Unnamed sources have now reportedly confirmed that images of a VR headset bearing Valve branding that initially leaked over the weekend are representative of a new consumer product the company is working on. There aren’t too many details that can be derived from the images but the product does appear to include at last two outward-facing cameras, built-in earphones, and other VR tracking-related sensors. Although there’s nothing in the images to provide a true scale reference, the lenses embedded in the headset also appear somewhat larger than those that are typically used, which could be indicative of a higher resolution display for each eye. At very least, those could result in a wider field of view for wearers. As of this writing, none of that has been verified by the game production and distribution company itself. However, the report does add some to the credibility already granted by the inclusion of a Valve logo on a board that’s shown in one of the images.
Background: Prior to these images, the primary indication that Valve might be working on its own VR hardware was the showing of a new controller intended for use with the technology that the company has dubbed the Knuckles EV2 controller. Those were demonstrated back in June, which also happens to be approximately one month before the new headset images were taken, judging by the date on a computer monitor also captured in one of the images. Aside from the more traditional technologies found in VR controllers, Knuckles EV2 incorporates pressure sensitive capacitive sensors that are expected to add a more nuanced and natural feel to the experiences players engage with. That’s in addition to a touchpad, buttons, and motion sensing, allowing developers to more finely tune the level of immersion in their experiences and for the new controller to be backward-compatible with titles that don’t support pressure sensitive touch interactions.
Setting that aside, Valve’s previous efforts in VR have largely been confined to its partnership with HTC on VIVE. The initial launch of that ecosystem and hardware happened back in April of 2016 and was followed by a more advanced ‘Pro’ version earlier this year. Compared to the original, beyond big updates to display resolution refresh rate bump to 90hz, HTC and Valve updated the room-scale tracking to allow for double the room size, SteamVR tracking with sub-millimeter accuracy, and overall design for a better more comfortable fit. A wireless adapter kit was also launched for that gadget as recently as September.
Impact: There aren’t any external connection points shown in the more recent images, however, and there’s also no sign of any VIVE or HTC-branding. What’s more, it isn’t immediately clear whether this is intended to be a standalone unit or a PC-connected VR headset and this new hardware may not be related to the above-mentioned Knuckles controllers at all. For the time being, Valve has not confirmed anything about any new hardware to be released under its own branding. HTC has, in the meantime, shifted much of its own focus to building an open and universal VR ecosystem on the software side of the equation as well as launching standalone hardware that doesn’t require a PC or smartphone. So this newly pictured hardware could really be anything at this point.