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Valve’s Lighthouse as USB: Anything More than a Bunch of Spin?


This is the third article in a series on the Valve/HTC Vive Ecosystem. If you you need additional context, please begin with the first article in the series.


Quote from Gabe Newell's interview in The Nerdist Episode 306. Image source: unknown

Quote from Gabe Newell’s interview in The Nerdist Episode 306. Image source: unknown

Introduction

A famous quote from Gabe Newell is about a lesson that Valve learned early-on when dealing with the Internet. You can find it in Episode 306 of the Nerdist Podcast at 00:12:14.

Don’t ever, ever try to lie to the Internet because they will catch you. They will deconstruct your spin. The will remember everything you ever say for eternity. -Gabe Newell

At this year’s Game Developers Conference where Valve announced their Virtual Reality partnership with HTC, and at that time, Gabe made an incredible claim about the Lighthouse tracking technology:

So we’re gonna just give that away. What we want is for that to be like USB. It’s not some special secret sauce. It’s like everybody in the PC community will benefit if there’s this useful technology out there. -Gabe Newell (Valve)

The story which accompanies the interview describes Lighthouse as a way of providing infinite input solutions into Virtual Reality. “As long as tracking is there, anything can be brought into VR, like how USB ports enable you to plug (virtually) anything into your computer.”

What the Technology Brings

In the previous two articles, we’ve dug into the technology itself, and it supports what we’ve been told. Spend perhaps $100-150 for two of Valve’s Lighthouse units and mount them in opposite corners of the room. At that point, you can almost forget about them. But any enabled device that you bring into the room can take advantage of:

  • Rock-solid positional data with high precision and resolution
  • Rock-solid orientation data with high precision and resolution
  • Very low additional power use (passive sensors, undemanding electronics)

Read More…

A very cyberpunk future for tomorrow’s Metaverse?

Image Source: Unknown (multiple uses)

Image Source: Unknown (multiple uses)

In the Oculus Rift forum, I came across an interesting letter. It claimed to be written by someone who previously worked for Valve’s VR team. In it, he talks about the future of the Metaverse. It is unnerving how plausible his prediction plays out.

He believes that a combination of three things will take us in the wrong direction:

  • ┬áVirtual reality is a more engaging experience than other media types
  • The perception that “the pinnacle of VR is a gigantic shared MMORPG” (the Metaverse)
  • The ad-financed model that is pervasive in the online industry (because we want free services)

Is the Metaverse destined to be run by a companies that are trying to maximize your engagement and sell your attention to advertisers? Will they build a detailed profile personal based upon your every action (if only to enhance their ability to engage and advertise to you even better in the future)?

What would a Metaverse that is born out of today’s environment look like? You really need to read his perspective on the future of VR. Perhaps the Metaverse of tomorrow will be nothing but a treadmill to keep you hooked, advertised to, and recording/analyzing your responses to refine the process?