Valve VR prototype is “lightyears ahead of the original Oculus Dev Kit,” says dev after studio visit

Friday, 28th February 2014 09:06 GMT By Dave Cook

Valve’s VR headset device will not be sold commercially, but one developer at Iridium Studios visited the company in Seattle to try it out. In his detailed report, he claims that the peripheral is “lightyears” ahead of the original Oculus Rift device.

The reason why Valve is not selling the device, is that it is using it internally to make Steam the go-to place for VR experiences, according to Iridium developer ‘Feep.’

Over on NeoGAF he said, “Steam is fully supporting VR as a standard library, and they have a vested interest in making their marketplace the “go to” place for VR experiences. A lot of their work is shared with Oculus, as well.”

Then, Feep gave his full impressions on Valve’s kit. “Valve’s solution is lightyears ahead of the original Oculus Dev Kit,” he claimed. “Resolution, while not at ‘retina’ level perfection, was no longer really a significant issue. The screen door effect was almost completely negligible, thanks to a shiny 1080p display. (Not actually shiny, shiny like in Firefly.)

“Just as fantastic was their low-persistance display tech. The display ran at a blistering 95 Hz, and the pixels only flash for approximately 20% of that 10.52 ms refresh time. You don’t notice any flickering or lack of brightness, and the plus side is that ghosting and smearing were drastically reduced. Not *completely* eliminated, mind you.

“Latency? Low. Approximately 25ms. Not noticeable.”

Feep added that VR’s elephant in the room – motion sickness – has been countered by Valve by placing “QR code-like papers on the walls,” so that the camera can see its own position at all times. Looking at the floor however, because it didn’t have QR codes on it, caused the headset to lose its position.

Valve’s device isn’t wireless, and Feep suggested that this is perhaps due to latency concerns, before discussing the 15 tech demos he tried while at the studio. “None of them were even remotely close to a ‘game,’ he stressed, “and existed mostly as visual experiences.”

“The first demo stuck me in a simple room, whose walls were textured with financial data for Facebook from some website. An odd choice, yeah. There was a little red cube bouncing around the room, and the desire to avoid it was *extremely strong*. A dodgeball / laser field game immediately popped into my mind, but as I mentioned before, a tether really hurts this type of idea.

“I want to point out how strong the positional tracking is, here. *I was moving around and dodging something with absolutely zero issue.* Jumping, ducking, Matrix-dodging, whatever. It’s bizarre how compelling this demo was, as it could be knocked up in Unity in approximately seven minutes.”

Another demo saw Feep standing on a high ledge that led to a sheer drop. He claimed that the simulation made him reluctant to step off the side. There was also a Portal 2 demo, “one featured Atlas,” he explained, “one of the co-op robots from Portal 2, in three different sizes. Directly in front was a human-sized version, then off to the right was a tiny little figure model, and then directly behind me was a five-story tall version.

“Scale is *extremely impressive* in VR, and apparently several people actually instinctively tried to get out their phones and take a picture. Heh. Not gonna work, nerds. The next was the really cool ‘turret building’ from Portal 2, an extremely intricate animation. It was cool to get up close and really see it from different angles.

“As cool as “big things” are in VR, though, ‘small things’ are equally impressive. Someone had taken the set from the Portal 2 Valentine’s Day advertisement, moving stick figures and all, and placed it down as a miniature model a la Beetlejuice in front of the player.

“Tiny desks, tiny people, tiny coffee mugs! In a normal game, you could manipulate the camera to get close enough to the tiny coffee mugs so that they appeared to be large, but that simply isn’t possible in VR: you matter how close you got, they were still little tiny coffee mugs, because your perceptions of distance and scale are accurate. It would really be an incredible sensation for any ‘god game’, towering over and examining your creations from a giant’s throne above. And you know what? The stick figures looked great in 3-D. Really cool.”

Signing off, Feep explained that he and Valve discussed the VR concept and its future for some time, and added, “This is an incredible, potentially world-changing technology. There are obstacles to overcome, but many of them have already been conquered. The use cases for these devices are almost literally infinite. This is the future. Tron is the future.”

What do you make of the above?

Via DualShockers.



  1. Stardog

    What do I make of the above? It’s the same news as a few weeks ago about Valve’s prototype, except you’ve inserted some random dev overhyping it.

    We won’t be pasting QR codes on our walls just to play a game. Of course the tracking will be good if you do that. The latest Oculus Rift has dots on the headset itself, instead of on your walls.

    #1 10 months ago
  2. Solarmon

    Really? How about they just start bringing it out, then, so we can actually see what they got?

    If I was working for the Oculus Rift people, I would the hell stay away from affiliating too closely with Valve. They are completely overhyping their SteamOS, controller, whatsoever, and I do not see any benefit for an VR device to be used in a living room. You don’t put a blindfold on when you want to socialize with people in the same room. The future of VR is with PC and other dedicated rigs.

    #2 10 months ago
  3. Cobra951

    I always laugh when otherwise intelligent people use light-year ( a unit of distance) to emote about time. It’s like watching a high official give a speech with mustard on his chin.

    #3 10 months ago
  4. TheWulf


    /me too

    Though I think he might actually be using it as a measure of distance, here? I think he’s talking in terms of a race, so Valve is ‘lightyears ahead’ in that race.

    I could be wrong.

    #4 10 months ago
  5. Tormenter

    “The reason why Valve is not selling the device, is that it is using it internally to make Steam the go-to place for VR experiences, according to Iridium developer ‘Feep.’”

    This statement doesn’t make sense to me.. surely if Valve as ‘perfecting’ the experience and fitting their games for it, so that they have the biggest library, then SURELY they would want that experience to be on the same platform it’s being built/tested on, plus a massive profit on the side… It doesn’t make sense to keep that tech to oneself whilst using it to create an experience for a different piece of hardware.

    I am glad however that I won’t have to stick bits of paper all over my walls for it to work properly.

    #5 10 months ago
  6. Tormenter


    The statement isn’t referring to ‘time’.. it’s using the phrase correctly.. to denote distance.. i.e one experience is ‘miles apart’ from the other…. it’s kinda sloppy, but it’s perfectly acceptable.

    #6 10 months ago
  7. antraxsuicide

    @Tormenter Yeah, I don’t understand that point either.

    And I’ll agree with the commenter above about not associating with Valve. Valve is a company that has a strong fanboy following, but that’s a bit misleading (like any fanboy following). If they’re too stupid to release a superior product for bogus reasons, then they’re too stupid to work with.

    #7 10 months ago
  8. TwoGFourTB

    Bra, you don’t need the explanation of ‘firefly shiny’ we all know what that means

    #8 10 months ago
  9. Cryoburner

    I suspect the reason Valve has no plans to sell the prototype is because they aren’t really a hardware company. They’re interested in making Steam and their game engine work well with current and upcoming VR hardware, not in selling VR headsets. And just because they might have a prototype that’s better than the existing Oculus Rift designs doesn’t necessarily mean that such a device, as built, would be able to be sold at a competitive price. And for all we know, the consumer version of the Rift may be just as good or better once it’s eventually released. I’m sure Valve is working with Rift dev units and other consumer VR hardware in-house as well, but want to show their demos off on hardware that’s similar to what people may be using a year or more from now.

    #9 9 months ago
  10. salarta

    “The first demo stuck me in a simple room, whose walls were textured with financial data for Facebook from some website.”

    I see Michael Abrash was thinking of leaving Valve to go to Oculus Rift once they sold out to Facebook well before the actual acquisition took place. :P

    Anyway, maybe Valve has a shot of making their own consumer model when they’re ready to do it after all, if it’s still ahead of Oculus Rift even after Valve gave patents to the company before they sold out.

    #10 9 months ago

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