One could be forgiven for thinking that Valve’s SteamVR system made its debut at the 2015 Game Developers Conference (GDC) earlier this month with the HTC Vive virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD). In fact, the name SteamVR has been used by the company for a while now, referring to the option to navigate the digital PC store using the Oculus Rift HMD. Today Valve has updated the SteamVR Beta, bringing with it a host of new features and tweaks, some of which pave the way for the arrival of the HTC Vive later in the year.
In terms of general updates, SteamVR now features support for VR controllers should they be ‘enumerated by the driver’. There’s also support for discovering devices that have been plugged in after the software has launched. Furthermore, Valve has added support for ‘chaperoning’, a system that allows applications to show users safe areas to move around in when in VR. As many will know, the HTC Vive allows for user tracking in an area of up to 15 feet by 15 feet, suggesting that this system could alert players to when they approach a wall, as seen in the GDC demo.
Elsewhere, Valve has added a new component named ‘VR Compositor’, which simplifies the integration of VR support into applications. This system reportedly allows users to transition to one application to another without ‘full screen context changes’. A demo named HelloVR has also been added, allowing users to check that basic VR functionality is working. It should appear as a launch option for SteamVR and supports tracked controllers and ‘tracking reference objects’. Tellingly, only SteamVR’s ‘Lighthouse base stations and controllers’ are supported at the moment.
Finally, support for the Oculus VR software development kit (SDK) has been updated, bringing SteamVR up to speed with version 0.4.4. Users will need at least version 0.4.4 of the Oculus runtime to use the software.
These updates might seem sudden given that the reveal of the Vive is only a few weeks old, but bear in mind that Valve plans to release SteamVR developer kits this spring and it makes sense. The consumer version of the HTC Vive will be arriving in time for holiday 2015. VRFocus will continue to follow the device closely, reporting back with any further updates on it.