Valve Announces New Technology for Making Better Virtual Reality Games

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Valve, creator of Steam and SteamVR, a leading platform for games and virtual reality (VR) applications, today announced the availability of new core components needed by VR hardware manufacturers to deliver best in class VR systems.

Complementing the existing free license for sub-millimeter room-scale tracking and input technology, today’s news marks the addition of other critical pieces for developing state-of-the-art VR hardware: an advanced optical system, manufacturing and calibration tools, and the supporting software stack to unify the hardware into an optimal user experience.

“World class VR requires highly precise tracking, matched optics and display technologies, and a software stack that weaves together the interactions between these components,” said Jeremy Selan of Valve. “For the first time, we’re making all of these technologies available to anyone who wants to build a best in class VR system for the millions of Steam customers accessing over 2,000 SteamVR compatible titles.”

About the Display and Optics Technology

Valve has spent years working closely with display manufacturers to adapt their technologies to the unique challenges of VR. Recent advancements in Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology combined with VR specific calibration now make it a viable technology choice for high end VR systems. LCD manufacturers have demonstrated fast-switching liquid crystals, low persistence backlights, and high PPI displays that, when calibrated and paired with the right software, are well matched to the highest quality VR experiences. Of course, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology was critical to the first generation of VR (being first to demonstrate fast transition times and low-persistence illumination), and it remains an excellent option for new head mounted displays (HMDs). While both display technologies have inherent artifacts unique to head-mounted usage, Valve provides custom hardware and software manufacturing solutions as part of the SteamVR technology suite to enable high quality visual VR experiences.

In addition, Valve has developed custom lenses that work with both LCD and OLED display technologies and is making these lenses available to purchase for use in SteamVR compatible HMDs. These lenses and Valve’s unique calibration and correction software are designed specifically to be paired with several off-the-shelf VR displays to enable the highest quality VR visual experiences. These optical solutions currently support a field of view between 85 and 120 degrees (depending on the display). The lenses, which are designed to support the next generation of room-scale virtual reality, optimize the user’s perceived tracking experience and image sharpness while reducing stray light. Valve is including the custom lens calibration and correction software within the SteamVR technology suite.

Finally, Valve continues to offer full room-scale, sub-millimeter tracking technology by providing a reference design for the “Watchman” tracking module and by offering Valve manufactured base stations with SteamVR Tracking 2.0 technology for sale to licensees.

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