Valve Planning to Join VR Race With SteamVR?

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Steve Anderson
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Valve Planning to Join VR Race With SteamVR?

We've heard a lot coming out of the virtual reality (VR) stakes of late, with Facebook's Oculus entry taking up a lot of the bandwidth and a host of other competitors from Google to Samsung and beyond looking to get a slice of this long-pent-up market. Now, there's one more product looking to step in, and it's one that should make Facebook terrified, not to mention the rest of the field: Valve's SteamVR.

The new reports suggest that Valve will be showing off the SteamVR system at the upcoming Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, which is said to be a departure from earlier reports in which Valve insisted that no such new hardware was in the works. Of course, given that Valve was holding virtual reality demonstrations as it was back at the Steam Dev Days show in January 2014, it wasn't exactly out of line to suggest that Valve had something up its collective sleeve.

But the actual release of the product is said to be something of a mixed bag in its current form, with the system working spectacularly well by some accounts, but being entirely too bulky to be of much use. The system reportedly requires a full-room setup to produce the fullest effects, and that may well be a pretty big barrier to entry for a lot of users.

Naturally, this is still early-stage stuff; no one else in the market has much risk of Valve taking first-mover advantage and getting its system on shelves first. Indeed, there are reports that a lot of people are skeptical about Valve's hardware plans, especially in light of the Steam Machine concept. Still, the fact that it's being shown, and Valve is putting out something of an active call for developers—a tweet from SteamVR asks if there's a developer or publisher interested in “...experiencing the new SteamVR hardware”, and then provides a link to the Steam store—that certainly suggests a product in the works.

Given that the Oculus Rift is essentially just a headset that is said to work with at least PC and possibly more than that at last report, that may give it a serious advantage in the field over a full-room system like the SteamVR. But considering that this is still the very earliest of days, we don't know just what form this system will take in the end. That means a lot of options in terms of final form factor, and if SteamVR can bring the kind of experience we've heard about so far—there have been some comparisons to holodecks—to a smaller, easier to work with system, then SteamVR may well end up an Oculus Rift killer, particularly if it plays nicely with consoles as well. That's going to be the real deciding factor here, I figure; if we can get a system that works as well with console as with PC, that's going to pull a lot of interest; the PC and console markets do have some overlap here, and being able to offer the same platform for both is going to be quite welcome for many.

This is all still very early-stage, so we're likely to see a few changes before it all makes its way to the field, but one more competitor in the VR field is certainly very welcome, and may well give the market a little extra push.

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