Valve Showing Unannounced SteamVR Hardware At GDC

Good news for people who like strapping things to their faces: Valve are bringing a new piece of virtual reality hardware to GDC next week.

In a single page that states, as we’ve heard before, that the “Steam Universe is expanding”, Valve outline their plan to show “the refined Steam Controller, new living room devices, and a previously-unannounced SteamVR hardware system” at the developer conference in San Francisco.

That it’s being described as “previously-unannounced” means that it’s presumably different from the hardware shown at Steam Dev Days last year, which depended on an entire room being painted with dots.

The page linked above doesn’t explicitly state that the new hardware is designed to ever become a consumer product however, and though their search for content creators suggests it will, Valve’s previous statements on the subject suggested they had no desire to enter the race for your face. Most of the prominent figures from their VR team – such as Michael Abrash – left to join Oculus, with whom Valve had been sharing research. SteamVR also already exists in some form, albeit only as a mechanism for more easily integrating Oculus support into Steam and its games.

As for the other news, the new living room devices is presumably a new set of Steam Machines, which are Valve’s attempt at creating a standard of sorts for living room PCs, powered by their own Steam OS.

The above linked page includes a form for people looking to demo the new hardware, but it’s intended only for developers to use. Not that it stopped me from trying to fill it in, of course. John and I are at the show and will find a way to try this thing out.

44 Comments

  1. Xzi says:

    Aww, I was hoping for an actual planned consumer-release device to compete with Oculus. Nobody who says they trust Facebook can do so with a completely straight face. Book. Ahem, that said, I did not know Valve had former employees working with Oculus. That’s reassuring to a small degree, at least on the talent side of things. We’ll see how things turn out. Most interesting is whether or not VR will actually “catch” this time with the mainstream, or at least part of it.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I don’t trust facebook, but I’m not sure how they can screw up Occulus enough for me to care?
      It’s possible that they could lock the consumer version down, so that it would only allow Faceboom(TM) games to run, but I can’t see why they’d do that, and if they do, just don’t buy it. Likewise, it’s technically possible that they could log everything you were watching/playing on the Rift, and send all that data home to Facebook(R), but again, just don’t buy it, or block it at your firewall.

      That said, I’ve only used my DK2 for about five minutes in the last month.

    • Razumen says:

      Facebook has it in it’s best interests to make sure the Oculus becomes as successful as possible, and for something like VR, locking it down to only programs it approves or limiting it in some other arbitrary way would be a terminal death-knell for the device. VR still has a large gap to cross before it can become accepted enough for it to be really considered successful, and not just another Track IR or other similar peripheral that’s been released in the past.

      The facts are that everyone’s been crying wolf since FB acquired Oculus, but there’s been no indication they’ve done anything harmful to it’s development since then. No one important has left as a result of it, and all the feedback from the new demos after have been great. I’d say there’s no reason to be anything but cautiously optimistic about it.

    • Xzi says:

      Side note: there seems to be some speculation that Nvidia might be entering the arena of VR competition, as well. And that they’ll be releasing as early as March 3rd, way ahead of Oculus.

      link to slashgear.com

      Being a happy GTX 970 and SHIELD owner, the prospect of this is very tempting. If they have been developing behind closed doors, let’s see if they can at least match Oculus in features and game compatibility.

      • Razumen says:

        The thing is, Nvidia is in the position of everyone else, where it’s in their best interest that all of these VR devices are compatible with the same games, otherwise it will be very hard for VR to get off the ground as the market of devices will be far too segmented and developers won’t bother making games for it. That said, I think the competition will be a good thing, if only for personal preferences and pricing.

        • darkhog says:

          Yeah, but I think VR race will be like initial 3D GPU race: No standard API, many competing ones (like in case of GPUs at the beginning with Glide, etc.) until one good API used by all VR manufacturers will emerge (GPU equivalent: OpenGL).

          Hell, now I think about it, similar thing happened with soundcards until SoundBlaster became a standard. Hm…

          • Razumen says:

            Yeah, it’s possible something like that will happen, although the key difference is there already was a previous demand for improved sound video from pretty much all computer users, whereas VR is something I think will require more work to get people to really see the possibilities for its use. Well, we can only be hopeful I guess.

          • Xzi says:

            The implication in the article is that Nvidia’s VR headset (still rumor) will be powered by something called OSVR. Open-Source VR. Supposedly an API that is supported across Oculus (and Samsung’s GearVR as a result), as well as even 3D-printed VR headsets.

  2. Cross says:

    Of possibly great interest to RPS, AMplitude are unveiling the next things to come for Endless Legend and Dungeon of the Endless at GDC as well, as told by the studio’s creative director in this Stream: link to twitch.tv

    • Cross says:

      P.S. This includes an expansion pack for Endless Legend. Excitement!

    • Zenicetus says:

      Oooh, yes! Excitement. Thanks for that, I haven’t been keeping up with the Amplitude forums and I’d like to get back into some more Endless Legend play.

    • Molay says:

      On another note when it comes to Endless Legend – Did they “fix” the AI? As it, does it actually pose a threat now, build units and stuff? Or might this be what they are announcing? I might revisit this game as soon as the AI can sort-of play the game.

    • zentropy says:

      Hah! Greatest piece of news today, really looking foward to this!

      Regarding the AI – it’s still not awesome. But depending on when you last played, it’s not actually ‘broken’ at certain difficulties anymore (i.e. at launch). They actually retrofit/equip their units and have more varied armies now, but beyond that there’s sadly no really amazing changes AFAIK. AI is still clueless on how to play some factions effectively.

      I’m more psyched for changes to facilitate multiplayer, as this is the strongest draw for me personally – as pretty much the first turn-based 4X I can stomach in MP . But I guess this means I’m not a part of the typical ‘imma play by myself’ 4X croud, so take my comment lightly? ^^

  3. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    VR is useless for DOTA! Silly Valve.

    • dbdkmezz says:

      It may be useless for playing DOTA, but it could be wonderful for spectating! Flying around the map with ease, looking to your side to see detailed stats…

    • Razumen says:

      Are you sure? Wouldn’t it be useful to easily look up, down and around on the map to more easily see the positions of teammate and enemies around you? I think you’re overlooking it a little to easily. Sure, seeing your keyboard might be a problem, but I doubt most competitive players have to look at their hands while they play.

    • darkhog says:

      Actually, first person DOTA would be cool.

  4. jrodman says:

    Things I enjoy strapping to my face:

    * Sleeping masks
    * Bacon
    * Alien parasites

  5. SupahSpankeh says:

    Hurrah.

    Because I don’t trust Oculus after the FB aquisition, and because competition is great, and because Valve are great.

    Note: VR System. Not specifically a visor. I’m hoping for some interesting other stuff – Valve have been quiet.

    • FreeTom says:

      That’s a thought. I bet it is a visor, but I’d be delighted to learn it was some sort of holographic projection whatsit that made stuff appear to be floating in front of the screen.

      I’d also be delighted to see confirmation that Valve were ever going to do another actual game again.

    • airmikee says:

      I have no idea when people started accepted visual and auditory input alone as VR. Isn’t that the exact same thing I already have with my monitor and speakers? Where’s the tactile feedback systems? Where’s the ability to really walk instead of faking it like with the Kinect? None of the current or announced systems even come close to approaching virtual reality, they’re all just cheap knockoffs.

      • Razumen says:

        Being able to look around with positional tracking and minimal lag is a big part of an immersive VR experience. Couple that with some accurate controllers and it’s even better. Obviously it’s not the holodeck-but if people had settled for nothing but perfection right from the start we would have thrown out our computers decades ago.

      • darkhog says:

        Don’t worry, eventually we’ll get to Matrix-like VR (or if you fancy anime, a NerveGear). It’s all in the realm of possibility and with increasing understanding on how our brains work…

    • Razumen says:

      There’s no reason to ditch Oculus just because FB purchased it, everything that’s come out since then is still great. Competition is good, but useless kneejerk reactions are not.

  6. Cinek says:

    So… it’s going to be under-speced and over-priced version of Oculus that’s perma-linked to the Steam, supported by 1/10th of a games that support Oculus, and released X-years after the Oculus itself? Brilliant…

    • jrodman says:

      To the detriment of my own mood, I find your commentary and/or snark quite believable.

  7. SominiTheCommenter says:

    Valve has officially turned into the dog from Up.
    You know, the onSQUIRREL!

  8. rob4001 says:

    Valve VR headset plus steam box plus controller = new hardware for games = Half life 3
    HALF LIFE 3 CONFIRMED! YEAH!!!

  9. Muthabuffer says:

    I’m getting less and less excited about Valves products. I’ll still use Steam as my primary shop, I already have hundreds of games there, but the client itself, especially the store, is becoming a mess.

    Valve seems to forget that hardware, as opposed to Half-Life, actually has competition so can’t be created in Valve time. I own an Alienware Alpha as I’ve wanted a really SFF PC for the living room for a while and after getting hyped about Steam Machines and bummed out by the delay I decided to get an Alpha anyway when it was on sale. I now don’t understand why I would want SteamOS? The Alpha plays every single one of my games and I can stream to it through Steam, what benefit is there for me in ditching windows especially if the Steam Controller (should I want one) will work on Windows? and after Valves rhetoric about openness and things not being exclusive they are hardly likely to make any game (if they ever make another) exclusive to SteamOS?

    Any new VR tech seems likely to suffer the same issue, unless if makes the Rift look like junk (which seems unlikely) why would people wait for Valves offering?

    I’ve always loved Valve but I’m becoming increasingly disillusioned, there a big company, employ some people and get some things done. For a start getting support to actually answer a question or complaint in 24hrs shouldn’t be a monumental task for a company that makes this much money from us as consumers, Humble can do it.

    • Cinek says:

      “is becoming a mess.” – it’s been that for quite a while now. Though I’m glad people start to notice.

      • PoulWrist says:

        It’s always been a mess :D But at least it’s not a mess that bluescreens your PC anymore :)

      • Muthabuffer says:

        True, but it’s definitely got worse in the last year or so. It’s not just the store though, why can’t I organise my games library properly rather than having to do each game of hundreds individually? it’s woefully outdated. Why can’t I just delete stuff in my inventory if I don’t want it. Why can’t I customise the community tabs? etc. etc. Too much information poorly presented IMO.

        • caff says:

          I’d agree with this. After buying so much junk on steam sales and humble bundles, I need an efficient way of filing those games in an area that I can’t see, so I’m less conscious of my extravagence and wastefulness.

        • Jeroen D Stout says:

          The one that always gets me is that there is not even an option to mute achievement notifications. Excuse me, Valve, that I wanted for one moment to just play a game and not bask in your community.

  10. Continuity says:

    I think Valve made a mistake in not acquiring Occulus before FB. Frankly i’m surprised they’re still working on VR now that Abrash has gone to Occulus.

    • Razumen says:

      The funny thing is, they pretty much had Oculus, as they let the people go who were working on it along with what they had made so far. Obviously Valve wasn’t interested in developing a head mounted display, otherwise they would’ve kept tight grips on them.

      Because of that, it’s quite possible that what they’re going to show is not a VR display device at all, but something else-perhaps some sort of VR motion controller or somesuch. Only time will tell.

  11. Joshua IX says:

    If it looks like a Headcrab I’m in.

  12. DanMan says:

    The C in GDC stands for conference, not show.

  13. The_invalid says:

    Great, because Valve’s track record of releasing hardware has been totally exemplary thus far.

    Also, blah blah something about Half Life 3, because gosh-darn, I really do hope they’re actually working on it.

  14. gunslingerfry says:

    Can’t wait for the new Steam Machine announcement followed by a list of partner’s versions and then NOTHING FOR A YEAR forcing the partners to rebrand and sell their devices as well as they are able.