The world of virtual reality gaming is becoming increasingly real with a number of high profile names developing their own headsets, namely Oculus VR, Sony and recently, Samsung. This time, PC Gaming flagbearer Valve has shown off its own VR headset.
The currently unnamed headset was demonstrated at the Virtual Reality Bender in Boston a few days ago. Looking more like a welder’s mask, the polka-dotted headset was a far cry from an earlier prototype seen in 2012, which looked more like something out of Ghostbusters:
A Reddit user going by the name “jonomf” attended the event and wrote extensively of his experience. The dots on the face of the headset are IR-reflective dots that are tracked by a desk-mounted camera, which is essentially how the unit tracks head movement.
As jonomf writes, the demonstration included an area featuring characters from Portal:
The demos were the same ones they run in “The Room”: a 3D grid of cubes showing webpages, a mirror showing your head as a cube, a tiny office of the 2D Portal people, the room full of pipes, a room with three of the robot playable characters from Portal 2 (one that’s your size, one tiny, one huge), one looking at a complex animated robot, and one where particles are constantly created a couple of feet in front of your face (thousands of serious DX11 compute particles with complex motion). All were very impressive; everyone I talked to agreed that the office full of Portal people was the most interesting: you really felt like a giant, and being able to bend down and hang out among them was very cool.
The experience left jonomf extremely impressed, with Valve’s VR device demonstrating “low persistence, perfect tracking, very high frame rate.” His only complaint was that returning to the real world after running around in a virtual one was disorienting and made him feel “like I was going to fall over.”
Valve’s VR set also received rave reviews in January from Tripwire Interactive’s David Hensley, who compared Valve’s headset and the Oculus Rift to an Xbox and an 8-bit Nintendo.
One tantalizing detail from the Boston event was the suggestion that a Dota 2 VR experience could be in the works. Hypothetically, it would allow the player to experience the game world as an arena sitting on a table in from of him or her. The player would be able to bend down and scrutinize the going-ons of the battlefield, and also experience the action as a spectator up close and personal with the battling heroes. This concept is purely experimental, however, and it is uncertain if Valve will take it to completion.
In January, Valve stated that it had no intention to release its own headset, instead opting to work with Oculus VR on their own headset. However, given the fact that Oculus were bought by Facebook for $2 billion after Valve made that statement, and the fact that no Oculus VR personnel were present at the Boston VR event, it stands to reason that Valve has changed their mind on the issue.