The company behind popular PC games including Half-Life, Portal, and Dota has also been one of the key players in the virtual reality space. Valve worked with HTC to develop its Vive platform.
But now Valve is launching its own virtual reality system. Pre-orders for the HTC Index virtual reality headset and accessories begin on May 1st, and Vive plans says it should ship by June 28th.
Prices start at $499 for just the headset.
What you get for that price is a headset with a screen refresh rate of 120 Hz, less illumination persistence than earlier headsets, and two 1400 x 1600 pixel LCD displays.
Valve says those LCD screens have 50 percent more subpixels than OLED displays, and if 120 Hz isn’t good enough for you, the company says there’s experimental support for a 144Hz mode. The system can also support 80Hz or 90Hz if needed.
The company also says the headset has a 20 percent wider field of view than the HTC Vive and speakers that hang out over your ears without actually touching them, which Valve says makes the headset more comfortable to wear and allows for more natural sound.
Other features include dual microphones, stereo 960 x 960 pixel cameras, support for adjusting the fit of the headset, the speakers, and other features including the inter-pupillary distance (which can be configured between 58mm and 70mm).
The Valve Index connects to a PC via USB 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2 and a 12V power supply.
While the headset looks like a nice addition to the VR space, the optional Valve Index Controllers may be truly more distinctive.
Most VR systems include some sort of optional handheld motion controller that can track your hands as you move them through space. These controllers wrap around your knuckles and use 87 sensor per hand to track your finger movements as well.
This allows you to not only move your hands, but also to pick things up, make hand signals, pinch your finger together, and more. You can even play rock, paper, scissors using the controllers, just by changing the shapes your hands are making.
Valve says it also focused on “enabling natural and accurate open-handed throwing,” and you can squeeze the body of the controller to adjust your grip, thanks to built-in force sensors. There are also standard gaming buttons and trackpads on the controllers.
The wireless controllers should get 7 hours of battery life, support USB-C chargers, and connect to your PC via a 2.4 GHz wireless connection.
A set of Valve Index Controllers will set you back $279 if you buy them a la carte.
The final piece of puzzle is a new Valve Index Base Station. Valve says it has a wider field of view than the HTC Vive base station, allowing you to play in spaces up to 400 percent larger.
A single Base Station runs $149, but you’ll probably want two or more — Valve says a third can be used in “tricky spots” in a room, while a fourth will add an extra 10×10 meters of play space.
Valve is also offering a few bundle deals that let you save a few bucks if you buy several things together.
So all told, here’s how much you’ll end up spending if you want to buy some or all of the new Valve Index hardware:
- $999 – Valve Index VR Kit (w/controllers + 2 base stations)
- $749 – Valve Index Headset + Controllers
- $499 – Valve Index Headset
- $279 – Valve Index Controllers
- $149 – Valve Index Base Station
Keep in mind, these prices don’t include the PC you’ll need to use the headset (which should have a relatively speedy processor, a recent graphics card, and at least 8GB of RAM).
The good news is that if you already have some HTC Vive hardware, you don’t necessarily need to upgrade everything at once — the new hardware can be mixed and matched with HTC Vive gear, allowing you to use the new controllers with an HTC Vive headset, for example… or a Index headset with Vive controllers.