Valve goes virtual with promise of SteamVR

Valve is getting in on the virtual reality game. That’s a big deal – here’s why.

Valve will demo SteamVR hardware at GDC in San Francisco next week.

People know Valve Software for its all-hands-on-deck approach to video games.

In addition to creating successful games, such as Portal and Dota 2, the company also runs a popular online marketplace for games and has dabbled in the consoles with its PC-oriented Steam Machine. Chances are, if you game, Valve has helped make it happen in some way.

Now Valve is looking to the future of gaming. Valve announced it will be demoing a “previously unannounced” virtual reality headset called SteamVR at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) next week in San Francisco.

The news came with a new section on the Steam website that previously housed announcements about hardware ventures such as the Steam Machine. Valve didn’t give specs, a mock-up, or really any details about what this will look like, but it did have a call out for developers.

“With the introduction of SteamVR hardware, Valve is actively seeking VR content creators,” the website says.

This is just the latest in mysterious hardware ventures. In 2013, the company announced a “Steam Machine,” which would be a PC gaming experience but set up in the living room. It came with a specific operating system (SteamOS) and a specific controller (Steam Controller). The release on Steam Machines got bumped to 2015, and hasn’t been mentioned much since.

SteamVR could either mean Valve has abandoned those plans, or is bringing VR online as a part of a Steam entertainment system. The website adds that, at GDC, the company will also give demos of a “refined Steam Controller” and “new living room devices.” The title of the site indicates growth as well: “The Steam Universe is expanding.”

Virtual reality is one of the most-watched innovations in the tech world, with players ranging from Microsoft to Mattel, experimenting with technology that is being put in the hands of both advanced developers and kids in the toy aisle.

Gaming is one area the tech is expected to make a huge splash. Facebook-owned Oculus, with its pioneering headset Rift, is at the forefront, promising an immersive gaming environment. Sony is working on Project Morpheus, which could bring its bevy of games to the virtual world. And starting next week, Valve, another powerful player is about to also jump in the mix. Does this mark the true beginning of a new hardware era for Valve (and for that matter, technology companies in general)?

Let the games begin.

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