Guest Post: What New Findings Tell Us About Valve’s Deckard Headset

Steam VR had a notable update on June 14th. Not so much in what was introduced in the patch notes itself. But in the backend: we got a ton of new systems/strings related to Valve Deckard. The next HMD from the company who runs Steam.

Join me as I walk through the most notable things that me and my fellow dataminers have found.

Image
Steam VR’s hidden “System” menu looks similar to the Steam Deck’s settings UI

New System Menu

The most notable thing that was found in the strings (and later activated via some tweaks to the code) was a set of new menus that are clearly meant for a product that does not exist. First let’s talk about how Steam VR has a System menu. If you have ever used a Steam Deck, you might recognize that the UI for this page is very similar. The ability to update a device, see status of an update, and even choose an OS Update Channel are all copied over from the Steam Deck. Valve’s Portable Handheld PC.

You can see all the status messages for Updating Firmware on the Deckard

The OS Update Channel would show you a variety of different builds you can access. Such as a Beta OS build that will let you test features ahead of time. And a stable public build. Possibly more. These update systems do not work. The code references json files needed to be able to request what builds are available from the central server (/linux_update/get_channels.json). But since we don’t have that JSON file, there is no webserver routing, as of yet, to receive updates from. You may also notice a major difference to this menu from the Steam Deck UI is the fact you need to indicate where a PC has a Steam VR install. You cannot change anything within this prompt as of yet. But as I will explain soon in the Valve Deckard Recap Page – The base Deckard is likely to use an ARM chip to become a “smart PC VR HMD.” And will still require routing to a PC. Whether that is strapped directly onto a headstrap mounted compute unit. Or wirelessly connected. System Update will not change Steam VR itself. But likely the firmware on the Deckard

Linux_Update file strings everywhere…

XRService Cal

On the System menu, there is also our very first reference to an XRService Cal. This is the first time we have heard of such a system within Steam VR. But it is definitely an important layer that Deckard needs to operate with. Our current speculation is that it is part of Valve’s new camera-based tracking system. From my research, Valve has a lot of interest into applying some Mixed Reality cameras to their headset as well to do Video Passthrough AR. This interest comes from patents, lots of driver updates related to cameras on lighthouse HMDs, comments from Gabe Newell, and confirmed partnership work with a computer vision company known as Arcturus Industries. If you watch their public demoes, they show off a lot of systems related to using cameras to do SLAM and virtual reconstruction of areas.

XRService is related to Universe Origins and Placement Modes

This XRService Cal string in the menu will seemingly just show the date and time of the last time you did the calibration. This might be useful for developers only. And a good way to hint to people like me: “hey we are actually doing this.”

It is important to note that we have speculated for a long period of time that Valve would allow the ability to track without lighthouse base stations. Sources from Ars Technica confirmed our suspicions as well. But Valve is not giving up fully on the lighthouse tracking system that many PC VR enthusiasts like myself use for things such as Full Body Tracking.

Deckard Devtools and Lighthouse Pairing

“deckard_devtools” hints to possible Deckard dev kits

Lighthouse has been an incredibly useful tracking system for VR HMDs and more importantly: accessories. Applications like VRChat thrive because they adopted the ability to use things such as Vive Trackers to allow Full Body Tracking for avatar expression. The main issue people have had with Lighthouse comes primarily from the difficulty in adoption. Especially for people who cannot drill holes in walls. Or just live in small rooms in flats.

Valve is seemingly wanting to change this by incorporating both Camera based tracking AND the option to still use Lighthouse base stations/peripherals with Deckard. In the picture posted above, we have the very first reference to something called “Deckard Devtools.” Dev obviously stands for developer. And there seems to be a subset of systems that would allow developers to tweak games/overlays/services to work in parity with the Deckard. We do not have the full list of systems that these Deckard Devtools include. Except one: a fully fleshed out menu system that allows users to pair lighthouses and lighthouse dongles to Deckard itself.

We are not sure how fully the functionality goes for Deckard itself. But we did figure out how to access the new menu within VR. It’s something that people in the Steam VR community has wanted anyway, without a new HMD. And it actually functions the way we would like it to.

Image
The new pairing menu hidden within Steam VR allows users to set which exact dongle they’d like to set to pairing mode

New Internet Menu

One of the main benefits of incorporating an SoC into Valve Deckard would be the addition to include accessible wireless technology. The Quest 2 makes up nearly 50% of all headsets connected to Steam VR and it’s not hard to see why. It is sold at a loss, but also: It has applications like Virtual Desktop and Air Link that makes wireless PC VR easy and accessible.

Image
The New Internet Settings Menu would make it easy for people to connect Deckard wirelessly

Another new menu added (and activated with tweaks to the code) is the “Internet” settings menu. It’s honestly pretty self explanatory. Steam VR is adding systems that will allow a PC to set up a “Wi-Fi Hotspot” for Wi-Fi enabled HMDs like Deckard to easily connect to. Currently it’s notable that the code mostly is bound to Linux endpoints.

Strangely enough – the menu and code suggests the ability to list multiple HMDs connected. I don’t know if this would be meant for Location Based experiences that would likely enable easy multi-communication between headsets? But the functionality is somewhat there.

“cv_hmd” driver is listed all over these SAP settings

The last final note to this section is related to strings. These Access Point features are littered with references to a new set of drivers that don’t exist on the Public version of Steam VR. The set of drivers it is looking for is called “cv_hmd.” I am not going to speculate myself on what CV stands for. There are a couple obvious ideas you can lead yourself to. One thing is for sure though: one day, we will probably get a new folder in Steam\steamapps\common\SteamVR\drivers that will enable this functionality and possibly give us a heart attack.

Foxnet Returns

On October 1st, 2021: I did a live stream where I plainly set out all my predictions on what the Valve Deckard would be. And I have to note: most of the things I said in that stream, still stay true for my predictions today (except for Varifocal Optics).

The one final piece that allowed me to string together a picture of the Valve Deckard came from a leaked Steam Deck Firmware backup accidentally published by a Valve Developer. Within this firmware, there was only a couple files within Steam OS 3 that mentioned Deckard. And they all were in a folder named “foxnetstats”. In this folder was a set of Python files that were named: coremodules.py , steamvr.py , and finally deckard.py. Within the Deckard named file, Valve accidentally shown us what type of SoC was inside a version of Valve’s upcoming HMD.

FoxNet was seemingly designed to report chip thermals to a x86 Computer

The picture listed above shows all the cores that Valve was interested in recording thermal temps for. To the untrained eye, this might not tell you a lot about the SoC being logged. But for people who follow this industry in ridiculous amounts: One thing is certain. It shows proprietary cores that Qualcomm includes in all of their SoCs. Including ones like the XR1 and XR2. So we gathered that Valve was interested in one of these chips this for their own Headsets. (We just couldn’t tell if it was the Same XR2 in Quest 2)

But wait, Valve has repeatedly said that an x86 AMD APU like the one in the Steam Deck would help them run standalone VR? Well again: they do have plans for that. But I think as an upgrade path. I expect Valve will focus on modularity and their enthusiast PC VR community first.

Image
Valve employees hinting toward the Future of VR hardware

Image
Moore’s Law Is Dead recently broke news on a “Van Gogh Successor”

To get back on track, we heard nothing of FoxNet since that leak. The Steam Deck came out and had no references anywhere within the code. I want to reiterate how lucky we were that the Valve employee seemingly backed up his own firmware rather than using a blank slate. Deckard would be way more mysterious without that mistake.

Image
Steam VR 1.23.2 – Return of the FoxNet

As of Steam VR 1.23.2, the backend code finally has references to this Foxnet service. And we find out that it is based on an application called “WireGuard.” WireGuard is a secure VPN tunnel. The reason for a VPN tunnel is something I will leave to your imagination.

New Theater Mode

I have reported a lot in relation to a new Theater mode being worked on for Steam VR. For those who do not know, Steam VR has used the same method to allow players to play flat screen games in VR since the HTC Vive released in 2016. It ran on Unity. Was slow and ugly. No one wanted to use it. Six years later, they finally decided a new system needs to be introduced.

Instead of requiring a brand new application to open alongside the non-VR game itself – Valve is using the backend of their Steam VR desktop/overlay system to build it. This is not only way more performant, but also leads some really neat possibilities related to Mixed Reality. One of the most common mentioned use cases for AR is the idea that it can replace a large size TV that can be moved anywhere at any time. The problem with this idea up until now has been the fact no one has wanted to watch/play non-VR content on bulky/large + low resolution HMDs. However if you followed my channel enough: you might be noticing that both of those things are changing in the next generation of XR hardware. Headsets are getting lighter, thinner, and much higher resolution. And with the XRCalibration that alludes to being able to map out a Real World environment for continuous placement: I think Valve is setting up the systems for this.

Currently what’s built into Steam VR in regards to the theater mode IS activatable via string tweaks. However the experience is not polished whatsoever. I want to mention that my dream for a system like this would be to allow integration of Steam Remote Play. And a virtual couch to invite friends together to play couch co-op in VR.  No allusion to whether that’s happening. But it’s my dream.

There is also new shaders added to allow realtime reflections from the Theater screen (doesn’t work yet)

SkyDome?

I haven’t talked much about this feature being added within the files. It’s just a set of new skybox-type images to Steam VR. And reflections they would give off as well. I thought it was a replacement for the standard skybox you would see while loading in between apps/games in Steam VR. But I am not so sure.

To top specifically doesn’t match up with the current way that skyboxes are rendered. So we might be seeing an entirely new feature or are awaiting a tweak to how skybox files are stretched. In Steam\steamapps\common\SteamVR\resources\backgrounds – Currently there is a SkyDome texture that is gradient black to gray, a SkyDome_Blue texture that is gradient blue, and a reflections texture that relate to the blue color more.

Image
“Maybe your VR system can’t see your floor?”

New Steam VR Room Setup

Now this is embarrassing. This is not a feature that was added in 1.23.2. It was added earlier, but we all missed it. That being said, it’s still a WIP and is totally a different way than how Room Setup currently works in Steam VR.

If you skip to 1:58 in this video I made, it will show you exactly how it works. The big benefit of this setup system (even though its unfinished) is that it allowed you to do it fully within VR. Unlike the current “official” Room Setup.

Image

Standalone System Layer

This is the Valve Internal Menu. Just like the System and Internet menus: Its a hidden menu you can activate with some tweaks to the config files. This is where we enabled another menu that shown us the new WIP Room Setup. But it also allows you to enable different experimental systems such as Prism (doesn’t work) and the Standalone System Layer.

For a while, the Standalone System layer didn’t do anything except crash Steam VR. But now it actually does something… It disables the Steam VR Dashboard completely. As in, it doesn’t seem to run that entire layer within processes. Why would they do that?

Well to me: I speculate that Valve’s next HMD will have it’s own UI and “Dashboard” built into it’s firmware and SoC. But Deckard still relies on communication with Steam VR on PC to access the feature sets and more.

Image

Patent and Wrap Up

This pretty much ends my overview and explanation of all the backend systems we found within Steam VR 1.23.2 Beta. Again, it’s a ridiculous amount of stuff this time. And the stuff they purposefully let out to us feels eerily similar to when Valve let out the info that let xPaw figure out that they were making a handheld gaming PC known as SteamPal (later Steam Deck).

Valve also had a utility patent application published showing off continued work on this concept of communication between the “front display housing” and the rear housing on the strap. I still stand by my predictions on how Deckard will one day become a full Standalone PC VR HMD. Even if it possibly doesn’t release with an x86 APU at launch.

Articles like this will continue to be published. I rather people use this as a resource for regurgitation/video scripts than my twitter. And I thank Valve for giving me and my other XR enthusiasts something fun to do once in a while. Much Love from all of us.


Bradley Lynch is the creator the SadlyItBradley YouTube channel. He and others on his Discord frequently analyze code in updates to SteamVR. His recent post analyzing a June 14th update is reprinted here with permission.

Guest Post: What New Findings Tell Us About Valve’s Deckard Headset

Steam VR had a notable update on June 14th. Not so much in what was introduced in the patch notes itself. But in the backend: we got a ton of new systems/strings related to Valve Deckard. The next HMD from the company who runs Steam.

Join me as I walk through the most notable things that me and my fellow dataminers have found.

Image
Steam VR’s hidden “System” menu looks similar to the Steam Deck’s settings UI

New System Menu

The most notable thing that was found in the strings (and later activated via some tweaks to the code) was a set of new menus that are clearly meant for a product that does not exist. First let’s talk about how Steam VR has a System menu. If you have ever used a Steam Deck, you might recognize that the UI for this page is very similar. The ability to update a device, see status of an update, and even choose an OS Update Channel are all copied over from the Steam Deck. Valve’s Portable Handheld PC.

You can see all the status messages for Updating Firmware on the Deckard

The OS Update Channel would show you a variety of different builds you can access. Such as a Beta OS build that will let you test features ahead of time. And a stable public build. Possibly more. These update systems do not work. The code references json files needed to be able to request what builds are available from the central server (/linux_update/get_channels.json). But since we don’t have that JSON file, there is no webserver routing, as of yet, to receive updates from. You may also notice a major difference to this menu from the Steam Deck UI is the fact you need to indicate where a PC has a Steam VR install. You cannot change anything within this prompt as of yet. But as I will explain soon in the Valve Deckard Recap Page – The base Deckard is likely to use an ARM chip to become a “smart PC VR HMD.” And will still require routing to a PC. Whether that is strapped directly onto a headstrap mounted compute unit. Or wirelessly connected. System Update will not change Steam VR itself. But likely the firmware on the Deckard

Linux_Update file strings everywhere…

XRService Cal

On the System menu, there is also our very first reference to an XRService Cal. This is the first time we have heard of such a system within Steam VR. But it is definitely an important layer that Deckard needs to operate with. Our current speculation is that it is part of Valve’s new camera-based tracking system. From my research, Valve has a lot of interest into applying some Mixed Reality cameras to their headset as well to do Video Passthrough AR. This interest comes from patents, lots of driver updates related to cameras on lighthouse HMDs, comments from Gabe Newell, and confirmed partnership work with a computer vision company known as Arcturus Industries. If you watch their public demoes, they show off a lot of systems related to using cameras to do SLAM and virtual reconstruction of areas.

XRService is related to Universe Origins and Placement Modes

This XRService Cal string in the menu will seemingly just show the date and time of the last time you did the calibration. This might be useful for developers only. And a good way to hint to people like me: “hey we are actually doing this.”

It is important to note that we have speculated for a long period of time that Valve would allow the ability to track without lighthouse base stations. Sources from Ars Technica confirmed our suspicions as well. But Valve is not giving up fully on the lighthouse tracking system that many PC VR enthusiasts like myself use for things such as Full Body Tracking.

Deckard Devtools and Lighthouse Pairing

“deckard_devtools” hints to possible Deckard dev kits

Lighthouse has been an incredibly useful tracking system for VR HMDs and more importantly: accessories. Applications like VRChat thrive because they adopted the ability to use things such as Vive Trackers to allow Full Body Tracking for avatar expression. The main issue people have had with Lighthouse comes primarily from the difficulty in adoption. Especially for people who cannot drill holes in walls. Or just live in small rooms in flats.

Valve is seemingly wanting to change this by incorporating both Camera based tracking AND the option to still use Lighthouse base stations/peripherals with Deckard. In the picture posted above, we have the very first reference to something called “Deckard Devtools.” Dev obviously stands for developer. And there seems to be a subset of systems that would allow developers to tweak games/overlays/services to work in parity with the Deckard. We do not have the full list of systems that these Deckard Devtools include. Except one: a fully fleshed out menu system that allows users to pair lighthouses and lighthouse dongles to Deckard itself.

We are not sure how fully the functionality goes for Deckard itself. But we did figure out how to access the new menu within VR. It’s something that people in the Steam VR community has wanted anyway, without a new HMD. And it actually functions the way we would like it to.

Image
The new pairing menu hidden within Steam VR allows users to set which exact dongle they’d like to set to pairing mode

New Internet Menu

One of the main benefits of incorporating an SoC into Valve Deckard would be the addition to include accessible wireless technology. The Quest 2 makes up nearly 50% of all headsets connected to Steam VR and it’s not hard to see why. It is sold at a loss, but also: It has applications like Virtual Desktop and Air Link that makes wireless PC VR easy and accessible.

Image
The New Internet Settings Menu would make it easy for people to connect Deckard wirelessly

Another new menu added (and activated with tweaks to the code) is the “Internet” settings menu. It’s honestly pretty self explanatory. Steam VR is adding systems that will allow a PC to set up a “Wi-Fi Hotspot” for Wi-Fi enabled HMDs like Deckard to easily connect to. Currently it’s notable that the code mostly is bound to Linux endpoints.

Strangely enough – the menu and code suggests the ability to list multiple HMDs connected. I don’t know if this would be meant for Location Based experiences that would likely enable easy multi-communication between headsets? But the functionality is somewhat there.

“cv_hmd” driver is listed all over these SAP settings

The last final note to this section is related to strings. These Access Point features are littered with references to a new set of drivers that don’t exist on the Public version of Steam VR. The set of drivers it is looking for is called “cv_hmd.” I am not going to speculate myself on what CV stands for. There are a couple obvious ideas you can lead yourself to. One thing is for sure though: one day, we will probably get a new folder in Steam\steamapps\common\SteamVR\drivers that will enable this functionality and possibly give us a heart attack.

Foxnet Returns

On October 1st, 2021: I did a live stream where I plainly set out all my predictions on what the Valve Deckard would be. And I have to note: most of the things I said in that stream, still stay true for my predictions today (except for Varifocal Optics).

The one final piece that allowed me to string together a picture of the Valve Deckard came from a leaked Steam Deck Firmware backup accidentally published by a Valve Developer. Within this firmware, there was only a couple files within Steam OS 3 that mentioned Deckard. And they all were in a folder named “foxnetstats”. In this folder was a set of Python files that were named: coremodules.py , steamvr.py , and finally deckard.py. Within the Deckard named file, Valve accidentally shown us what type of SoC was inside a version of Valve’s upcoming HMD.

FoxNet was seemingly designed to report chip thermals to a x86 Computer

The picture listed above shows all the cores that Valve was interested in recording thermal temps for. To the untrained eye, this might not tell you a lot about the SoC being logged. But for people who follow this industry in ridiculous amounts: One thing is certain. It shows proprietary cores that Qualcomm includes in all of their SoCs. Including ones like the XR1 and XR2. So we gathered that Valve was interested in one of these chips this for their own Headsets. (We just couldn’t tell if it was the Same XR2 in Quest 2)

But wait, Valve has repeatedly said that an x86 AMD APU like the one in the Steam Deck would help them run standalone VR? Well again: they do have plans for that. But I think as an upgrade path. I expect Valve will focus on modularity and their enthusiast PC VR community first.

Image
Valve employees hinting toward the Future of VR hardware

Image
Moore’s Law Is Dead recently broke news on a “Van Gogh Successor”

To get back on track, we heard nothing of FoxNet since that leak. The Steam Deck came out and had no references anywhere within the code. I want to reiterate how lucky we were that the Valve employee seemingly backed up his own firmware rather than using a blank slate. Deckard would be way more mysterious without that mistake.

Image
Steam VR 1.23.2 – Return of the FoxNet

As of Steam VR 1.23.2, the backend code finally has references to this Foxnet service. And we find out that it is based on an application called “WireGuard.” WireGuard is a secure VPN tunnel. The reason for a VPN tunnel is something I will leave to your imagination.

New Theater Mode

I have reported a lot in relation to a new Theater mode being worked on for Steam VR. For those who do not know, Steam VR has used the same method to allow players to play flat screen games in VR since the HTC Vive released in 2016. It ran on Unity. Was slow and ugly. No one wanted to use it. Six years later, they finally decided a new system needs to be introduced.

Instead of requiring a brand new application to open alongside the non-VR game itself – Valve is using the backend of their Steam VR desktop/overlay system to build it. This is not only way more performant, but also leads some really neat possibilities related to Mixed Reality. One of the most common mentioned use cases for AR is the idea that it can replace a large size TV that can be moved anywhere at any time. The problem with this idea up until now has been the fact no one has wanted to watch/play non-VR content on bulky/large + low resolution HMDs. However if you followed my channel enough: you might be noticing that both of those things are changing in the next generation of XR hardware. Headsets are getting lighter, thinner, and much higher resolution. And with the XRCalibration that alludes to being able to map out a Real World environment for continuous placement: I think Valve is setting up the systems for this.

Currently what’s built into Steam VR in regards to the theater mode IS activatable via string tweaks. However the experience is not polished whatsoever. I want to mention that my dream for a system like this would be to allow integration of Steam Remote Play. And a virtual couch to invite friends together to play couch co-op in VR.  No allusion to whether that’s happening. But it’s my dream.

There is also new shaders added to allow realtime reflections from the Theater screen (doesn’t work yet)

SkyDome?

I haven’t talked much about this feature being added within the files. It’s just a set of new skybox-type images to Steam VR. And reflections they would give off as well. I thought it was a replacement for the standard skybox you would see while loading in between apps/games in Steam VR. But I am not so sure.

To top specifically doesn’t match up with the current way that skyboxes are rendered. So we might be seeing an entirely new feature or are awaiting a tweak to how skybox files are stretched. In Steam\steamapps\common\SteamVR\resources\backgrounds – Currently there is a SkyDome texture that is gradient black to gray, a SkyDome_Blue texture that is gradient blue, and a reflections texture that relate to the blue color more.

Image
“Maybe your VR system can’t see your floor?”

New Steam VR Room Setup

Now this is embarrassing. This is not a feature that was added in 1.23.2. It was added earlier, but we all missed it. That being said, it’s still a WIP and is totally a different way than how Room Setup currently works in Steam VR.

If you skip to 1:58 in this video I made, it will show you exactly how it works. The big benefit of this setup system (even though its unfinished) is that it allowed you to do it fully within VR. Unlike the current “official” Room Setup.

Image

Standalone System Layer

This is the Valve Internal Menu. Just like the System and Internet menus: Its a hidden menu you can activate with some tweaks to the config files. This is where we enabled another menu that shown us the new WIP Room Setup. But it also allows you to enable different experimental systems such as Prism (doesn’t work) and the Standalone System Layer.

For a while, the Standalone System layer didn’t do anything except crash Steam VR. But now it actually does something… It disables the Steam VR Dashboard completely. As in, it doesn’t seem to run that entire layer within processes. Why would they do that?

Well to me: I speculate that Valve’s next HMD will have it’s own UI and “Dashboard” built into it’s firmware and SoC. But Deckard still relies on communication with Steam VR on PC to access the feature sets and more.

Image

Patent and Wrap Up

This pretty much ends my overview and explanation of all the backend systems we found within Steam VR 1.23.2 Beta. Again, it’s a ridiculous amount of stuff this time. And the stuff they purposefully let out to us feels eerily similar to when Valve let out the info that let xPaw figure out that they were making a handheld gaming PC known as SteamPal (later Steam Deck).

Valve also had a utility patent application published showing off continued work on this concept of communication between the “front display housing” and the rear housing on the strap. I still stand by my predictions on how Deckard will one day become a full Standalone PC VR HMD. Even if it possibly doesn’t release with an x86 APU at launch.

Articles like this will continue to be published. I rather people use this as a resource for regurgitation/video scripts than my twitter. And I thank Valve for giving me and my other XR enthusiasts something fun to do once in a while. Much Love from all of us.


Bradley Lynch is the creator the SadlyItBradley YouTube channel. He and others on his Discord frequently analyze code in updates to SteamVR. His recent post analyzing a June 14th update is reprinted here with permission.

Review: Barn Finders VR

Playing Barn Finders VR feels a bit like one of those reality TV shows you watch when there’s nothing else on, or you’re stuck at home ill, with only daytime TV to get you through. There’s a sense of being watched by cameras as you pick through old barns looking for value, or bidding on a storage unit which contains a valuable item. Half the time I was playing I wanted to look directly into a camera lens and raise my eyebrows at the audacity of those trying to outbid me.

The Barn Finders, that’s the player and their redneck relation, operate a store which seems to sell bits and pieces pulled out of random barns. At first, the store is barren; every shelf holds only dust, floor displays are broken wooden pallets. Utilising the store’s handy (and ancient) computer, customers will get in contact asking the Barn Finders to search a property for a particular item – we can keep everything else we find and sell it in-store.

I went out to the first barn looking for a taxidermy deer. I seemingly had superhuman strength as I could pick up huge wooden crates, vehicle tires and myriad large knick-knacks. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. At one point I picked up a taxidermy… I think it was an otter (it was bad taxidermy) and when I placed it down a countdown timer appeared with no other prompts. Eventually, I worked out that when the timer hit zero, I had to pick up the item again which would package it into the truck out back.

Using the controllers I pointed at cans, bottles, and random rubbish which could be recycled with the press of a button. Now I knew what the timer meant I began picking up everything to see if it could be collected. Eventually, I found the deer we’d come for, threw it into the truck and headed back to the shop.

Around the store are areas designated for cleaning items or repairing them. Of course, these took cash to unlock, so I began placing the items I found in the store. The shelves still looked bare, so I chose to bid on a storage unit next. After driving out, and watching one of the many bizarre cutscenes which feel as if pulled from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it was time to bid. Of course, I won the unit, bidding seemed a bit pointless as I assume clearing the unit is part of the campaign.

I repeated everything from the barn, this time finding more mechanical parts and an entire truck which could be sold in the yard of the store. I was quietly enjoying the concept of the game, it’s not going to win any awards, but there was something oddly relaxing and satisfying about roaming these cavernous spaces looking for potential treasures.

Also oddly pleasing is the shopping experience offered to the customers back at the store. Patrons enter and stand by the item they want, sparking a conversation, which leads to some haggling over prices. Using a slightly wonky UI, you can hold out for a better price, refuse the sale or let the item go for the offered amount. 

Frustratingly, a moving bar must be stopped in the right zone to trigger a successful haggling attempt and the motion controls just aren’t good enough. In fact, anytime I had to ‘physically’ press a button it took a few attempts. Several times I sold an item for lower than I wanted because the sensitivity is skewed.

Otherwise, I was enjoying my time in this faux TV entertainment. The attention to detail in the environments and items is quirky and the developers have committed to the redneck family stylings in a wonderfully ironic way. The idea of rooting through these spaces is always appealing, but like many similar games (House Flipper I’m looking at you) it’s enjoyable but gets repetitive quite quickly.

There are odd driving forces aside from the core concept – the store can be upgraded visually, there are comic book pages to discover and hidden items which require revisiting areas and exploring again. Your mileage will vary depending on your patience.

It’s hard to say whether VR really offers anything to the concept here. There weren’t really any moments where I marvelled at something I was manipulating in virtual reality; the whole experience could be played with mouse and keyboard and affect nothing within the game. While that’s not a major detraction, it would be nice to have some features that justify the need for VR.

Valve Patent Filing May Reveal Its Standalone Headset’s Design

A Valve design patent filing may reveal its rumored ‘Deckard’ headset.

Valve Index, the company’s $999 tethered PC VR kit, has now been on the market for almost three years. It still has best-in-class tracking and audio quality but its 1600×1440 resolution has been surpassed on both the low end with Quest 2 and the high end with headsets like HTC’s Vive Pro 2 and Varjo Aero.

Evidence of a new headset codenamed Deckard was discovered in September by YouTuber Brad Lynch (SadlyItsBradley) in a SteamVR driver. Deckard is the surname of Blade Runner’s protagonist and likely a reference to Steam Deck. Last year, when asked directly by The Verge whether Steam Deck’s chip could be used in a standalone VR headset, Valve product designer Greg Coomer said it would “run well in that environment” and “it’s very relevant to us and our future plans”. In February, Valve president Gabe Newell described Steam Deck as a “stepping stone” to high performance standalone VR, but noted “we’re not really there yet”.

Ars Technica said its sources confirmed Valve had at least two VR headset concepts in the works which diverged over time, with one requiring a PC and tracking base stations but the other operating standalone with onboard compute like Quest.

The evidence from Lynch suggested Deckard is the standalone headset. He found a “Standalone System Layer” option in the hidden ‘Valve Internal’ menu tab of SteamVR, as well as a Linux-only binary referencing Deckard which he says tells the device to boot to a default application. Valve’s distro of Linux is called SteamOS – it’s what Steam Deck runs.

Lynch also noted that a driver called VRLink was added to SteamVR with code referencing a Wi-Fi 6 driver, and this update actually temporarily broke some HTC Vive wireless setups. These findings suggest Deckard will have PC VR streaming functionality similar to Quest’s Air Link and Virtual Desktop. A new finding from Lynch this week suggests SteamVR will make it easy for PCs with Wi-Fi to create a hotspot directly to the headset – something Meta seems to plan to do with a USB dongle.

 

Today, a Valve design patent application filed in December titled ‘Head Mounted Display’ was made public by the US Patent & Trademark Office. It depicts a wireless headset with a different design to Index, but with a similar off-ear speaker setup and rear strap adjustment knob.

It’s notable that the front of the headset lacks any kind of detail. It doesn’t show the cameras or photodiodes that would be expected for positional tracking. That’s because this design patent filing actually seems to be focused on the strap system of the headset and its ability to be adjusted for various face and head shapes – the patent isn’t about the headset’s technical design.

Despite that focus, there are hints in the patent text that the depiction may be standalone: “The harness may couple to a rear housing disposed at the back of the HMD. The rear housing may accommodate various computing components of the HMD.” There’s also a line that backs up Lynch’s findings about wireless PC functionality: “In some instances, the images may be output by an application or computing device communicatively coupled to the HMD.”

 

Ars Technica’s September article noted that Valve had begun dedicating its manufacturing lines to the Steam Deck portable console, so doubted the company had the capacity to also ship a new standalone VR headset at scale in the near term given the ongoing global chip shortage. But nine months later Steam Deck has now shipped. Could Valve be getting closer to a reveal for its next hardware?

VR Usage On Steam Jumps 70% To All Time High Of 3.24% – But Why?

3.24% of Steam users used a VR headset in May, by far an all time high. But why the sudden jump?

Companies like Meta, Valve, & HTC don’t reveal hardware sales figures. The Steam Hardware Survey remains the most reliable indicator of PC VR’s adoption. The survey is offered to a random sample of Steam’s userbase each month. If you choose to accept, it uploads your PC specifications and peripherals. Before March 2020 the survey relied on headsets being connected via USB at the time of sampling, but Valve changed it to scan your SteamVR logs from the past month.

Valve compiles this data to present the overall percentage of Steam users with a VR headset, as well as the relative usage share of each headset model. Since the survey method was changed the previous all time high for VR users on Steam was 2.31% in March 2021. But the data for May 2022 released on Friday shows a dramatic and unexplained jump to 3.24%.

What caused this? On Friday we reached out to Valve for clarification but we haven’t received a reply.

Could a clue lie in another section of the Hardware Survey? In May the number of users on Steam with their language set to Simplified Chinese dropped 3.38% in absolute terms. Given Steam’s monthly active userbase is 132 million, that’s more than 4 million China-based users dropping off the survey compared to April.

Given none of the most popular VR headsets used on Steam are sold in China, sampling a userbase with fewer Chinese users should result in a larger percentage of VR users. This could explain the all time high VR stat – though it’s unclear what actually caused the reduction in Chinese users in the first place, and the number of Chinese users was also around 22% in November 2021.

Another possibility is that Valve was somehow undercounting VR users and corrected this for the May statistics. We’ll update this article if we get a response.

Unexpected Update Brings New Content to SteamVR Home

Valve released an update to SteamVR this week that unexpectedly added new content to SteamVR Home.

Valve has long been making small but helpful updates to SteamVR, but especially in the last year there hasn’t been a particularly clear signal that the company was putting much work into the platform.

That’s why it was surprising to see that with the public launch of the SteamVR 1.22 update this week, the company added a surprise—a brand new photogrammetry environment for SteamVR Home, its first-party VR social space.

The new environment is a capture of a portion of the village of Fornalutx in Mallorca, which resides in the Western Mediterranean Sea.

SteamVR users can download the new environment by subscribing to it in the Steam Workshop. Once downloaded, it will become available as a new place you and friends can visit in SteamVR Home.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like this slice of new content means that Valve has renewed motivation to work on its VR platform. As explained in the patch notes, the photos were originally captured back in October 2019—shortly after the release of the company’s Index headset. Given what we know about Valve’s unique corporate structure, it seems likely the timing of this release merely coincided with an individual at the company digging up the old photos and processing them as something of a side project.

So, nice to have a cool new scan to explore, but we don’t think it means Valve is suddenly going to be cranking out big new updates for SteamVR.

The company has continued to work on SteamVR, albeit slowly. A handful of updates have landed over the last year or so that have made improvements to the SteamVR dashboard, added new settings for power users, and made the platform play nicer with Quest headsets using Oculus Link.

Photo by Road to VR

Granted, still long overdue is a SteamVR native version of core Steam features like friends list, voice chats, a fully functional store and library, achievements, and more. SteamVR for a long time has fallen back to the Steam ‘Big Picture’ interface that’s designed for large displays. Unfortunately in VR that interface runs very clunkily and was clearly designed for a different input modality.

Beyond adding the new SteamVR Home environment, the SteamVR 1.22 update also brought with it a bunch of bug fixes and technical improvements that were previously released in beta versions of the software; you can see the full patch notes here.

The post Unexpected Update Brings New Content to SteamVR Home appeared first on Road to VR.

Oculus Public Test Channel Fixes (Air) Link Windows 11 Judder

The Public Test Channel of the Oculus PC app fixes Oculus Link juddering on Windows 11.

Oculus Link is a Quest feature which lets the device act as a PC VR headset, either wired via USB or wirelessly via your home Wi-Fi network. While it works as advertised on Windows 10, if you try it on Windows 11 you may see a constant distracting – and even sickening – juddering effect. The issue had existed since the release of Windows 11.

Yesterday we reported on a Tweet from Meta Reality Labs “Consulting CTO” John Carmack apologizing for the issue still existing. “We think we have a handle on it, and an update is in the pipeline, but I can’t say exactly when it will land”, he wrote. After publication we were contacted by readers pointing out this fix actually already shipped in the Public Test Channel.

To enroll in the Public Test Channel navigate to the Beta tab of the Settings of the Oculus PC app, then wait for the update to finish downloading. I tried this today and found it did indeed fix the constant juddering issue.

However, I did still experience an occasional judder I don’t remember happening on Windows 10, and that I don’t experience when using the paid 3rd party alternative to Air Link Virtual Desktop.

If you use Windows 11: does the Public Test Channel fix the juddering for you? Which works better for you: Air Link or Virtual Desktop? Let us know in the comments below.

VR Puzzler The Last Clockwinder Times PC VR & Quest 2 Launch for June

There are some delightfully inventive puzzle titles in VR, from casual hand tracked experiences to proper mind-bending videogames. Indie studio Pontoco and publisher Cyan Ventures are set to launch the next grey matter sparking puzzler, The Last Clockwinder, next month for PC VR headsets and Meta Quest.

The Last Clockwinder

Unveiled back in December, The Last Clockwinder is a VR puzzle-automation videogame with the aim being to repair an ancient clock tower built into a massive tree. The clock tower is a store for the galaxy’s plants and seeds, so you need to grow plants, harvest resources, and clone yourself in a bid to complete each challenge.

Automation is key in The Last Clockwinder, performing each task by hand before looping it with a clockwork clone, thus creating loop upon loop to create ever more elaborate sequences.

It’s not entirely about creating Rube Goldberg machines with your hands though. The Last Clockwinder will have a narrative where you’ll need to: “Piece together your complicated past as you work to save your childhood home.” 

The Last Clockwinder

This isn’t the first VR title to use cloning as a gameplay mechanic, with Secret Location’s Transpose one of the more unusual examples of the mechanic. The Last Clcokwinder, in comparison, looks to be a far more gentile experience for VR puzzle fans.

The Last Clcokwinder is set to release on 2nd June 2022 for Meta Quest 2, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index (SteamVR). Check out the latest trailer for the videogame below and for further updates keep reading gmw3.

Demeo’s Next Table Top Adventure is ‘Curse of the Serpent Lord’

Demeo was an instant hit for Resolution Games last year, combining D&D style gameplay with virtual reality (VR). Since the initial launch, the studio has released several expansions with Realm of the Rat King and Roots of Evil providing new quests to conquer. Today sees the fourth update teased, Curse of the Serpent Lord.

There’s only one singular image to go on currently, showcasing the titular ‘Serpent Lord’ that you’ll face as the final boss, looking like quite the intimidating character. Then you’ve got what looks like a new player character. When Roots of Evil arrived Resolution Games introduced a new character class; Molthas the Bard. So Curse of the Serpent Lord could very well add a sixth character class.

No other details are currently available regarding what else the expansion may contain, more will be teased in the coming weeks. What we do know is that Curse of the Serpent Lord is the first of two new adventures coming to Demeo this year.

This follows on from the PC edition of Demeo that launched last month. The PC version is completely compatible with the VR edition, making it even easier for friends to join in and populate a four-player game. Demeo is a turn-based title, where players have to work as a team to fight monsters, clear dungeons and vanquish the end boss.

Demeo

Gmw3 is a big fan of Demeo saying in its review: “Demeo continues Resolution Games’ run of well-crafted VR titles, moving away from the frantic gameplay of Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale and Blaston into a far more laidback experience…Its slower style isn’t for everyone yet as an example of D&D in VR, Demeo excels.”

This hasn’t been the only videogame announcement from the Resolution Games team this week. They released the first gameplay trailer for upcoming sports title Ultimechs.

Demeo is available for Quest and SteamVR headsets with the Curse of the Serpent Lord expansion available as a free update from 16th June 2022. For continued updates on the latest Resolution Games titles, keep reading gmw3