Valve announced this week that it will be offering the licensing for their virtual realty technology to companies for free. This will be a no-strings attached deal, meaning that companies will not be forced to pay royalties or a start up fee for using the technology.
Valve has claimed that this deal “enables hardware developers to build highly precise position and orientation sensing into devices of all kinds.” The technology that Valve is giving out is similar to the HTC Vive that was co-created by them and HTC. They are hoping that developers will be drawn to the device, boasting “360 coverage, accuracy down to under a millimeter, and low latency.”
As an additional incentive, Valve is offering in-person training to the first few waves of licencees. Signers who miss that promotion will be able to learn from Valve’s website some of the intricacies of the device.
HTC believes that the sharing of this technology is beneficial to them in the long run. Raymond Pao of HTC said in a press release:
It’s critical to the future of the Virtual Reality Ecosystem to open up the tracking technology to support the growth of a healthy portfolio of products that work together with HTC Vive…This is an amazing way to complement the HTC Vive and spur further innovation in VR. We will also offer training in the Asia region in the coming months to support the adoption and licensing of Steam VR Tracking. We’re thrilled to see the world of tracked devices expanding and growing
Clearly, the expansion of the VR market will only serve to expand their customer base and solidify VR as a financially viable hardware platform. Valve’s Alan Yates weighed in, adding “Making this tracking technology available to more partners is an extremely important step in the evolution of virtual reality and 3D tracking. We are very confident that doing so will result in new and innovative experiences for all VR customers.”
The question remains why Valve might need to give the platform a gentle nudge, rather than allowing it to grow naturally. Perhaps it is not selling or developing as quickly as they hoped so. Or, with augmented reality games on the rise thanks to Pokemon Go, they might wish to strike while the iron is hot, as interest to companies as well as consumers will eventually cool. Valve might also believe that with Niantic has opened the floodgates, and hope to claim their seat as the pioneers of the platform, rather than a company who merely followed the herd.
Whether it was due to desperation or inspiration, Valve has once again made a bold decision that will be interesting to watch as it unfolds. Certainly, virtual reality has a place in the market for the time being. But for customers and developers alike to accept the Vive as a serious platform, it will take a unified front of all virtual reality hardware developers to cement its place as the future of gaming.