Steam Deck: Gabe Newell sees VR potential

Steam Deck: Gabe Newell sees VR potential

The Steam Deck could evolve into a platform for virtual and augmented reality, Valve CEO Gabe Newell hints in an interview.

Today is the launch day of Valve’s Steam Deck portable gaming console. In an interview with the video game magazine Edge, Valve founder Gabe Newell talks about the directions the hardware could take.

The post in question was shared by industry analyst and Youtuber Brad Lynch on Twitter (see below). Newell’s statements reportedly come from an as-yet-unpublished interview.

Future Steam decks with cameras?

“The first step is to let you play the great games that exist today. The second iterations are going to be more about: what are the capabilities that mobile gives us, above and beyond what you would get in a traditional desktop or laptop gaming environment?”, the Valve CEO said about the future of Steam Deck.

As an example, Newell cites computer vision, a technology the company is experimenting with in a VR context that could be used in future models of Steam Deck.

Newell might mean spatial tracking for VR goggles by computer vision. However, machine vision encompasses much more, such as recognizing and classifying objects in the physical environment, and it is a key augmented reality technology. Accordingly, the Valve boss is probably thinking of a Steam Deck with integrated cameras that captures the environment and selectively augments it with digital elements.

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Steam Deck XR: The best of both worlds?

“One of the things [Deck] represents is battery capable, high-performance horsepower that eventually you could use in VR applications as well, Newell says. “You can take the PC and build something that is much more transportable. We’re not really there yet, but this is a stepping stone.”

Newell’s vision is of a gaming device that combines the best of both worlds: the (approximate) processing power of the PC with the portability of smartphones and tablets.

In a virtual reality context, that can only mean one thing: a self-contained VR headset that powers SteamVR games. Such a device is reportedly in development under the codename Deckard. The Steam Deck would serve as the technical blueprint. The basics would reportedly be a Linux-based SteamOS paired with a powerful x86-compatible chip.

The future of PC VR could be self-sufficient

Currently, the Steam Deck’s chip is too weak to display SteamVR games at acceptable frame rates. However, Apple’s upcoming VR goggles could prove that the idea of a high-performance standalone VR device is not far-fetched at all and should become more concrete in the next few years. The device is supposed to be equipped with an M1 processor, whose performance exceeds conventional mobile chips by far.

A self-sufficient Valve Index, if implemented well, would be a promising way out of the PC-VR impasse, which Valve has maneuvered itself into in recent years, and a possibility to inspire completely new buyer groups for SteamVR. And thus to once again defy Meta.

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