SteamVR update brings beautiful new photogrammetry environment
A pretty new photogrammetry environment reminds us that Valve is still working on its VR platform.
The environment lets you explore the alleys of the village Fornalutx in the northwest of Mallorca. Some of the views look deceptively real and were created from 600 high-resolution photographs. Valve stitched the images together with the photogrammetry software RealityCapture to create a detailed 3D model.
As in most photogrammetry environments, the explorable area is quite limited. You can walk up and down a long alley and turn into a side alley here and there. Exploring the village completely, unfortunately, is not possible. On the other hand, there is a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape and hills at the highest point, along with a harmonious soundscape.
According to Valve, the photos were taken within 25 minutes. The digitization and optimization process, on the other hand, probably took many hours.
Photogrammetry: Great examples in the Steam Workshop
You can download the Fornalutx environment directly in SteamVR by searching for it among the environments or subscribing to it via browser in the Steam Workshop. It will then be downloaded automatically in SteamVR.
You can set Fornalutx as your launch environment and invite friends to it - a social feature that the rival Quest platform still lacks, even after three years and a pandemic.
Exploring photogrammetry environments in VR is always fascinating. There are plenty of great examples of photorealistic replicas of real places in the Steam Workshop. At the end of our list of the best virtual reality travel destinations, you'll find some of the most beautiful.
Valve's Virtual Reality Break
The Fornalutx environment is part of SteamVR update 1.22, which also fixes several bugs.
Valve does regularly maintain its VR platform, but not much happens beyond that. SteamVR 2.0, which was teased in early 2020, continues to be a long time coming, and new features and improvements, such as more flexible desktop integration, new render tricks, and optimized quest usage, are few and far between. The Fornalutx footage is from October 2019, which is the launch year of Valve Index.
Valve's flattened interest in virtual reality is likely due to slow SteamVR growth and the current focus on Steamdeck. Work on virtual reality, which Newell called a fundamentally important technology, will likely continue in the background.
Valve will probably only pump a lot of resources into this line of business again when the company sees a bigger market opportunity, for example in the form of a standalone SteamVR headset. Newell made corresponding hints.