When HTC Vive went on sale in 2016 the first download any sensible owner should have started was Valve’s The Lab. The collection of mini-games was designed to showcase the virtues of virtual reality (VR), with roomscale environments and lots of items to grip and interact with. However, as the years have passed The Lab started to get a little dated, surpassed by new content which took The Lab’s ideas and expanded them. Today, the title gets the update it has long deserved, improving a raft of features.
With Valve Index now available as well as the Index Controllers Valve has obviously looked at hand interactions – hence why its called the Hands-on Update. It doesn’t matter whether the controllers you own fully track fingers or not, the update will represent hands ‘to the highest fidelity possible’ states Valve.
Another feature taken right back to the bare bones is the physics-based interaction. This means that most objects within The Lab can be grabbed, poked, thrown, smashed, stacked and discarded however you wish. Just as important as touching stuff in VR is the audio, creating a rich soundscape to immerse you in. So all the spatialisation tech in The Lab has been overhauled to create an even richer audible tapestry.
It’s not just stuff you can see and hear which Valve has improved upon. Originally The Lab was designed to run at 90 Hz, the optimum frame rate for most VR headsets at the time to provide a smooth experience. That has caused some issues so now all the code is frame rate dependent, ensuring a seamless experience across a wide array of devices.
Other under the hood improvements also include upgrading to a modern engine version. All of which should mean The Lab becomes just as relevant as it was back in 2016, and an essential download for any Valve Index customer. As Valve says in a statement: ‘The Lab is a playground, and one that you can now enjoy like never before.’
While the update is good it probably isn’t the news fans want to hear. Valve still has yet to release any details regarding the ‘Flagship VR Title’ mentioned in May, when it does VRFocus will let you know.