As was promised by Gaben, Valve has released information today on their new Virtual Reality headset, the Valve Index (Headset), as well as the Valve Index Controllers and Valve Index Base Station. Valve is promising for it to be the most advanced headset on the market, and with the specifications given, it isn’t difficult to believe them. Specifically, they are describing it as “high fidelity virtual reality.” This thing holds some real oomph based on what is given, so let’s take a deeper dive.
The biggest takeaways from the announcement are the headset’s specs, more specifically the visuals. The refresh rate is described as running at 120Hz, with backwards compatibility to 90Hz, the current market standard and what the main competitor, the Oculus Rift, currently refreshes at. This higher refresh rate will improve visuals as well as “allowing longer and more comfortable play sessions.”
That’s not all though, as the Index will have an optimized field of view that is 20° wider than the HTC Vive. This along with the dual-element lenses allows for “maximizing field of view without sacrificing edge-to-edge clarity.”
Finally of the notable specs, the audio. The Index speakers do not touch your ears, instead being spaced just off of them to allow for more spacial audio. With the audio being more outward from the player’s ear, the Index speakers allow sound sources to appear to “come from the environment around you, rather than from inside your head.”
My personal favorite part of this announcement are the Index Controllers, which are even more impressive than the headset. These are designed to make it feel like the player is actually using their hands in a game, rather than clicking down on triggers to simulate movement. It’s far more intuitive than anything on the market.
They will allow the player to reach out and grab an object in-game directly, instead of clicking the triggers to squeeze it. As the store page says, “Hold up two fingers to make the peace sign, or drop objects by just opening your hand – just like in real life.” This is achieved with sensor fusion, which is using 87 sensors on the controllers make it possible to track “hand position, finger position, motion, and pressure to determine user intent.”
Most interesting is the ability to accurately throw something in a game while feeling satisfying to the player. As Valve puts it, “Optical and motion sensors provide velocity and trajectory, capacitive and force sensors help determine the intended release point, and our fine-tuned algorithms and software bring it all together into a usable input/output.” This all working together allows you to have a natural feeling throw, which isn’t even something I considered to be a problem. There will also be a bevy of games compatible at launch with the controllers.
Index Base Station
The base stations may not seem as flashy, but are clearly important for those feeling a little cramped with their current VR setup. First off, the new design allows a wider field of view and range, and with two (which Valve recommends) you’ll have a “400% larger play space.” To help even more, consumers can add additional base stations to improve the experience, virtually eliminating tricky spaces that interfere with play.
The base stations use laser tracking to follow every movement possible for the headset and controllers, to a “sub-millimeter” resolution. These fixed lasers will sweep the room 100 times per second to track exactly how you move.
Thankfully, if the price seems a bit steep, the base stations are compatible with the HTC Vive Pro as well as the Steam Index.
Speaking of price, here are the current listings up for preorder:
Valve Index VR Kit: $999.00
Headset and Controller Bundle: $749.00
Base Stations: $149.00
It’s a steep price, and Valve warns that they are currently marketing to hobbyists and game makers wanting to test with the best on the market. For those that want to preorder, you can find the purchase page here. And for a more detailed look at the Valve index, you can check the website here.
We at Indie Ranger can’t wait to see what indie devs do with the headset, and can’t wait to report on them.