Wednesday, May 1st 2019

Valve Officially Launches the Valve Index VR HMD, Full Kit Preorder Up for $999

We knew this was coming, given Valve's own teaser confirmation from March, and then a faux pas that resulted in an incomplete Steam store page ending up public for a short time. Valve had promised more details would come in May, and here we are with a lot of information available about the Valve Index headset, the controllers, the base stations, as well as retail pricing + availability.

Name aside, the Valve Index specs that leaked before end up holding true with the retail product. The headset uses dual 1440x1600 RGB LCDs which Valve claims helps provide 50% more subpixels relative to an OLED display. This in turn should result in higher effective sharpness for the same rendering horsepower, and is further accentuated via a 3x better fill factor to mitigate the dreaded screen-door effect. The headset runs at 120 Hz with full backwards compatibility to 90 Hz to work with VR titles built around that specification and, more interestingly, also supports an experimental 144 Hz mode. PC gamers have long known the benefits of higher framerates, and this is especially valid with VR, but time will tell how the rest of the ecosystem works around this. Equally important to VR gaming is the illumination period, which allows on-screen imagery to remain sharp while you are in motion just as well as when at rest. Valve claims up to a 5x reduction here, with a rated illumination period of 0.33 to 0.53 ms depending on the real time framerate. More to see past the break, so be sure to do so if this interests you!
The lenses used in the Valve Index are custom designed (as usually the case for every VR HMD), allowing for an improved FOV via the ability to position the optics as close to the optimal focal length for the end users eyes as possible. Given this can vary from person to person, the Valve Index supports both physically adjustable IPD and eye relief adjustment, which is to be expected but good to get a confirmation on regardless. The lenses are canted outwards by 5° as well, which all combine to provide for an effective FOV of 20° higher than the HTC Vive for most users, as per Valve. Note that this is not being compared to the newer Vive Pro headset, which has had improvements of its own. The lenses use a dual-element design, in a move that reminds us of optics used in SLR lenses on a smaller scale, to allow for clarity at the center and also at the edges of the lens, as well as minimal geometric distortion.

There is integrated audio, which Valve refers to as Index Speakers, that does not physically touch the ears as much as hovers over them. Valve claims this allows sound to "freely flow and interact with the geometry of your own head and ears" while also acknowledging this helps ensure the user is not ignorant to external sound stimuli from the environment. This design should help with long use sessions, and the use of composite honeycomb-panel speaker drivers should help with a ~180° sound dispersion pattern for the entire frequency response if the company is to be believed. Aiding the comfort factor is the use of soft anti-microbial woven fabric surfaces, ergonomic padding galore, quick adjustments for head size, face angle, and ear position, and the support for quick-swap face pads via magnets. The HMD also supports modding, via a front expansion slot which includes a male USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A port that Valve promises to shed more details on for third-party developers and modders sooner than later. This support extends to the stereo, global-shutter RGB cameras that Valve claims are "made for computer vision, enabling applications like high-quality stereo pass-through".

They may not be called the Knuckles controllers as originally so, but the new Valve Index Controllers retain the same form factor and design scheme, and are finally going to be a retail product to be used with the Valve Index HMD, or other compatible headsets as well. The product page shows a demo of the controllers in action, which adds merit to the claims of these being the most natural VR input devices to date. The controllers, when taken advantage of by developers at least, will allow you to reach out and grab objects in VR via your fingers as you would in the real world, and not rely on trigger actions. There are 87 sensors in each controller to allow for fine tracking of hand and finger positions, as well as motion and pressure applied for a vast library of actions possible depending on the environment in play. This should allow for catching and throwing of objects that is not only more reliable but also supporting velocity and trajectories, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all solution from before. Onboard control comes in the form of buttons, triggers, thumbsticks and a large track pad/button that has multiple functions assignable- track pad, scroll wheel, binary button with haptics, and so on. There are hand straps to help prevent any real world accidental damage, and the strap uses a three-point system for a more comfortable and secure fit akin to car seat belts. The straps are also made of the same fabric as used in the HMD, which will help with hygiene and comfort alike.

The use of base stations by itself is a bit of a disappointment, as many would no doubt have wanted inside-out tracking support instead. As it stands, the so-called Base Station 2.0 is rated by Valve to be an improvement in nearly every regard over the original SteamVR-compatible base stations, including those from HTC. Valve goes so far as to claim these are best-in-industry for room-scale VR tracking as of now, with the new single-rotor design allowing for a wider FOV (160º x 115º) and increased range (7 m). Two base stations should mean for a 4x improvement in room for exploration, with the ecosystem supporting up to four for arena/arcade applications (10 x 10 m area). The new base stations used fixed lasers to continually sweep the environment as much as 100 times a second while tracking the photonic sensors on the Valve Index HMD. The use of a single laser and omnidirectional sweeping should also mean less IR interference with other devices in the room, and they are powered via a 12 V wall adapter while being compatible with the HTC Vive power adapters as well. The Base Station 2.0 is compatible with the HTC Vive Pro as well, as well as any other VR HMD making use of 2.0 tracking hardware.

The Valve Index VR hardware ecosystem is now up for pre-order on Steam in a variety of options, which in turn dictate the shipping date as well. The full kit comprises of the headset, two controllers, and two base stations for $999 and will ship by Aug 31. This makes the Valve Index a whole $300 less than the equivalent kit with the HTC Vive Pro, and yet not truly an affordable VR setup. The Oculus Quest that releases imminently is not really in the same ballpark, given its all-in-one functionality using less powerful hardware and a significantly lower price point, and is not apt for comparison. For those with base stations (from HTC or otherwise), the headset + controllers combo comes in at $749 and ships by July 31 instead. The individual items can also be purchase a la carte for $499 (headset), $279 (a pair of controllers), or $149 (single base station 2.0) which might interest those with the original HTC Vive or even the Vive Pro- no shipping date available for these yet, however.

The Valve Index VR system is compatible with SteamVR titles to the same extent as the HTC Vive (Pro), and Valve has also stated some first-party VR titles will be coming out sooner than later. We were hoping for more light on the rumored Half Life VR title to go with the hardware details, but there is still time to go before these ship out and, who knows, Valve might see E3 as an option now that some of the players involved there have decided to forego participation this year. Source: Valve Index on Steam
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33 Comments on Valve Officially Launches the Valve Index VR HMD, Full Kit Preorder Up for $999

#1
drayzen
So what is the actual FOV?
Those have to be the most obscure specifications I have ever seen, where they don't even state their own spec., just that they're possibly ~20° more than a different product... WTH?
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#3
Prima.Vera
120Hz should be minimum on both Hz refresh for the displays, and also FPS for games for better immersion. Now, what kind of horse power do you need for this especially that the resolution is 2880x1600?
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#4
xkm1948
Prima.Vera, post: 4040203, member: 98685"
120Hz should be minimum on both Hz refresh for the displays, and also FPS for games for better immersion. Now, what kind of horse power do you need for this especially that the resolution is 2880x1600?
Maybe next gen Nvidia flagship GPU? And pray that VR developers don't add Real Time Ray Tracing any time soon
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#6
metalfiber
xkm1948, post: 4040204, member: 50521"
Maybe next gen Nvidia flagship GPU? And pray that VR developers don't add Real Time Ray Tracing any time soon
Yeah, next gen because my 2080ti won't do that without settings set at a medium at best on any modern day game. Realistically AC Odyssey runs at 70 to 90 fps with everything dialed up at 1440p.
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#7
xkm1948
TBH the biggest concern I have is actually ventilation. After too many sessions of Beat Saber work out I can say I will definitely upgrade unless they figured out how to ventilate the HMD better.
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#8
ShurikN
The biggest issue people had with VR was the extremely high price of admission. Thank you Valve for fixing it with a $1K set.
:slowclap:
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#9
deu
drayzen, post: 4040200, member: 183690"
So what is the actual FOV?
Those have to be the most obscure specifications I have ever seen, where they don't even state their own spec., just that they're possibly ~20° more than a different product... WTH?
The FOV is bigger than the earlier models (what i have noget searched.) But according to reviewers the scubadiver effect should be mitigated both out and inwards without major eye-overlay issues
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#10
Landcross
drayzen, post: 4040200, member: 183690"
So what is the actual FOV?
Those have to be the most obscure specifications I have ever seen, where they don't even state their own spec., just that they're possibly ~20° more than a different product... WTH?
I think they deliberately don't specify a fixed FOV because I believe it's different per user. The inside of the headset that has the lenses attached to it can move forward/backwards a bit to accommodate for glasses and just general face differences. The closer the glasses are to your eyes, the higher the FOV will be. But if you e.g. use glasses, the FOV will be slightly lower (cause the lenses are bit further away from your eyes), yet the relative FOV increase compared to e.g. the Vive is still there.
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#11
xtreemchaos
there way too much money, valve are making the same mistake as oculus, £500 for the bundle would be the right price instead of £1000, thay will drop the price or thay will flop mark my words.
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#12
deu
metalfiber, post: 4040207, member: 174420"
Yeah, next gen because my 2080ti won't do that without settings set at a medium at best on any modern day game. Realistically AC Odyssey runs at 70 to 90 fps with everything dialed up at 1440p.
Just remember that current VR games are NOWHERE near the level of graphics of requirements of AAA titles, so its not 4K witcher at 144fps stable, its HL2 is graphics :) But ye, the day we can run battlefield V in 144 fps high detail stable in VR will be a glorious day! :)

xtreemchaos, post: 4040284, member: 183324"
there way too much money, valve are making the same mistake as oculus, £500 for the bundle would be the right price instead of £1000, thay will drop the price or thay will flop mark my words.
I wont argue that it is too much for "average pc gamers" The thing is ; alot of people assume that this hardware is aimed at average gamers. It isnt. It is aimed at enthusiasts and developers to lay the first step to a dominant design. Pushing a prototype product to mainstreammarket would be a really bad idea. Both due to numbers and business. The need to "perfect" the hardware; right now it is within sniffing distance of mainstream consumers and i 3-5 years it is there at the price you want. But bleeding edge tech like 144 hz displays at that res and panel combined with a stil in R&D design / componentlist it is hard to argue that this should be cheap. The extension slot at the front says it all: build for no purpose other than to challenge developers and enthisiast to experiment! :)
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#13
xtreemchaos
i think i come under the enthisiast and theres only so many developers out there, thay will drop the price just you see :), ive been trying the Knuckles for a while and there not a patch on the touch.
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#14
kastriot
Well for developed countries where minimum wage is 10-12$ per hour you can have them in 10-15 days so no bigie.
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#15
vega22
kastriot, post: 4040305, member: 165334"
Well for developed countries where minimum wage is 10-12$ per hour you can have them in 10-15 days so no bigie.
Yeah, if you live with your parents and don't pay the bills or need to buy food xD

Calling this a first gen product is pretty naive given valve worked with ocolus and the rift and HTC on the Vive.

I imagine most high end GPU from the past 2 or 3 generations will be able to pump out enough FPS to keep these smooth. Not many vr titles push the iq envelope as they're tuned for performance.
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#16
thevoiceofreason
Does it come with bundled Portal 3?

Seriously, what platform-defining VR games are there? It's been three years since Oculus Rift was released.
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#17
xkm1948
thevoiceofreason, post: 4040320, member: 150822"
Does it come with bundled Portal 3?

Seriously, what platform-defining VR games are there? It's been three years since Oculus Rift was released.
Beat Saber has become insanely popular recently. One of the best VR game I would say.


Problem to bridge the gap between knowledge and experience will always be there for VR. Experience cannot be explained by knowledge. 2D monitors and simple words will never do justice for VR. You need to really step into it to feel for yourself.

Problem is many many grown human being refuse new technology simply because they already made the judgement call that VR is “gimmicky”. It would almost always be an uphill battle for VR.

I am not saying people are stubborn or bad. It IS human nature, part of evolution that made us think and act this way: cautious around new things. But at the very least for fellow tech lovers I wish there is more open-to-new-things attitude. Not holding too much hope though as demonstrated by recent piss on Real Time Ray Tracing though. Even things benefit graphics quality directly on 2D monitor is met with some of the worst reception here among TPU members. Ironically even @W1zzard, who seems to like RTRT, also seem to not accept VR, shown by mostly negative press coverage of VR from TPU news

I hope there may be some change. Hey maybe even TPU can start doing VR system reviews now HardOCP went belly up.

Here is a short WiseCrack discussion on VR addressing the problem of knowledge and experience. Interesting watch:




And some short comic. Give VR a try if you can afford. There are many great affordable options nowdays with great quality (Windows Mixed Reality HMD)

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#18
xtreemchaos
as for games my fave is fallout 4 VR, its like being there, it was buggy at first but has been sorted for quite a while now, ive ported the dlcs from the flat game and apart from nukaworld thay run perfect but nukaworld is still playable if you dont mind cheating a bit. i also play skyrim but its a bit dated now but still good, and also quite a few oculus games too.
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#19
atomicus
Still no more news on the Vive Cosmos... will be interesting to see how that stacks up against the Index, particularly on price vs peformance.
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#20
Hardware Geek
I love seeing this kind of improvement even if it is out of the price range I would pay. There are options at enough price points that VR/AR will continue to grow. I never believed the sales projections or that VR would explode on to the scene and take over gaming the way these companies hoped. However with the PS4 offering a decent entry level experience and PS5 is supposed to be compatible with the 1 million + VR headsets sold, there is a big enough install base between that and the other offerings available, I don't think it will be a fad this time.
Each generation is getting better and there will always be people who can pay more and get higher end hardware than the average gamer can afford, but those improvements should trickle down as they already are. As long as there is software worth running and enough users for the companies to make money, it will continue to grow. I don't think it will ever become "the way to game" but I expect more developers will add VR modes into games where it would be a good experience. Personally I would love a first person VR Diablo 4 and would drop the coin on a PS5 and a headset for that. I fully expect an upgraded headset for the PS5 at launch or soon after.
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#21
VSG
Editor, Reviews & News
xkm1948, post: 4040334, member: 50521"
Ironically even @W1zzard, who seems to like RTRT, also seem to not accept VR, shown by mostly negative press coverage of VR from TPU news

I hope there may be some change. Hey maybe even TPU can start doing VR system reviews now HardOCP went belly up.
Why do you feel we have had mostly negative VR press coverage? We've covered the PC-centric VR news well and fair, in my opinion, including attending walk throughs at CES on the HTC Vive Pro Eye, and detailing the Valve Index. There wasn't much to do between generations since we do not have a VR HMD, and I don't know if that will change any time soon since the reps for these companies operate in a different world and barely know of TPU etc.
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#22
thevoiceofreason
xkm1948, post: 4040334, member: 50521"
Problem to bridge the gap between knowledge and experience will always be there for VR. Experience cannot be explained by knowledge.
I think the problems regarding adoption of VR are much simpler:
1. Not everyone has $1000 burning a hole in their pocket, no matter how extraordinary the experience might be it's still spending a grand for entertainment (not counting the PC to drive it).
2. A lot of VR games are very arcade in nature. There is nothing wrong with that and I am sure that rhythm games (like Beat Saber you mention) can be a lot of fun, but it's not something I am looking for in videogames. Unless there is a AAA game with depth to its storytelling I'm not really interested.
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#23
Vayra86
Another dead in the water HMD.

Too expensive. Still has the usual problems.

NEXT

xkm1948, post: 4040334, member: 50521"
Beat Saber has become insanely popular recently. One of the best VR game I would say.


Problem to bridge the gap between knowledge and experience will always be there for VR. Experience cannot be explained by knowledge. 2D monitors and simple words will never do justice for VR. You need to really step into it to feel for yourself.

Problem is many many grown human being refuse new technology simply because they already made the judgement call that VR is “gimmicky”. It would almost always be an uphill battle for VR.

I am not saying people are stubborn or bad. It IS human nature, part of evolution that made us think and act this way: cautious around new things. But at the very least for fellow tech lovers I wish there is more open-to-new-things attitude. Not holding too much hope though as demonstrated by recent piss on Real Time Ray Tracing though. Even things benefit graphics quality directly on 2D monitor is met with some of the worst reception here among TPU members. Ironically even @W1zzard, who seems to like RTRT, also seem to not accept VR, shown by mostly negative press coverage of VR from TPU news

I hope there may be some change. Hey maybe even TPU can start doing VR system reviews now HardOCP went belly up.

Here is a short WiseCrack discussion on VR addressing the problem of knowledge and experience. Interesting watch:




And some short comic. Give VR a try if you can afford. There are many great affordable options nowdays with great quality (Windows Mixed Reality HMD)


There is definitely a core of truth in what you're saying about resistance to VR.

But really, a good product sells itself. And all the HMDs up till now, and this Index is no different, is simply sub par. VR was tried many moons ago, with subpar hardware. Today, marketing wants to make us believe 'the tech is ready'.

This tech is just as ready as Nvidia's RTX. Its a live test bed and we are the guinea pigs. I know that's a nice cheap way to fund your R&D at low risk. But as a consumer, I'm not interested in early adopting for the next ten years - and probably more. Especially in the face of alternative gaming that is much cheaper, more accessible and less problematic (again: the similarity with RTRT is striking).

VR still suffers from some fundamental issues. Price is not really one of them actually.
- Social aspects. Couch gaming with a friend is impossible, while the range of games that work well on VR are exactly those games. The HMD closes you off from your surroundings. This is also a problem in many regular homes/families. This makes the VR HMD a completely different beast than for example a Nintendo Wii or Switch.
- Latency. In a world of online/cloud, combined with the high sensitivity to latency that VR brings, is not ideal. This also impacts the amount and type of content you can play on it. Competitive multiplayer and Esports are going to be a proper challenge for this machine, while those are excellent, cheap to develop bits of content that can quickly amass a major buzz. Look at Battle Royale.
- Content / market share. The best content for VR Is simulation and immersive gaming + fun/casual games. Not the best growth drivers in gaming these days.
- Physical/mental influence. Its much more intense to play on VR than it is on regular console or PC. Because of that it has a tendency to remain on the casual side for many. The headset itself is still a hot, uncomfortable and bulky device. Not exactly 'relaxing'.
- Physical space. Play rooms are an issue.

If VR wouldn't have most of these problems, I think 999 dollars for a nice HMD is a steal. But in the current state? This is going nowhere for the consumer market, no matter how much it is loved by a niche.
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#24
phanbuey
xkm1948, post: 4040212, member: 50521"
TBH the biggest concern I have is actually ventilation. After too many sessions of Beat Saber work out I can say I will definitely upgrade unless they figured out how to ventilate the HMD better.
This... then the lenses start fogging up on me kind of ruins the experience
Posted on Reply
#25
Octavean
Hardware Geek, post: 4040385, member: 172426"
I love seeing this kind of improvement even if it is out of the price range I would pay. There are options at enough price points that VR/AR will continue to grow. I never believed the sales projections or that VR would explode on to the scene and take over gaming the way these companies hoped. However with the PS4 offering a decent entry level experience and PS5 is supposed to be compatible with the 1 million + VR headsets sold, there is a big enough install base between that and the other offerings available, I don't think it will be a fad this time.
Each generation is getting better and there will always be people who can pay more and get higher end hardware than the average gamer can afford, but those improvements should trickle down as they already are. As long as there is software worth running and enough users for the companies to make money, it will continue to grow. I don't think it will ever become "the way to game" but I expect more developers will add VR modes into games where it would be a good experience. Personally I would love a first person VR Diablo 4 and would drop the coin on a PS5 and a headset for that. I fully expect an upgraded headset for the PS5 at launch or soon after.
I seem to recall hearing something about the PS5 having backward compatibility with the current PSVR and that a PSVR2 would eventually come some time down the line after the the PS5 release. I forget where I came across this but naturally it should be taken with a grain of salt.

If I come across the info again I'll post a link.
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