Valve eyes virtual reality with Steam interface

Oculus Rift

15 January 2014

The annual CES gadgetfest may be over but Valve is keeping the momentum built up by the release of its SteamOS and Steam Boxes by declaring an interest in another field: virtual reality.

The company’s developer conference begins Wednesday and Valve has released an experimental virtual reality user interface for its Steam platform just in time for it: SteamVR.

The new game mode is only available in the Steam beta desktop client and requires users to start Steam from the command line using the “-vr” flag. The new VR functionality is designed for Steam’s Big Picture mode – the desktop client’s immersive, TV-friendly full screen view.

You’ll need an Oculus Rift headset to take advantage of the new functionality, which is one of the few consumer-grade VR headset worth talking about. Oculus is still shipping developer kits, but an official consumer release for the Rift is expected in 2014.

Sony is also experimenting with VR. During CES the company showed off a Smart Eyeglass prototype and an upgraded version of its Head Mounted Display. Sony’s headset appears focused on immersive video for now – although that may change as the PlayStation 4 looks to cement its position as the most popular next-gen console.

With interest in VR starting to pick-up, Valve has some big plans for the emerging gaming tech during Steam Dev Days. The company has several VR developer sessions planned where the company will talk about VR and the Steam client, a talk by the Oculus Rift team, and another talk about Valve’s own prototype virtual reality headset. It seems that Steam Machines are just the beginning of Valve’s hardware ambitions.

The description of the prototype on Steam’s Dev Days site says “We’ve figured out what affordable VR hardware will be capable of within a couple of years, and assembled a prototype that reveals that that level of VR hardware is capable of stunning VR experiences.”


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