Tag Archive | steamvr

The Valve/Oculus Layered Compositors (Magic Glue for VR)


UPDATE: The speculation didn’t last long. Valve has just released their OpenVR SDK which includes documentation for the Compositor. The actual implementation differs in some interesting ways, but the Use and Features section, below, is still a good summary of what Valve and Oculus are trying to achieve here. More details are at the end of this article.


INTRODUCTION

In March, Valve released a new concept into SteamVR called the VR Compositor. Like everything else at this point, the specification is not yet public. (So insert the standard speculative disclaimers here. If I flubbed something, please be forgiving, but let me know.) It shouldn’t be too hard for us to tease together what its function and purpose might be.

VR Compositor:

  • This is a new component of SteamVR that simplifies the process of adding VR support to an application.
  • Continues to draw an environment even if the application hangs.
  • Simplifies handing off from one application to another without full screen context changes by owning the window on the headset.

-Programmer Joe (Valve)

Let’s break that down a bit. The compositor grabs the VR display, owns it, and continues running. When a compositor-aware application wants to use the HMD, it goes to the compositor to request access to the HMD. The compositor hands a buffer to the application and tells the application to render into that buffer. Read More…

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…

Examining the Valve/HTC Vive Ecosystem: Basic Lighthouse Operation

Introduction

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already aware of the Valve/HTC partnership where HTC will manufacture the Vive, a virtual reality head mounted display, powered by Valve’s SteamVR platform.

As part of the reveal, one new piece of technology was introduced to the public: the Lighthouse. This is a brand-new-to-VR technology which will be used as part of a system to track the position and orientation of a user’s head mounted display and controllers throughout an entire room.

With Lighthouse, instead of using VR in a chair or standing in place, its room-scale VR feature allows you to use the space of an entire room as a stage to physically walk around in a virtual environment.

Valve Lighthouse

Image Source: Valve Lighthouse Slide from “Advanced VR Rendering” at GDC 2015

Disclaimer

This article is based on publicly available information. Be aware that we are trying to explain a system that is unreleased, subject to change, and has very little publicly available information. Some elements of this article may prove inaccurate at a later date.

With any complex system, there are many rules, details, and exceptions to explore. This first article is just going to cover the tech basics (but will still be plenty meaty for many). We’ll consider more detailed issues in later articles.

A Basic Operational Review

The purpose of this first article is to clear up some of the common misconceptions concerning the Lighthouse technology. It will also serve as a starting place for additional articles on Lighthouse and on the various aspects of the HTC/Valve partnership.

By understanding how this one component works, we can understand much more about what HTC and Vive are trying to deliver to consumers. They’re not just cranking out randomly incremental or independent technological solutions here; Valve is running a very deep and highly integrated game plan.

Read More…

Competitors with Different Goals: Valve versus Oculus

The recently announced HTC Vive looks to be a strong technology competitor against the highly anticipated consumer release from Oculus in the PC space. While Oculus has long-ago stated that they are working to deliver their consumer VR headset at a lower margin, possibly even at cost, HTC/Valve has announced their entry of a premium VR experience.

A Different Focus

What is overlooked by many is that while these two companies compete in VR hardware and software, their focus couldn’t be any more different. Read More…

Gabe Newell, the Killer App, and the Metaverse

Did you catch Geoff Keighley’s interview with Gabe Newell and Erik Johnson from Valve? The fact that they covered a very large number of virtual reality topics wasn’t so surprising. The interview was recorded at this year’s E3, the event where Valve revealed their partnership with HTC to manufacture the Vive (a head-mounted display as part of a new virtual reality platform).

There were a number of notable responses from Gabe concerning Valve and virtual reality. One Reddit user, gotta_ban_them_all, slaved five hours on a full transcript of the podcast.

Gabe Newell, image courtesy of Kotaku

Gabe Newell, image courtesy of Kotaku

At one point, Gabe talks about how there isn’t a yet a killer app for VR. But they believe that they’ve set the stage with hardware that is “good enough” where someone else will be able to put something out there, and people will recognize that as what people should be doing with VR.

This is similar to what John Carmack said in the Future of VR panel at Oculus Connect 2014. “It would be sad if Oculus made the killer app.” He and Palmer go onto say that not only would they be disappointed, but really, they think that scenario is unlikely. Read More…