Valve Index VR Kit — a new approach to virtual reality
Every manufacturer of computer equipment strives to move into the field of VR, and if a company works in the field of games, then it simply has no other choice. Therefore, neither the announcement nor the presentation of the helmet and virtual reality accessories from Valve surprised anyone. The company has created, in fact, a means, and the ultimate goal falls on the shoulders of developers who seek to present their product on the Steam platform. Valve has done everything to ensure that developers adapt VR games specifically to their developments. Do they do it? While reluctant.
So it turns out that Valve’s virtual reality helmet offers excellent technical characteristics, which may be in vain without the support of developers. For example, Index controllers are a very interesting device that suffers from the fact that not all games have support for it. But let’s look at everything in more detail.
Source: Road to VR
Index can be safely called the standard of technical performance among VR helmets. That means it does better than the HTC Vive Pro, which should tell you enough. The screen resolution is 2880×1600, which is 1440×1600 per eye, which is the same resolution we saw on the Vive Pro. The frequency is 90Hz. And despite the fact that HTC offers the same indicators in these parameters, the Index is somewhat more affordable at the price.
There are also key differences that distinguish the Valve helmet from many competitors. And you can appreciate them by wearing the helmet itself. And we will try to simply describe what Index is.
Instead of AMOLED displays, the Index has RGB LCD panels. This is done not at all to reduce the cost, as it might seem at first, but in order to achieve a smoother image using subpixels.
It turns out that the screen is slightly less saturated than AMOLED. This is especially noticeable in the shadows and in general in dark locations. But the sharpness that LCD gives you still wins in VR, especially when it comes to games with a lot of text.
The field of view also recedes from 110 degrees, which became standard with the advent of the Oculus Rift and continued on VR sets from HTC and so on. Yes, you get used to it pretty quickly, and the brain even begins to ignore the black borders. But the Index is taking on a new standard, around 130 degrees, depending on how tight the helmet is on. And it’s definitely noticeable, especially when viewed along the vertical axis.
Of course, this is not the standard field of view of the human eye, but the expansion is still significant and allows you to make interesting predictions.
Loudspeakers are also given enough attention. Headphones are fine, but the comfort of the speakers still cannot be underestimated. Plus, Valve explains its decision by the realism of the sound from the speaker, the brain perceives them as coming from different sides of the environment.
They work great, with high sound quality and are quite close to the ears, which is different from the standard solution. At full volume, the Index literally deafens, but blocks out extraneous noise. There is also a minus, but not for the player, but for his neighbors.
Index is very pleasantly held on the head, it can be safely called comfortable. It was with this characteristic that even HTC could not cope in any way. The design is based on a soft landing and is closer to Oculus than Vive. The front panel, as well as the back, are covered with a material similar to microfiber. It feels nicer and hygienically, and seems to absorb moisture quite well.
Another parameter that affects the ease of use of the helmet is the wires. In this case, the solution chosen for Index is much more elegant and logical than the competition. Instead of a large control box with inputs like on the HTC Vive, the Vive Pro simplified this design, but it was still far from perfect.
Less ports were left on the Index, and they were placed more rationally. The box still remains, but it is rather concise. We can say that in this regard, the Index is between Oculus and HTC, where Oculus is most convenient, and Vive is too bulky.
Apparently, the Index controllers were the most radical solution. If they take root, they will take root radically and, most likely, will be adopted by the rest. But will they survive?
You definitely need to get used to the controller. And it takes time and requires patience. Surely each of you is already accustomed to this or that alignment and the new one is perceived a little harder. Oculus and Vive, despite minor differences, work on a similar principle — the user holds the controller and presses the buttons, the location of which just varies.
Index is based on a different principle. They are designed to simulate picking up and throwing objects in a VR environment the way you would in real life. That is, the standard position in the game is an open palm. Instinct here complicates the task, since the palm tends to take the object that touches its surface. And this is the difficulty of interacting with the controller.
It’s even harder for the brain to accept the “quit” action, because you understand that in reality you have a physical object in your hand, and you must let go of it. Even despite the fact that it is fixed on the arm, this is not easy, because before it had to be done with a button.
The controller can also respond to finger movement. Thanks to special sensors, he repeats the movement of the fingers in the virtual world and reproduces it. So if you want to show something nasty to the enemy, you can definitely do it. The mere presence of the feature opens up interesting prospects for developers, but will they follow suit? Let’s see.
Valve is not forcing developers to support their unique controllers, the company is just waiting for it to happen. Because of this, the potential of controllers also suffers, because they could give a lot. In the meantime, users agree that there is nothing to do with them.
In principle, this is what this VR helmet looks like. Quite interesting, with good technical characteristics, and with a lot of untapped potential. Whether it will materialize remains to be seen.
I still cannot recommend this kit to everyone. If you’re already using a Valve MK set, this might be a smart decision, but you should only purchase the helmet. The helmet alone is really of much more interest than the whole set. It is comfortable, with a good image and an extended viewing angle. With powerful speakers and quality build.
But in order to purchase controllers, it is best to wait for support from some complex games, moreover, those that are worth it. Indeed, so far, surprisingly, few have paid due attention to the new functionality. And this can undermine even the brightest idea.
For now, of course, we can only closely monitor the further development of the VR market and culture. There are probably a lot of announcements and interesting new products ahead, so even the triumph of the Valve Index may turn out to be short-lived. Although we would like this helmet to still prove itself as it should and, as planned, give impetus to new developments.
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