It’s not about that, it’s the muscles that focus you eyes. If those get damaged you can’t see, even though your eyes are fine.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      In response to the “too close to focus” comments: The lenses put the screen out at infinity with regard to focus, so the eyes are relaxed in that sense. You can cross and diverge your eyes all you want, too, but I can’t imagine that being much worse than doing so without a thing on your face, as long as you configure the lenses and warping effect correctly for you eyes. (Oculus and Valve have provided tools to make the latter fairly easy, and Oculus is supposedly working on better lens adjustments for the consumer version.) At any rate, one should take breaks just as with any other activity.

      The consumer version is on track to be a normal OLED phone screen, for whatever that’s worth. It (or any game) could warp your perception of reality enough that you (for example) drive around trying to run people off the road in real life. You could even be going for points on your driver’s license, but you’d probably just get thrown in jail instead.

      I’ll stop here, as there are TONS of things to consider on this subject. Much has been studied, but there’s plenty more that hasn’t. There certainly *are* potential dangers associated with VR, and some of these have been studied by psychologists and neuroscientists. (There’s something along the lines of “adaptation” that lawyers might have a field day with, but I have to leave for work soon.) Google and .edu domains are much better resources than me for all that, but I like to counter small bits of FUD when I can.