It’s been a few years since Valve released the Index virtual reality headset, which sells for $499 and up (with an emphasis on the “up” if you want wireless controllers and sensors required to get the most out of it).
Now a couple of reports suggest that Valve is working on new VR headsets, including a model that may be a standalone model that can be used without a PC, much like Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2. But there’s a difference between “working on” and planning to release.
YouTuber Brad Lynch lays out the evidence pointing to a new standalone VR headset from Valve. By digging through SteamVR software code and Valve patent applications, he found a device that’s code-named “Deckard.”
There are hints in the software that suggest Deckard could be a standalone device, meaning that it has its own processor and other hardware that will allow you to run virtual reality games and applications directly on the device without connecting it to a PC, although it’s possible that you may also be able to connect to a more powerful computer when you want more horsepower (the way you can with an Oculus Quest 2).
Ars Technica reached out to “sources familiar with the matter” who confirmed that Valve has been working on at least two VR headset prototypes, including one that was designed to be connected to a PC and another that was a standalone device with “inside-out” position tracking, meaning that all the sensors to keep track of your location are in the device itself, with no need for external hardware.
But just because the company is developing and testing a standalone VR headset doesn’t mean it will ever actually see the light of day. This is an unannounced product, so the company could scrap the whole thing without disappointing anyone (other than folks following the leaks) if it doesn’t live up to Valve’s expectations.
That said, Valve has been making some interesting moves into hardware in recent years. The company, which is likely best known for its Steam game client and for making its own popular games like Portal, Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and Team Fortress, is currently getting ready to ship a handheld gaming computer called the Steam Deck starting in December.
Whether that makes it more or less likely that the company will also have a standalone VR headset soon remains to be seen. On the one hand, Valve is increasingly a hardware company as well as a software company. And much of the work that Valve has done to make its software work on a handheld gaming device could also be used in a wearable product like a VR headset.
On the other, it’s already running into supply chain issues that have affected its ability to manufacture the Steam Deck at scale – while the first units should begin shipping in a few months, customers who pre-order now won’t receive one until the second quarter of 2022. So maybe the company won’t want to bite off more than it can chew just yet?