Valve Expects Virtual Reality To Be Awesome Within 2 Years

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Virtual Reality is coming. As in, actual, good, user-friendly virtual reality. The stuff sci-fi has promised us for decades.

Don’t take my word for it. Valve — easily one of the most revered and admired companies in gaming — has gone deep on virtual reality R&D, and they believe that amazing, consumer-friendly virtual reality is but a couple of years away.

If you’re looking for an excellent weekend read, check out this slide-by-slide transcript of a Steam Developer Day talk given by Valve’s own Michael Abrash. Abrash, an industry vet with code in everything from Windows to Quake, now works for Valve (after Valve’s Gabe Newell spent years convincing him to join) on their Virtual Reality research team.

No time to read the whole thing? You should still find time — it’s really a great read into the mindset of people who are aiming to change the face of gaming. But if you can’t, Here are but a few of the most interesting bits gleaned from the presentation:

  • Abrash estimates that “compelling, consumer-priced” Virtual Reality headsets will be on the market within 2 years. (The Oculus Rift is well on its way, but it’s still very much a developer-centric product. Oculus isn’t rushing to get these things to market, and that’s for the better.)
  • The biggest challenges to solve, according to Abrash: display resolution is too low (“1080p works, [but] more is better.), it needs to be wireless, and head tracking still isn’t good enough. Also, current headsets require users to manually and physically adjust parts of the headset, and it’s too difficult.
  • Abrash: ”I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Oculus Rift DK1, and I’d guess that most of you think it’s just an interesting curiosity at this point. That’s a reasonable take right now, but we think you should pay close attention, because VR is likely to have a big impact much sooner than you think”
  • Valve has built their own prototype headsets (pictured below), but they aren’t focusing on competing with Oculus (which Abrash calls “the obvious candidate” for the first succesful, mainstream headset). Instead, Valve is sharing everything they learn with Oculus.

valve headset

Valve’s prototype virtual reality headset

If you’ve been paying attention, Valve is by no means the only industry pillar that’s already all aboard the Virtual Reality train. Industry legend John Carmack (as in, the creator of Doom), quit his gig at the company he founded (iD) to be the CTO at Oculus.

Having already spent a fair amount of time with the Oculus Rift, I’m already quite convinced that it’s amazing. It’ll only go truly “huge” once the technology starts playing friendly with consoles – but as Abrash notes, the PC is the best platform in these early days as it’s better for prototyping and rapid development.

Check out a video of our own Anthony Ha taking a spin with the latest-and-greatest Rift prototype below: