If you use a PC-based virtual reality (VR) headset then you’ll be very familiar with SteamVR, Valve’s VR ecosystem which supports almost two dozen headsets. 2019 was quite the year for the company, improving the overall customer experience as well as releasing the Valve Index headset. That momentum doesn’t look to be slowing down either in 2020, with new beta versions, Half-Life: Alyx and SteamVR 2.0 in the works.
First a little look back at the last 12 months. While the software is classed as beta state, Valve has released over one hundred updates to ensure a premium experience. These include the ‘Audio Update‘ in November which rectified issues when selecting between appropriate audio devices. Others added motion smoothing for AMD GPU’s, support for Oculus Rift S and an improved VR View Window.
And then there was Valve Index. With a tantalising tease at the beginning of the year Valve revealed the headset in May followed by the official launch in June. The company made no secret of the fact that the headset hadn’t been designed to encourage more people into VR, instead going for visual fidelity and comfort. Aimed squarely at enthusiasts who either wanted to upgrade from their original HTC Vive’s or those who had other headsets, the Valve Index offers one of the best consumer VR experiences going.
It’s not just the headset Valve wanted to improve, the Index controllers are very unique within the industry and likely to be copied. And then there’s the small matter of Half-Life: Alyx.
At the same time of the Valve Index reveal the company also hinted of work on a flagship VR title. As is now very well known that turned out to be an addition to Valve’s most venerated series, Half-Life. With the first title now over 20 years old and sequel Half-Life 2 16 years old, fans have been awaiting a proper sequel for a while.
Half-Life: Alyx isn’t quite that, with the storyline set between the first two videogames. Nevertheless, the prospect of the title arriving next month has certainly excited sales of Valve Index to the point where stock is continually sold out. While Valve Index won’t be the only VR headset to support the title, if you happen to own the headset or Index controllers then Half-Life: Alyx is free. Plus, in the run up to launch all the previous Half-Life videogames are free.
SteamVR in 2020
The updates have kept on coming in the first few weeks of 2020, with Valve releasing v1.10.9 and v1.10.10 already in February. The former was certainly the bigger of the two, adding an all-new SteamVR dashboard with an update quick launcher. The dashboard’s position has been moved closer and is auto-positioned based on a headsets proximity sensor.
Other additions in v1.10.9 included an icon for Oculus Quest – for all those Oculus Link users out there – as well as allowing: “Lighthouse controllers and trackers can now go to the idle and standby states even if the HMD has not gone into standby.” Vive Tracker roles can now be used for Knees and elbows. v1.10.10 received minor fixes to the user experience.
Do be aware that you need to opt into the Steam Client Beta to see these changes.
As what’s happening later this year Valve has made mention of SteamVR 2.0 saying: “The team is hard at work on SteamVR 2.0, which will feature a number of customer experience improvements.” No other details have been made available so you’ll have to wait and see.
VRFocus will continue its coverage of Valve and SteamVR, reporting back with all the latest news and announcements.