Valve Software has announced the availability of more "core components" for manufacturers of virtual reality systems.
Termed "critical pieces for developing state-of-the-art VR hardware," the new components include "an advanced optical system," manufacturing and calibration tools, and supporting software. These join a number of existing hardware and software technologies already available for license from Valve
The optical component is said to encompass recent advances in LCD technology, including fast switching elements, low-persistence backlights and high pixel density (PPI). Valve notes that OLED displays "was critical to the first generation of VR," and remains "an excellent option for new head mounted displays (HMDs). However, LCD is now also considered "a viable technology choice for high end VR systems."
Valve also reports that it has developed custom lenses, to work with both LCD and OLED displays. These will be made available to purchase, "for use in SteamVR compatible HMDs." They'll be supported by Valve's "calibration and correction software," which will be included "within the SteamVR technology suite."
Valve notes that its optical systems are able to support a field of view between 85 and 120 degrees, depending on the display used. Its lenses are said to "optimize the user's perceived tracking experience and image sharpness, while reducing stray light."
The new technologies now being made available seem chiefly intended to support "the next generation of room-scale virtual reality." Unlike its chief competitor so far, the Oculus Rift, Valve's VR system uses small base stations to track headsets anywhere within a room-sized space. As exemplified by the HTC Vive, this approach allows users to walk around and interact with a virtual environment, rather than merely sit in it and look around.
According to information recently posted on Valve's Steam Community blog, a new generation of tracking technology , dubbed SteamVR Tracking 2.0, is expected to allow VR experiences to expand to even larger spaces, up to "roughly 10x10 meters." Most home users probably won't have the physical space to take advantage of this expansion. But the Vive is already popular in VR arcades, and increased tracking coverage will undoubtedly allow the creation of new shared VR experiences.
Valve states that early Tracking 2.0 implementations will work with up to 2 base stations. But by early 2018, it expects to support up to 4 base stations, with coverage to 10x10 meters. After that, Valve suggests that even greater numbers of base stations could be supported, which could potentially open up really huge physical spaces for VR use.
"World class VR requires highly precise tracking, matched optics and display technologies, and a software stack that weaves together the interactions between these components," commented 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."
More information about Valve's VR technology is available on the Steam web site.