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Valve To Demo Prototype VR Headset, "Steam to Support and Promote VR Games" 55

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the where's-my-missle-command-3d-port dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The itinerary for Steam Dev Days 2014 lists two talks by Valve's internal virtual and augmented reality researchers, Michael Abrash and Joe Ludwig. Abrash's talk, titled 'What VR Could, Should, and Almost Certainly Will Be within Two Years' will feature a demonstration of Valve's secret prototype VR headset that is 'capable of stunning experiences.' Ludwig's talk 'Virtual Reality and Steam' will discuss how Valve will be adapting Steam to VR to 'support and promote Virtual Reality games.' Rift inventor and Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey will also be taking to the stage at Steam Dev Days to speak on best-practice for VR development." There's a hint that they might be showing off a head mounted display featuring a low persistence display, which would be great news for those of us that get the urge to hurl when playing Doom on a conventional display. If you missed it you might want to check out the slides and notes (PDF) from Michael Abrash's GDC2013 talk on VR.
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Valve To Demo Prototype VR Headset, "Steam to Support and Promote VR Games"

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  • by Ruedii (2712279) on Monday November 18, 2013 @08:27PM (#45459787)

    Low persistance displays are a tricky issue.

    They obviously don't have the issues that high-persistance displays have of holding frames for too long. However, they have another annoying effect, commonly referred to as the strobe effect. This has to do with each pixel being lit for only a minute duty cycle on the display. This causes bad flicker at low refresh rates.

    Early low persistance displays obviously were not very good on this issue. This is because the displays used very slow technologies such as oscolating mirrors.

    By the details I've read on their blog, I'm pretty certain Valve has gotten down that they need a high refresh rate to get the VR to work right. They have identified strobe effect as a problem, and have identified that while the traditional 60Hz rate, while tolerable, is far from ideal for low persistance displays. They seem to believe they can push the refresh rate high enough to deal with strobe effect. I have confidence that they can.

    Higher refresh rates also have other advantages for gaming as Internet router designs improve and ping times drop, the latency produced by interpolation becomes more substancial, and the best way to reduce it is to push more physical frames. If you are pushing more physical frames, there are clear advantages to pushing more visual frames to match.

    • I don't think we are nowhere near low enough on the internet latency thing for the delay that going to a high refresh rate would make any difference on lag. High refresh rates are still nice though for completely unrelated reasons.

    • by Smauler (915644)

      By the details I've read on their blog, I'm pretty certain Valve has gotten down that they need a high refresh rate to get the VR to work right. They have identified strobe effect as a problem, and have identified that while the traditional 60Hz rate, while tolerable, is far from ideal for low persistance displays. They seem to believe they can push the refresh rate high enough to deal with strobe effect. I have confidence that they can.

      The fundamental problem with VR is the disparity between the visual e

      • by mobby_6kl (668092)

        Have you tried the Rift? While you're correct that just having a perfect picture won't get you the full experience of jacking into the Matrix, it actually does go a long, long way toward making the experience extremely immersive.

        A lot of our sense actually depend on our vision to work properly - for instance, you'd think that an airplane pilot would be able to tell which way is up based on what their body feels, but actually losing visibility of the outside world is a good way to completely mess up the perc

      • Did Q2 CTF:II on dual ISDN on a Quake server my ISP ran back in the 90's. Jedi Knight DF2 suffered badly under the same condition.
        Bonus: no annoying phone calls while playing!

        We need to clone Carmack who recognize gameplay over bling.

  • So, is Valve planning on introducing a product that competes with Oculus Rift? Or are they working cooperatively?

    • Valve wants to sell software, they are pushing open platforms that you can buy from anyone as long as you buy the software as well.

    • Re:Competing? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday November 18, 2013 @09:16PM (#45460037)

      Kinda both. TFA mentions that the Oculus guys were shown a hands-on demonstration of Valve's headset and plan on implementing some stuff they learned there in the Rift. I have no doubt they'll be sort-of competitors, in that people are unlikely to buy both, but Valve's position on hardware so far has been to let other people handle the manufacturing and only do prototype and design work themselves, so it remains to be seen if Valve even directly produces a VR headset. They are, however, producing at least a prototype version of their own set.

      However, competition is good. It'll drive anyone who makes VR headsets to produce a headset better (at least in some ways) than the other guys, and give consumers a bit of choice. Plus highlight problems that one set has that others don't, and maybe give everyone some ideas how to fix those problems. Provided, of course, games are intercompatible with all sets on the market (otherwise you just get fragmentation which in practice can be worse than a monopoly).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hugh? Can someone explain, why they fire their VR/AR team and then introduce this a couple of months later?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      CastAR does AR and VR. Valve probably didn't see AR as being anything but a niche toy and wanted to focus on VR. So CastAR splits off to do their own thing. Valve sticks with dedicated VR.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Thanks for the explanation.
        But wouldn't that be extremely stupid and nearsighted to do for Valve? AR's definitely coming...

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Who knows, I'm not Valve nor do I know anyone there, so that's just my speculation. Maybe they just thought it wasn't good enough for their needs.

        • by tibman (623933)

          There were competing projects within Valve. One was AR the other was VR. VR won and the AR team was let go. It turns out that the AR project can also do VR with a small attachment though. But i have the feeling there was politics at play and not just the technical merits of each project.

        • by grumbel (592662)

          AR is coming, but it's still years away from being practical, so Valve focuses on VR instead which is right around the corner. Also CastAR isn't really suited for general purpose AR, as it needs a special surface to project on. So it's probably an evolutionary dead end in the long run. Finally CastAR seems overall more focused on the toy/boardgame market then on the gamer market and Valve is mainly interested in gamers.

    • by tibman (623933)

      Not sure but i'm very thankful that Gabe let Jeri have the tech.

    • by iampiti (1059688)
      As far as I remember Jeri Ellsworth didn't quite fit in Valve's culture, so that might be a factor. She made a video about it when she was let go. I might be on her Youtube channel
  • by foobar bazbot (3352433) on Monday November 18, 2013 @09:28PM (#45460103)

    ... featuring a low persistence display, which would be great news for those of us that get the urge to hurl when playing Doom on a conventional display.

    Note that many CRTs (basically all modern color CRTs and most modern monochromes) are low- (not zero-) persistence, with phosphor decay on the order of microseconds to tens of microseconds. Some of the visual effects are bound to be very different with a exponential or power law decay than with the sharp cutoff of scanning devices, but it does suggest ways for some of us who aren't in secret VR prototype labs to experiment with some of the stuff he's talking about.

    I'm not about to do this now, but back when I was about 12 and could do such things without getting dizzy, I tinkered with motion perception by making programs that would scroll an image horizontally across a CRT, lay on my belly across a swivel chair with my feet in the air, and spun myself by pushing off the legs of the chair with my hands to get a near-constant speed that synced with the monitor.

    If I didn't have better things that needed doing, I'd strap a CRT display and an LCD onto a lazy susan, together with an Eee or such to drive one of them (swap plugs to repeat experiment with low- or high-persistence), and spin it instead of myself. (It's kinda sad that I do have better things that need doing, and yet I'm posting this on /. instead of either doing them or doing visual perception experiments...)

    • by t0qer (230538)

      You probably wouldn't even need that much these days. An android tablet capable of taking panoramas. Take pano, then load up the gallery, then lay on your chair again.

    • by olau (314197)

      I was waiting for the moment you would suggest to strap the old CRT onto your head for the Only True VR Experience.

    • by antdude (79039)

      Where can we still buy new top quality CRT monitors for computers? I dislike LCDs, LEDs, etc. :(

  • by jhb146 (459905)

    I wonder how this will compare to the CastAR that they let Jeri Ellsworth walk out the door with...

    They weren't targeting the same games, but the hardware for the CastAR is impressive.

    • My expectation is that they can coexist.
    • by tibman (623933)

      I'm very excited for CastAR and helped with the kickstarter. I have no doubt that Jeri will deliver something great.

      Her story about how she was let go is pretty good. She did not want the AR project to die and sounded pretty emotional in meeting with Gabe. He told the layer to let her have it. What company does that kind of thing?!

  • I really don't think Oculus VR as a company has a future, at least not as the mainstream VR king they keep picturing. Not because VR is not the future, we all know it is, but because they lack what really matters for the commercial success of a product in the mainstream tech/gaming industry: marketing, content and first party support. And on top of that their device is nothing but rehash of 90s tech with modern components. Back in 2008, when I was in college, I built in a single weekend a VR google prototyp
    • by mobby_6kl (668092)

      The difference between your hack, the many existing head-mounted displays and the Rift is how serious they're taking a) the FOV and b) latency. These two factors are critical to making the VR feel like something more than a display strapped to your head. This is also why I don't see this working with the PS4 very well either, unfortunately. For the Rift and, really, any VR, to work well you need high resolution, high framerate, and low latency which is not something the consoles are very good at.

      As for cont

      • by aiadot (3055455)
        The FOV in my hack was actually quite big. Not as large as the current OR but much bigger than the one in the sony HMZ. I understand my weekend hack it doesn't compare a product being developed by a 50 employee multi-millionary company, but I'm still pretty sure any decent hardware maker out there could easily make an OR clone. Heck, I'm pretty sure I could do that if I start pumping money and time in the project.

        In almost every VR thread I see this huge focus on specs. Overall I agree that the smaller t
    • by Fri13 (963421)

      I really don't think Oculus VR as a company has a future, at least not as the mainstream VR king they keep picturing. Not because VR is not the future, we all know it is, but because they lack what really matters for the commercial success of a product in the mainstream tech/gaming industry: marketing, content and first party support. And on top of that their device is nothing but rehash of 90s tech with modern components.

      The problem is that you don't seem to understand they have not yet released consumer product. They are only so far offered developer versions what are not final ones. They are focused to developers and there are new models released as well and under development (like including higher resolution).

      Just being offered those to developers and not consumers, they have a very well known product and wanted one even. All what they need to do is to get it released for consumer for fair price (like 139-179€) and

  • A recent video from Ben Krasnow http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfqtKJAnJHg [youtube.com] about a quickly hacked togethor "seat input device" mentioned that this has relation to his work on VR stuff at Valve.
  • ...would be cool for testing!

    Pictures should be streamed via WLAN, including sound for headphones output.

    Could be an incredible immerse experience on a shoestring for everybody (with a smartphone).

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