We’re all one step closer to living most of our daily life virtually. Oh wait, you already do that, but how about in 3D and stereoscopic glory? Video game development and distribution giant, Valve, are realizing this reality with their announcement on January 13th that Steam Client beta will now be traversable using the virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift. Valve programmer Joe Ludwig posted the following to the Steam community forums:
As of the most recent Steam Client Beta steam now supports an experimental VR mode. If you own an Oculus Rift dev kit you can try it out by starting Steam with “-vr” on the command line. Then press the Big Picture button to enter Big Picture + VR mode.
The first time you run you may need to do the following:
1) Run Steam in the desktop client without the -vr option
2) Find “SteamVR” under “Tools” in your library. (If you don’t have it installed, install it.)
3) Bring up properties on SteamVR and opt-in to the “Beta Update” beta. Let the update download.
4) Quit the Steam Client again and start it with –vr.
Our 2 Cents:
This new feature is still in BETA, meaning that the software is at an early testing stage, so we don’t have to worry about the robots using us as meat fuel just yet. We still got two years before that happens. It is, however, a significant push for Oculus Rift based VR. An endorsement from Valve should make the fantasy of stereoscopic Facebook stalking happen sooner than later. Valve is certainly an exponentially influential company, so maybe everyone should start deciding whether they want to take the red or blue pill. In October 2013, Gamespot reported that Valve had 65 million registered users, a 30% increase in 12 months and 17 million more users than Microsoft’s Xbox Live service.
Valve’s VR support follows in the trail of the announcement that they will make a move into the hardware business with its Steam Machines and accompanying software, Steam OS, bringing us one step closer to no one ever leaving their house again. This places Valve at the forefront of virtual reality development and infrastructure. And who knows maybe breathing down Microsoft’s neck, ready to usurp the throne. There are currently several dozen video games that support the Oculus Rift headset, but this is the first time client software has been utilized to take advantage of the 3D experience. If the Oculus Rift overcomes its status as another gimmick (We’re looking at you, James Cameron) , Valve’s backing can easily make the company a leader in virtual reality centric services and products.
Valve is certainly ahead of the game and with their exponentially growing and threatening presence in the software industry, and soon hardware as well, could set the stage for an arms race. Sony has recently debuted a $1000 HDTV headset that we all know will have droves of consumers lining to strap a slick plastic brick to their faces, but sass aside this can be seen as a dipping of the toes in the virtual waters. In 2012, a Microsoft patent for virtual reality glasses surfaced that indicated the leading software provider and successful video game developer is also invested in the virtual future. None of these companies, however, have taken such an adamant stance on the technology as Valve has. Valve has historically shown to be an incredibly smart company, one that does not take unnecessary risks. Come on, you have to trust a company that managed to make $2 million from selling virtual hats.
For them to embrace the Oculus through their own distribution software suggests that the rapidly and continuously growing company sees this hardware as a valuable prospect for the future. Only time will tell whether Valve’s investment will become a fleeting dream or a reality.