How To Use Your Oculus Rift S On SteamVR

SteamVR Rift S

Last week, Valve’s SteamVR platform added full support for the Oculus Rift S. You can use SteamVR to play many PC VR games not sold on the Oculus Store.

You can download SteamVR from Steam.

What is SteamVR?

Steam is a popular digital store and launcher for PC games (both VR and non-VR).

SteamVR is software that lets developers create PC VR apps, and users (like you) with any PC VR headset play them. SteamVR itself is installed via Steam, and most SteamVR apps/games are sold on Steam.

Both are created by the company Valve.

Oculus API / SteamVR

Not all VR games on the Steam store use SteamVR- some use the Oculus API only, and some support either Oculus API mode or SteamVR mode- letting you choose which to run.

SteamVR supports the Oculus Rift S. This support is however not native. Instead, SteamVR acts as an Oculus app in itself, so when using the Rift it translates the developer’s SteamVR API calls to Oculus API calls. This process usually works well, but sometimes can be buggy and can lower performance.

A Steam store page won’t tell you whether a game supports your headset natively or through SteamVR, so if you want to know you’ll need to look on the game’s forum or ask around to be sure.

Audio Switching

Oculus API games, with a few exceptions, will automatically output their audio to your Rift S, even when a different audio device is selected in the Windows taskbar.

SteamVR does not work like this. Instead, you need to set it to switch the Windows audio device to your Rift S when SteamVR is launched, then back to your normal speakers or headphones when it is closed.

To do this, open the SteamVR settings and click on the Audio tab.

Choose Your Platform

While using your Rift S on SteamVR, you may notice that you’re simultaneously using two platforms. You have an Oculus Home and a SteamVR Home, and you have the Oculus Dash and SteamVR Dashboard.

If you want to only use SteamVR for content and not its platform features, you can disable them in the SteamVR settings.

If you prefer SteamVR’s platform however, keep these enabled.

Try The Lab

The Lab is Valve’s collection of room scale VR experiences, demos, and experiments. It’s available for free on Steam.

There are 8 sections in total: Slingshot, Longbow, Xortex, Postcards, Human Medical Scan, Solar System, Robot Repair, and Secret Shop.

Robot Repair is set in the Portal universe and Secret Shop is set in the DOTA universe. Even today, Longbow is considered one of the most fun VR games.


If you experience performance issues or bugs with SteamVR, you can use an alternative open source runtime called OpenComposite.

OpenComposite works the same way as SteamVR does, but is more lightweight and optimized since it only supports Rift headsets.

You can download OpenComposite from GitLab. Extract it to a permanent folder where you want it installed.

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Valve Index Support Tag Goes Live On Steam, VR Discovery Improved

Valve Index Support Tag Goes Live On Steam, VR Discovery Improved

Notice anything different about SteamVR games today? No? New tie, or haircut, perhaps? Actually it’s just that the Valve Index icon is now featured on compatible games’ store listings. In fact, VR support on the wider Steam platform seems to have had a bit of a minor refresh.

Index is already listed on a huge number of VR apps, games and DLC (about 2,400 at the time of writing but that number appears to be increasing). These listings were not added by developers themselves according to those we’ve spoken to. Still, any game with SteamVR support should theoretically already support Index, certainly with a pair of HTC Vive controllers. What’s not clear is if these listed games will feature native support for the Index Controllers. The controllers include new finger-tracking features not supported in other VR input devices.

There’s also a few small tweaks to how you search for VR games on Steam now. Instead of listing every icon for supported headsets, VR games now simply state whether they’re ‘VR Supported’ or ‘VR Only’. If you hover your mouse over one you’ll then see specifically what headsets are supported. Nothing major, but it tidies Steam up a bit as the number of headset types continues to grow.

Index is set to ship later this month and we’re pretty darn excited about it. The headset alone costs $499.99 and works with your current Vive base stations and controllers. A $999.99 package also includes the new SteamVR 2.0 Base Stations and Index Controllers. If you order one now you’ll likely be waiting until late September before you get one. We’ll bring you more as headsets finally start arriving on doorsteps.

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SteamVR Adds Full Support For Oculus Rift S

SteamVR Rift S

Valve just added full support for the recently released Oculus Rift S PC VR headset to the SteamVR platform.

When the Rift S launched, haptic feedback on the Touch controllers wasn’t working in SteamVR. Valve released a hotfix less than 24 hours later to resolve this.

Over the last few weeks, Valve has been expanding support for Facebook’s new headset in SteamVR Beta builds. SteamVR now visually shows the new Touch controllers in the Dashboard, Home, and apps which use the default SteamVR controller model.

Before this release, SteamVR (non-Beta) detected the Rift S as a regular Rift with three sensors. This is how the Oculus runtime presents the VR hardware to apps built on older SDKs. Now that Valve is using the latest Oculus SDK, Rift S is detected as its own headset, with its own (higher) default resolution and no external sensors.

The Steam store has also been updated to consider Rift S compatible with all games marked as compatible with Rift. Beforehand Rift S users would see a message warning them that their headset was incompatible.

With the Rift S, users can redraw their Guardian boundary from inside VR using the black & white Passthrough+ mode. SteamVR now detects when this happens so as to position VR content in the center of the space without the need for restart.

The release is also supposed to fix “numerous stability issues and bugs”.

Valve Index Improvements

Of course, Valve is launching its own PC VR headset later this month. The company has been polishing up the Index software experience to get it ready for consumers.

This release improves the Hidden Area Mesh for the Index, which Valve claims will “better account for canting, increase stereo overlap” and “better accommodate re-projection”. It also claims to have improved AMD support for Index, “across all frame-rates”.

The update also adds auto-detection for VirtuaLink, likely for the Index VirtualLink adapter the company intends to ship at the end of July.

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SteamVR Adds Support For Valve Index, Motion Smoothing For Recent AMD GPUs

Valve Index Lenses Headset

The latest update to SteamVR this week brings a range of new features, improvements, and fixes.

Valve Index Support

The main content of this update is the drivers for the upcoming Valve Index VR headset and its controllers. It also includes setup and tutorial UI and assets for Index.

It also adds support for headsets with switchable refresh rate, such as the Index. Index is set to 120Hz by default, but can be set by the user to 80, 90, 120, or 144. 144 Hz is considered “Experimental”. A higher refresh rate can make head and object motion in VR feel more smooth than before.

Motion Smoothing For AMD

Motion Smoothing is Valve’s equivalent to Asynchronous Spacewarp. When your GPU isn’t maintaining framerate in VR, Motion Smoothing kicks in automatically. It forces the running app to render at half the refresh rate of the headset and generates a synthetic frame after each real frame. So when Motion Smoothing is engaged, half the frames are real and half are synthetic. Whenever performance returns to normal, Motion Smoothing deactivates and the app returns to normal rendering.

Motion Smoothing launched back in November. However, before now it only worked on NVIDIA GPUs. Valve stated at the time that AMD support was coming, and now it’s here. It won’t work on older R9 cards — you’ll need an RX or Vega GPU. If you bought a GPU before 2017 you’re probably out of luck. This should noticeably improve the VR experience for owners of cards like the RX 570, especially in demanding games.

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Valve Index Headset Is $499, Bundle $999: 1440×1600 LCD Panels, 120-144 Hz, Wider FOV

Valve Index Set Full Kit Controllers Base Stations Headset

Valve today announced preorders and revealed the specs for its Index PC VR system. Index is not made in partnership with HTC, the company Valve first partneted with on the first SteamVR headset (Vive). It’s a first party product from Valve Corporation.

Index is a PC VR headset powered by the SteamVR platform. It should be compatible with all existing SteamVR games. However older titles may not be optimized for the Index Controllers as they were built with HTC controllers in mind.

Preorders are available tomorrow, and the product will ship some time in June. No games are listed as being included.


The full Index bundle is $999. This includes the headset, the two VR controllers, two SteamVR Tracking 2.0 base stations, and all required cables and mounts.

Owners of the HTC Vive or Vive Pro can purchase the headset alone for $499, the controllers alone for $279, or the headset and controllers for $749. The Index headset and controllers work with any HTC base stations.

Valve base stations can be purchased individually for $149 each. Note that they will not work with 1.0 hardware such as the original Vive headset and controllers.

High Refresh Rate RGB LCD Panels

Valve partnered with HTC to launch the Vive back in 2016. It had dual 1080×1200 PenTile OLED panels. The Vive Pro released in 2018 increased this to dual 1440×1600.

The Index uses two custom 1440×1600 LCD panels. While they are the same resolution as the Vive Pro, they have full RGB subpixels instead of PenTile. This means each pixel has three subpixels instead of just two.

This provides a higher detail image with reduced “screen door effect”. However, you don’t get the deep blacks of OLED since LCD displays use a backlight.

The refresh rate of the Vive and Vive Pro was 90Hz. Index increases this to 120Hz, with an optional “experimental” 144Hz mode. Valve claims full backwards compatibility with 90Hz content.

The pixel persistence is down to just 0.33 ms, which is the lowest revealed of any headset we are aware of. Valve claims this achieves subpixel scale persistence at typical head rotation speeds. In theory, this should entirely eliminate motion blur.

Dual Element Lenses, Wider Field Of View

Most current VR consumer headsets have a binocular horizontal field of view of around 100°, give or take around 10°.

Valve is not disclosing the exact field of view of the Index, citing the lack of industry standard measurement. The company did however say that it should be “20 degrees more than Vive for the average customer.”

Given that the Vive’s maximum binocular horizontal field of view has been measured at 110 degrees, the Index maximum field of view should be somewhere around 130 degrees.

Valve managed to increase the field of view without adding distortion and while maintaining optical sharpness by using dual element lenses. The lenses are also canted, meaning pointing slightly outwards instead of directly forwards.

The lenses have a wide sweet spot, meaning the center is not the only area of sharpness. This lets you use your eyes to look around as well as your head.

Wearable Controllers With Finger Detection

The Index Controllers were codenamed “Knuckles” during development. Since they are strapped to your hand, you can fully let go of them. This allows for more natural grabbing and throwing of virtual objects.

The controllers also feature basic finger tracking for each finger. The concept of finger tracking through capacitive sensors was first shipped in the Oculus Touch controllers in late 2016. But whereas Touch only tracks the thumb and index finger, Valve’s controllers track the other three fingers too. This allows for a much wider range of gestures and should increase the feeling of hand presence.

As the Index Controllers are worn, users have two adjustments to get the right fit for their hand size. You push in a tab at the top of the strap, then pull a cord at the bottom to tighten the fit.

Each controller features a thumbstick, a small touchpad, 2 buttons, an analog index trigger, and a system button. Additionally, the main body of the controller can detect the force of the user’s grip, allowing for squeezing of virtual objects.

The controllers are charged by USB Type-C and have a battery life of 7+ hours.

Full Optical & Ergonomic Adjustment

Valve’s goal is that each user can adjust the lenses and comfort of Index to get an optimal fit.

To achieve this, Index has a total of four adjustments: interpupillary distance, lens-eye distance, the rear strap knob, and the top strap adjustment.

Unlike most headsets with lens-eye adjustment, Index’s lenses move independently of the facial interface. This allows the lenses to get much closer to your eyes, enabling the Index’s wide field of view. A 1 centimeter adjustment of the lenses results in a 30 degree difference in field of view.

Valve claims that Index comfortably fits 95% of adult heads.

Nearfield Off-Ear Speakers

Valve has gone all-out for the audio solution. Instead of headphone drivers, Index features nearfield off-ear speakers.

When we tried the Index we found the audio quality to be excellent, with precise spatial positioning.

The speakers don’t touch your ears, so you can still hear people in the room with you and they don’t get uncomfortable to wear. However, like other non-contact VR audio solutions, people in the room can also hear what you’re hearing.

SteamVR Tracking 2.0

Both the headset and controllers are tracked by the SteamVR Tracking 2.0 system. Two base stations are included in the $999 bundle, or can be purchased separately for $149 each.

Base stations are required to use Index. The front cameras are for passthrough, they do not perform inside-out tracking.

Compared to the original 1.0 used on the original Vive, the new base stations are smaller, quieter, and use less power. Valve claims they’re also more mechanically reliable and less expensive to produce.

Whereas the old system had a maximum of two base stations per play space, 2.0 increases that limit to four. So for $298 extra, Index buyers can upgrade to the absolute maximum VR tracking quality currently available anywhere.

While old base stations work with new devices, the new base stations will only work with hardware supporting them, such as the Valve Index or Pimax 5K+.

PC Requirements & Cables

Valve recommends using an NVIDIA GTX 1070 or better, but says a GTX 970 or AMD RX 480 will work as a minimum.

The headset connects to your PC via DisplayPort and USB. If you use USB 3.0 you’ll get access to camera passthrough mode, but the heaedset will work in USB 2.0 without that feature.

You’ll also need 3 power sockets in total. One for the headset and one for each base station. The base stations do not connect to your PC in any way however, so you can just cable them to the nearest socket to where you’ll be mounting them.

If you own a GPU with VirtualLink support, you can buy a VirtualLink cable for Index for $39.99. This negates the need for the DisplayPort, USB or power cable- it’s all done through a single USB Type-C connector.

Index will also work on macOS and Linux, but currently only a tiny fraction of SteamVR games support these operating systems.

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Valve Index Hands-On: Steam’s Big Upgrade From Vive Takes A Crowbar To Rift S

Valve Index Grip Headset Hands Controllers

I didn’t know the distance between the pupils of my eyes, but as I moved a slider on the bottom of the Valve Index head-mounted display from one extreme to the other I found it within seconds. Between 67 and 68 millimeters, the visuals delivered by Index seemed to lock into clarity and fit my binocular vision just right.

I recently used an app on my phone to confirm the distance between my pupils and found it measures 67.5 mm.

The slider adjusts the spacing of the Index dual-element lenses and two 1440×1600 LCD panels for inter-pupillary distances (IPDs) of 58-70 millimeters.

Fine Tuning Fit

A knob on the top-right side of the Index headset adjusts the distance of the lenses closer to the eyes. A single centimeter of change from this dial, according to Valve Corporation representatives, can expand or restrict the field of view into a virtual world by 30 degrees. “The lenses move independently of the facial interface (foam/gasket area) which means the lenses can get much closer to the eye,” a Valve representative explained.

Field Of View

Valve wouldn’t say specifically what the Index field of view is, citing confusion caused by the many ways it could be measured. The company did say, however, that Index is “20 degrees more than Vive for the average customer.” Depending how you measure, the original Vive is between 100 and 110 degrees for its field of view — but the actual FoV delivered by that headset could change based on individual fitting.

No Valve VR Updates At GDC But News Coming ‘In The Not Too Distant Future’

No Valve VR Updates At GDC But News Coming ‘In The Not Too Distant Future’

Valve Corporation employees are delivering updates during a presentation today at GDC about Steam features. The talk focuses on how new features and services in Valve’s Steam storefront got more people using it over the years. VR is one of the features listed in the presentation as building on-ramps to more growth on Steam.

That is the only mention of VR in the presentation.

Valve representative Doug Lombardi confirmed to me there would be no VR updates at GDC from Valve but that it remains an area of interest and investment for the company.

“We still see VR as being really important, we still see a lot of people adopting it,” Lombardi said. “In the short term, or the not too distant future, we are going to be talking more about…what’s happening on Steam with VR past, present and future, but it just won’t be happening here at the show.”

Late last year photos leaked showing what appeared to be a Valve-made head-mounted display. We heard from sources Valve could be targeting early this year for broader availability of the system with Knuckles controllers and perhaps a Half-Life VR game. In December, Valve started shipping fresh developer kits for its several-years-in-the-making hand controllers. Last month, Valve laid off 13 people including some working in VR — a prepared statement said it “does not represent any major changes at the company.”

The reveal of Rift S from Facebook means after three years of work the company committed to shipping a follow-up system to its first PC VR headset. Valve partner HTC is developing a range of headsets but none of them appear to use Valve’s SteamVR Tracking technology that was so critical to the appeal of the original Vive.

With certain compromises apparent in the design of the Rift S — it is heavier than the original, for example — we are extremely curious to see what choices Valve made in developing newer versions of its VR technology.

It sounds like we should get those updates soonish.

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Rift/Vive Gap Nearly Doubles In March Steam Hardware Survey

Rift/Vive Gap Nearly Doubles In March Steam Hardware Survey

The March Steam Hardware Survey results continue a recent trend. The Oculus Rift once again widened the gap with its main competitor, the HTC Vive.

Last month Rift had a 3.81% lead over both Vive and the enhanced Vive Pro. In February, though, that gap grew to a sizable 7.07%. Rift holds 48.21% of total SteamVR headset usage (up from 47.03%). The base Vive meanwhile is down from 40.62% to 39.36%. It’s the first time we’ve seen HTC’s headset dip below the 40% milestone. Vive Pro also shrank dramatically from 2.6% to 1.82%. Add the two together and HTC takes 41.18% of the total share.

As with last month, it looks like small jumps for Microsoft’s Windows VR headsets are to thank. Now at 9.96% (up from 8.94%), the headsets are painstakingly close to surpassing 10% of the share. No doubt scattered sales and the high-end Samsung Odyssey+ headset continued to push those figures.

As always, we’ll note that these figures are not a definitive means of tracking the actual VR market share. The Hardware Survey is optional and requires users to have their headsets actually plugged in to count. Neither Oculus nor HTC has shared official sales figures for their respective headsets.

Still, we’re expecting to see some big shifts for the survey pretty soon. Vive is set to launch the Vive Pro Eye in the next few months. It’s an enterprise-level headset so it probably won’t have a huge effect. But HTC’s Vive Cosmos, its next consumer-level device, is also due to release this year. Finally, we’re hoping for the announcement of the Oculus Rift S and Valve’s own SteamVR device at GDC later this month. It’s going to be a busy few weeks.

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Why GDC 2019 Could Be VR’s Most Important In Three Years

Why GDC 2019 Could Be VR’s Most Important In Three Years

February was slow, wasn’t it? For such a short month it sure does drag on. But it’s only lasted so long because we’ve been really, really looking forward to March. Or, more specifically, we’ve been looking forward to the 2019 Game Developers Conference.

That’s for a lot of reasons.

This GDC could well be VR’s most significant, at least since 2016. That year Oculus, Valve, Sony and HTC put the finishing touches on their launch campaigns. VR was on the cusp of going consumer and everyone was excited. The 2017 and 2018 iterations, while eventful, didn’t hold such importance.

But now in 2019 VR feels like it’s yet again on the cusp of something new. Perhaps not a second generation, but an intriguing mid-way point that will see the same suspects head off on exciting new tangents.

Oculus Quest and Rift S

Last year Oculus used GDC to lift the curtain on the Go headset. We got an in-depth hands-on and a first glimpse at games ahead of launch at F8 the following May.

We’re expecting a similar sort of roll out for the highly anticipated Oculus Quest. We already know we’ll see new demos for the six degrees of freedom (6DOF) standalone headset at the show. This could be Quest’s big coming out party, a chance to show everyone what this device is really capable of.

But Quest isn’t all we might see from Oculus at GDC. This month we found code that seemed to corroborate the existence of Oculus Rift S. Rift S is rumored to be a refreshed take on the Rift with inside-out tracking and an updated display. It could even be out this year. We’ve got our fingers crossed that Oculus has more news in store for us at GDC, even with Quest on the way.

HTC Vive Cosmos

HTC also has something in the works on the consumer VR side. At CES 2019, the company announced Vive Cosmos. It’s a PC VR headset with inside-out tracking. That’s about all the company will confirm on-record.

But not-so-sly hints and teases promise much more than that. HTC suggested Cosmos can also be powered by phones for portability. Not only that but the device will be modular, likely allowing users to swap out components for a VR experience that best suits them.

Cosmos is due to release later this year and GDC marks the perfect time to tell us more. This week, Vive announced a Developer Day for the first day of the show. There it will lay out its road map for 2019. Expect Cosmos to play a big part in that.

Valve’s Own SteamVR Headset

Oculus and HTC might not be great at keeping secrets, but no one plays its cards closer to its chest than Valve. After launching the Vive with HTC in 2016, we’ve heard that the SteamVR creator could be branching out with its very own headset. Supposed pictures of the device circulated the internet last year. GDC could be the time to reveal all.

Sources tell us the headset would feature a 135 degree field of view. It could come bundled with the company’s long-anticipated Knuckles controllers and, whisper it, a Half Life-based VR game.

At this point we’ve learned never to ‘expect’ something from Valve. If GDC were the coming out party for this headset it could easily be the biggest story of the show.

Exciting times ahead, then. We will be at GDC in full force and we will have all the latest from the show.

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CES 2019: Vive Reality System Looks Like HTC’s Big Departure From SteamVR

CES 2019: Vive Reality System Looks Like HTC’s Big Departure From SteamVR

HTC had a lot to share at its CES 2019 press conference today. Two new VR headsets, Vive Cosmos and Vive Eye Pro, undoubtedly stole the show. But it may be the announcement of the Vive Reality System that proves the be the most significant in the long run.

Vive Reality System is a brand new platform that will power Vive Cosmos. On the one hand, it appears to be the new user-interface where players will launch apps and access HTC’s VR storefront, Viveport. But the trailer below also suggests Vive Reality System will incorporate social VR, allowing friends to meet up with personalized avatars.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this news, however, is what it might mean for SteamVR. Until now, HTC Vive headsets have been entirely dependent on Valve’s VR platform. They utilized the company’s Lighthouse tracking and base stations. But, with Cosmos, HTC is introducing its own inside-out tracking system, free from Valve’s existing hardware. This might mean that Vive Reality System is HTC’s first move away from SteamVR on PC.

HTC has been experimenting with its own VR platforms for some time. In the mobile sector, the company created the Vive Wave platform for use with its Focus standalone headset and third-party devices. It’s possible that Cosmos will end up prioritizing Vive Reality System but also allow access to SteamVR games. Microsoft’s Windows-based VR headsets already do something similar for the Windows Mixed Reality platform. Cosmos will be releasing later this year, so we’ll be able to clean up our many questions then.

Still, HTC won’t be entirely abandoning SteamVR. The Vive Eye Pro will still require base stations for tracking. Speaking to UploadVR at CES, HTC’s Dan O’Brien said that the company will continue to make products that support Valve’s platform.

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