In an interview, Valve confirms that it is still working on VR and hints at the direction the journey might take.
Tested's Norman Chan recently spoke with two Valve employees about the newly announced Steam Deck OLED: hardware engineer Yazan Aldehayyat and product designer Lawrence Yang.
Chan asked how insights from the development of Steam Deck could be applied to VR hardware, and Yang replied:
"A lot of it. Working with an APU, with miniaturization of computers. We don't have anything to announce today in terms of VR other than that we are still working on VR and we're still pushing forward on it. But just like Steam Deck is a result of learning a bunch of stuff from Steam Controller and Steam Link and VR, future products will continue to learn from everything we've done with Steam Deck as well."
Aldehayyat added the following:
"Obviously there is a lot of overlap, technology pieces that we can reuse. Wireless streaming for example is very applicable to VR. That benefited Steam Deck as well, improving the wireless streaming experience. But also just establishing relationships with parts suppliers and other hardware partners. The Steam Deck team and the VR team, we work together, so there's a lot of innoculation of ideas and parts and technologies."
In 2022, Valve CEO Gabe Newell has also hinted that Steam Deck could influence Valve's next VR hardware.
Valve's long VR hiatus
Valve's last VR hardware, the Valve Index, was released in 2019, and Half-Life: Alyx the following year. Since then, nothing major has come from the VR direction, which is probably also due to the fact that the Steam Deck has taken up much of Valve's attention.
But for some time now, there have been hints that Valve is working on a wireless VR headset that would either stream content from a PC or work as a standalone device using a built-in chip similar to the Steam Deck. A job posting from late 2022 stated that Valve wanted to "take the next steps in VR" and "reach millions of customers worldwide," and it recently released SteamVR 2.0, a much-needed interface update for Valve's PC VR platform.
For a company like Valve that has amassed a lot of VR expertise and operates a large VR platform, it stands to reason that research into virtual reality is continuing in some shape or form. The question, of course, is when a new VR headset and software will be released. As we all know, Valve takes its time.
In their statements, the employees hint at the direction the upcoming headset could take and confirm the previous rumors: Like the Steam Deck, it could have an integrated APU that renders PC VR games as a standalone device, or alternatively streams them from a PC with a highly optimized wireless solution. Numerous Valve patents also support this idea.