Valve is producing new lenses to improve existing VR headsets


Image: B. Tongo/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Valve is here to make virtual reality better with new lenses that will work with a handful of virtual reality headsets.

Valve, the developers of Steam and partners that helped make the HTC Vive VR headset a reality, revealed new lenses for SteamVR-compatible headsets in a press release obtained by Upload VR Monday. 

The lenses improve VR experiences on both OLED and LCD headsets. Hardware developers will be able to augment their headsets with them with the help of accompanying calibration and manufacturing tools.

In the press release, Valve doesn’t specify exactly which headsets the lenses will be compatible with (although it’s pretty likely they’d work with the HTC Vive considering they helped make it), but they shed a little light on exactly what kind of improvements the lenses will bring:

The lenses, which are designed to support the next generation of room-scale virtual reality, optimize the user’s perceived tracking experience and image sharpness while reducing stray light. Valve is including the custom lens calibration and correction software within the SteamVR technology suite. 

Basically, the lenses will make everything look better and move more smoothly, which is really all we can ask for.

Valve didn’t specifically mention whether the lenses would be available to purchase commercially for headset owners to upgrade their own headsets, and has not responded to a request for clarification.

At the very least, the lenses will be available to Steam partners and people who have SteamVR Tracking licenses (which you can apply to get through the SteamVR partner website). The licenses are free, you just have to buy or supply your own headset for testing and tinkering.

This is part of a larger move from Valve to make better VR experiences more accessible to more users and developers. Earlier this year, Valve partnered with Microsoft to allow Steam games to run on its mixed reality headsets, and Valve gives developers free reference to its design for the Watchman tracking module. 

With this semi-free flow of ideas and hardware, VR may make some pretty big strides in terms of quality in the coming years.

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