Valve’s CEO Confirmed Work On New Headsets Ages Ago And We All Missed It

Valve CEO Gabe Newell made some comments back in May that went unnoticed until recently, confirming work on “new headsets and games” at Valve.

Newell gave a talk at the Sancta Maria College in New Zealand and fielded some questions from students. The talk was recorded and uploaded online, but the comments about new headsets only gained attention recently when YouTuber Brad Lynch reposted a clip from a recording to Twitter, embedded below.


His comments came in response to a question asking whether Newell thinks VR/AR technology will ever become a staple of the gaming industry.

Newell confirms that Valve is “making big investments in new headsets and games” but also feels that VR/AR is a stepping stone toward brain-computer interfaces.

Here’s his full response, transcribed from around the 14:00 mark of this video:

“There are interesting questions, which is: are things sort of stable end goals or are they transition points? My view, which is not in the accepted sort of middle ground, is that VR and AR are transition points towards brain-computer interfaces. That everything you have to do in terms of control speeds, in terms of understanding visual processing, in terms of content design, are leading you towards brain-computer interfaces and what they do. 

So that’s the main thing, and then I think brain-computer interfaces are going to be incredibly disruptive, one of the more disruptive technology transitions that we’re going to go through.

So I think it’s super valuable. You know, we’re making big investments in new headsets and games for those application categories, but also looking further down the road and saying what does that evolve into.”

Back in September, Lynch also found evidence of a standalone VR headset in development at Valve, referred to as ‘Deckard’ in SteamVR driver files. Sources at Ars Technica corroborated the headset’s existence.

Newell also previously said Valve was exploring work with OpenBCI to solve VR motion sickness. If you sign up for the newsletter on the OpenBCI website for its upcoming “Galea” interface, the organization promises to ship an initial production run to testing partners in early 2022 fully integrated with the Valve Index, offering “image-based eye tracking” as well as sensors for “EEG, EDA, EMG, PPG, EOG” and access to “raw data” from the “BrainFlow” application programming interface.

“We’re working on an open source project so that everybody can have high-resolution [brain signal] read technologies built into headsets, in a bunch of different modalities,” Newell said previously. “If you’re a software developer in 2022 who doesn’t have one of these in your test lab, you’re making a silly mistake…software developers for interactive experience[s] — you’ll be absolutely using one of these modified VR head straps to be doing that routinely — simply because there’s too much useful data.”

galea bci indexValve’s current focus is seemingly locked on the Steam Deck for now and the foreseeable future, but new VR headsets are in the offing from other companies and additional sensors seem to be planned for competing high end systems. The HP Reverb G2 currently comes in an “Omnicept” edition with additional sensors and Meta is preparing a sensor-laden headset currently going by the codename Cambria for next year as Apple prepares its own sensor-filled VR headset for potential launch soon.

Valve shipped the high-end Index PC-powered VR headset starting in 2019 and it is in use by around 17 percent of SteamVR users as of this month. Prior to launching Index, Valve reportedly explored a ‘Vader’ headset project that “sort of maxed everything” and would’ve cost the thousands of dollars to buy even if it “had somehow been manufacturable.”

We’ll be interested to see what sensors actually do make it into the next generation VR headsets given the difficult reality of securing key components and manufacturing millions of VR headsets amid ongoing developments with the pandemic as well as continuous supply chain challenges.

What are you thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

Transformers Beyond Reality Coming To PSVR, SteamVR This Winter

Hasbro announced a new Transformers VR game this week, coming to PSVR and SteamVR headsets this winter.

The game, titled Transformers Beyond Reality, was announced at Hasbro Pulse Con, a virtual event featuring new announcements from the toy company. During the day one stream, Hasbro announced the title and gave an exclusive first look with an announcement trailer, which you can view embedded below. If the timestamp doesn’t work, the trailer begins at roughly at the 1:42:20 mark.

Hasbro says the game is being developed by Metaphor Interactive and will release for PSVR and SteamVR later this year. The plot sounds shockingly familiar — you will join the Autobots in a fight against the Deceptions to save Earth and Cybertron. What else is new? Beyond that, there’s surprisingly little info, except for some sparse Twitter and Facebook accounts associated with the game, which describe it as a “thrilling arcade-style first-person shooter VR game”.

This isn’t the first piece of Transformers VR media announced recently, but it is the first one available for home release — Transformers: VR Invasion is a location-based VR experience that will be available in the US, UK and Australia. The last we heard about that experience was last December, with a release date still not finalized.

Likewise, Hasbro also recently announced a new mobile AR game, Transformers: Heavy Metal, produced in partnership with Niantic. Heavy Metal is currently in soft launch, with a beta running in New Zealand and the Philippines. Beta roll-out to further regions has yet to be announced but you can register you interest by signing up on the game’s site.

SteamVR 1.18 Improves Oculus Headset Connectivity Issues, Including Quest Link Disconnections

SteamVR version 1.18 brings some fixes for Oculus headset performance, particularly in the way of headset disconnections.

The update is mainly focused on improving the experience of Oculus users when connected to SteamVR, including specific improvements for Link users:

Oculus users will no longer be required to restart SteamVR every time the Oculus runtime needs to reconnect to the HMD. You may still see a slight disruption during reconnection, for example, the Oculus software may prompt you to re-enable Oculus link if appropriate. 

The more specific patch notes outline “increased robustness” for Quest 2 error handling and disconnections for both regular wired Link and Air Link.

This is a key fix that will cut downtime significantly for users who disconnect their headset mid-session — instead of having to restart the Oculus software and then close and restart SteamVR, Oculus users should now just be able to pick up where they left off at the point of disconnection. Valve says that “connection loss to the [Quest] is now survivable in many cases.”

These fixes will impact the majority of SteamVR users, given that 60% of SteamVR users are using Facebook headsets as of April this year.

There’s also improvements for OpenXR support, as well as some minor changes for Valve Index support and SteamVR Home. In particular, Valve is encouraging Index users not to play with their controllers plugged in, as it may cause damage to the USB-C connector.

In other recent updates, SteamVR 1.17 allowed users to natively pin windows to controllers, as well as adjust the field of view and world scale with sliders.

You can view the full patch notes for SteamVR 1.18 here.

Valve Index Finally Comes To Australia In August

After almost 2 years of waiting, Australian customers will finally be able to purchase the Valve Index from August 18.

The headset and controllers will be available in Australia through games retailer EB Games, an Australian division of GameStop. In other markets, the Index is available to purchase online through Valve directly on the Steam Store. When Australian customers visit the Steam store listing, the checkout buttons read ‘Not Available In Your Country’. This forced many customers to use shipping redirect services to import the headset from the US. However, this comes with large added costs, as well as complications with warranty and customs import fees.

For now, the store listings seem to indicate that EB Games will be the Index’s exclusive Australian retailer. It’s unclear if it will also be available through the Steam Store come August 18.

In Australia, the complete Index kit is available to pre-order for $1,899.95 AUD. The headset by itself is available for $999 AUD, the headset and controllers for $1499.95 AUD, a single base station for $249.95 and a 2-pack of controllers for $499.95.  The Index and its peripherals are modular, allowing you to use parts of the system with select other, non-Index hardware within the SteamVR ecosystem. For example, the Index controllers can be used with an existing room-scale setup and Vive Pro headset. Likewise, the Index headset can be used with old Vive wand controllers. Those with an existing PC VR setup may be able to cut some costs depending on the equipment they already have.

Valve also announced that individual replacement controllers and tether wires are available to purchase on Steam as of this week. However, these replacement items are unavailable in Australia via Steam at the moment, and are not listed on EB Games either.

The Valve Index remains a solid but expensive pick if you’re looking to get into PC VR. If you’re not sure if it’s the right headset for you, read our thoughts on the pros and cons of the Index and other available options here.

Are any of our Australian readers planning on picking up a Valve Index in August? Let us know in the comments.

Steam Open World Sale Includes Squadrons, Saints & Sinners, No Man’s Sky

The latest Steam sale includes a bunch of PC VR titles available with decent discounts, including Star Wars: Squadrons, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, No Man’s Sky and more.

The sale is called the Open World Sale and features a bunch of VR and non-VR games that, you guessed it, feature open worlds. It’s live now and runs until 10am Pacific time on May 31.

There’s not a huge amount of prominent VR games in the sale but there’s still a few solid deals to be found.

Here’s some of the best VR deals we caught while browsing the store:

– The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners: $31.99 (20% off)

Vacation Simulator: $22.49 (25% off)

– No Man’s Sky: $29.99 (50% off)

Star Wars: Squadrons: $15.99 (60% off)

Arizona Sunshine: $14.99 (50% off)

– Trover Saves The Universe: $10.49 (65% off)

– Into the Radius VR: $20.99 (30% off)

– Thief Simulator VR: $13.39 (33% off)

– Elite Dangerous: $7.49 (75% off)

– Operencia: The Stolen Sun: $11.99 (60% off)

– The Forest: $8.99 (50% off)

– Nature Treks VR: $5.99 (40% off)

All the prices above are listed in USD, but the sale prices will adjust accordingly for your location and local currency. You can see a full list of the VR games currently on sale on Steam here.

In other sales, Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife is still available at 10% off, coming to $26.99, until June 2 as part of its launch sale. Meanwhile over on the PlayStation Store, Star Wars: Squadrons will be one of June’s PlayStation Plus titles, allowing anyone with a PS+ subscription to redeem a copy of the game and keep it as long as you’re subscribed.

The Steam Open World Sale is on now until Monday — you can view the sale home page, with VR and non-VR titles, here.

SteamVR Update Adds Full OpenXR Support

Valve announced the latest version of SteamVR, 1.16.8, now has full OpenXR support.

OpenXR is a new standard that provides an API for VR and AR content that allows game engines to write code that is compatible across multiple hardware platforms. Previously, major companies like Microsoft, Valve and Facebook all had their own APIs for VR/AR content. Developers had to implement multiple APIs to ensure their content worked on different headsets and platforms, which was often quite time consuming and more complex to integrate.

OpenXR solves this problem by providing one standard API for use in all platforms and devices. It was developed by Khronos, a non-profit industry consortium which also manages OpenGL. Late last year, Microsoft and Facebook both announced support for OpenXR and pushed the standard towards becoming the new default for developers.

Midway through last year, Valve said that future SteamVR features would use OpenXR, transitioning away from OpenVR. However, with SteamVR now adding full support, Valve is the last of the big three to fully embrace OpenXR on its platform.

On the software side, Microsoft announced in July last year that the RenderDragon rendering engine for Minecraft would now support OpenXR. Meanwhile, Facebook also added a latency-reducing option called Phase Sync to Unity and Unreal integrations using OpenXR.

The SteamVR update also includes some other new settings, such as “per-app settings for overriding automatic throttling and prediction behavior” which Valve says is good for apps like simulators with “particularly poor performance that benefit … from a fixed lower framerate for an overall smoother experience.” You can read the full SteamVR update notes here.

SteamVR Saw 1.7 Million New Users In 2020

Valve’s SteamVR platform saw a total of 1.7 million new users in 2020, the company today announced.

SteamVR is one of two major destinations to play PC VR content, the other being Facebook’s Oculus platform. Launched in 2016, the platform supports almost every major VR headset from Facebook, HTC, Microsoft’s Mixed Reality line and, of course, Valve itself.

In an overview of Steam’s performance in 2020, Valve revealed that VR game sales were up 32% year-over-year, and that’s before you factor in sales of the company’s flagship VR game, Half-Life: Alyx, which released in March. Valve says that that game alone adds an additional 39%, bringing the total to a 71% increase in sales.

SteamVR 2020There were also over 104 million SteamVR sessions last year, averaging out to 32-minute play sessions, which the company says is a 30% increase in total playtime. VR still represents only a small proportion of the wider Steam platform, though, which saw 120 million monthly users and a 21.4% growth in games sales year-over-year.

What Drove SteamVR Growth In 2020?

There are a handful of factors that likely pushed SteamVR’s growth in 2020. The first is that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay home more, giving people more time to explore avenues like VR.

But hardware and software will have also played a part. Valve says its own Index sales were “consistently high” across 2020 (inventory was backlogged for much of the year) and, towards the end of the year, we saw the launch of the HP Reverb G2 and Oculus Quest 2, the latter of which can play SteamVR games over a tethered Oculus Link connection or streamed unofficially on Virtual Desktop.

Our own coverage of the company’s monthly Steam Hardware Survey revealed that, by the end of 2020, over 50% of the headsets used with SteamVR were Facebook-made and a further 21.9% are made by HTC Vive, with the Valve Index making up another 15.7%.

Finally, there’s software. March’s launch of Half-Life: Alyx was likely the most significant VR release to date and, last month, the company revealed the top-selling VR titles of the year, which also included newcomers like The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners and late-2019 release, Boneworks, alongside mainstays like Arizona Sunshine and Blade & Sorcery.

2021 has more big releases on the calendar, including After The Fall and Low-Fi. As for hardware, there are no confirmed new releases although a July 2020 report did note that Valve’s hardware team is already working on “what’s next“. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how SteamVR performs as the year moves on, then.

New Phasmophobia Prison Level Now In Open Beta For Testing

As if ghost hunting wasn’t scary enough, you can now do it behind bars – a new prison level is available in beta for Phasmophobia.

Earlier in the month we found out that a new prison level would be coming to the game, and now just over two weeks later you can try it out yourself. It’s not in full release just yet – it’s still in beta, so expect a fair amount of bugs.

If you do play through the level, the developer is encouraging users to join the Phasmophobia Discord server and report any bugs in the #beta-bug-reports channel.

To switch to the beta build of Phasmophobia, make sure the game is closed and right-click on it on Steam, select Properties and then go to the Beta tab. In there, you should be able to select ‘Beta – Unstable Build’ which will give you access to the prison level in-game. Usually map selection is random, but the beta build will allow you to pick the prison map specifically.

Phasmophobia has been one of this year’s break-out success games, launching in Early Access in September. While the early access period was initially planned to be quite short, the developer has now said that it will stay there a bit longer as the unexpected popularity of the game has resulted in a shift of focus.

The game sees you and up to 3 others work together to identify types of ghosts haunting different maps, using various equipment and evidence. David and I tried the game out live on the UploadVR YouTube channel a few weeks ago and had a great time. The game has optional VR support, so David played on Quest 2 via Virtual Desktop and I just played on PC, while monitoring YouTube comments.

Phasmophobia is available in Early Access now on Steam and is 10% off until December 1 as part of the Steam Autumn Sale.

Steam Autumn Sale: Discounts On Alyx, Squadrons And More

The Steam Autumn Sale is here, and includes some decent discounts on big VR titles including Half-Life: Alyx and The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners.

It seems like only yesterday that we were talking about the Halloween Steam Sale, but now Autumn is upon us and we have another Steam sale with similar discounts for VR titles.

The sale began yesterday and lasts until 10am PT on December 1st. If you missed out on some of the great discounts in the Halloween sale, then don’t worry — a lot of the discounts here are identical or even better, especially for games like Squadrons and Saints & Sinners.

Here’s some of the biggest deals in the Autumn sale:

– Half-Life: Alyx: 25% off, $44.99 (from $59.99)

– Star Wars: Squadrons: 40% off, $23.99 (from $39.99)

– The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners: 25% off, $29.99 (from $39.99)

– Phasmophobia: 10% off, $12.59 (from $13.99)

– Arizona Sunshine: 51% off, $19.59 (from $39.99)

– The Room VR: A Dark Matter: 33% off, $20.09 (from $29.99)

– Superhot VR: 40% off, $14.99 (from $24.99)

– Gorn: 50% off, $9.99 (from $19.99)

– Gorn: 50% off, $9.99 (from $19.99)

– Trover Saves The Universe: 40% off, $17.99 (from $29.99)

– Moss: 40% off, $17.99 (from $29.99)

– Onward: 35% off, $16.24 (from $24.99)

– Eleven Table Tennis: 50% off, $9.99 (from $19.99)

– Alien: Isolation*: 75% off, $9.99 (from $39.99)

Doctor Who: The Edge of Time: 40% off, $14.99 (from $24.99)

– A Fisherman’s Tale: 35% off, $9.74 (from $14.99)

And there’s many more, which you can have a look at over in the VR section of the Autumn Steam Sale page.

These games are all launched via SteamVR, which means you’ll need a PC VR headset (like an Oculus Rift/Rift S or a Valve Index, or even a Quest 2 with Oculus Link or Virtual Desktop) to play. Not all games are optimized to be compatible with every headset though, so make sure to check the compatibility section of each game individually before buying.

The Steam Autumn Sale runs until 10am Pacific on December 1st.

* — Alien Isolation doesn’t natively support VR, but it does have an excellent VR mod.

Ghost-Hunting PC VR Game Phasmophobia To Get New Prison Level

It looks like one of Phasmophobia’s next maps might be behind bars; a level set in a prison is now in development.

Phasmophobia is of course the PC ghost hunting game (with full, optional VR support) that sets you out on a mission to capture evidence of paranormal activity at haunted locations. As if the game weren’t spooky enough, you’ll soon be able to wander around an empty prison searching for ghosts hiding inside.

The prison map was added as a development goal to the game’s public Trello board, which lists current and future plans for the development schedule. The Phasmophobia Twitter account also tweeted a screenshot of the Trello card as a tease of what’s to come. The prison level is listed as ‘In Progress’ on the Trello board, there’s also an apartment building and mansion map listed under ‘Backlog’ as well.

Phasmophobia released in September in Early Access on Steam with VR support, and made it into Steam’s top 20 new releases list for that month. You play as a paranormal activity investigator, teaming up with your friends and using various different pieces of equipment to detect a ghost and figure out what type it might. David and I tried it a few weeks ago on stream, and it was genuinely terrifying.

The prison map news come after we reported last week that the developer would be changing plans slightly, and probably staying in Early Access a bit longer than originally intended. The popularity of the game has meant that a focus shift has taken place, with the aim now to get major bugs fixed and increasing the stability before adding new content. With expectations now much higher than anticipated, new content will come in the form of maps, ghost types and equipment.

Phasmophobia is available on Steam now with optional VR support. You can view the development Trello board here and keep up to date with it in our coverage hub.