Valve introduced the new VR headset kit, Valve Index, only one month ago. And said the preorders will begin from, May 1st, and will ship in June. Today, Valve is fully detailing the Index headset for the first time, and revealing exactly how much it will cost: $999.
The price seems to be relatively high according to today’s VR headset standards. In comparison, Facebook announced the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S to be shipped on May 21st for $399. But Valve says it will let you buy parts piecemeal if you need, which is good deal if you do not wish to buy the whole kit. And if you’ve already got a Vive or Vive Pro and / or don’t need the latest Knuckles controllers, you won’t necessarily need to spend that whole $999 to get started.
Get the best look yet of the Index headset at the Valve Index website.
Like the HTC Vive, which was co-designed with Valve, the Index will still be a tethered experience with a 5-meter cable that plugs into a gaming PC. It also uses the company’s laser-firing Lighthouse base stations to figure out where the headset is at any given time.
That’s how it lets you walk around a room worth of space in VR — up to a huge 10 x 10 meter room. Valve’s not using cameras for inside-out tracking; the company says the twin stereo RGB cameras here are designed for passthrough (letting you see the real world through the headset) and for the computer vision community.
Instead, Valve says the Index’s focus is on delivering the highest fidelity VR experience possible, meaning improved lenses, screens, and audio. In this case it actually includes a pair of 1440 x 1600-resolution RGB LCDs, rather than the higher-res OLED screens much of which the competition is already using. But Valve says its screens run faster — 120Hz, with an experimental 144Hz mode — and are better at combating the “screen door effect” and blurry when you move your head, persistence issues that first-gen VR headsets struggled with.
The Valve Index also has an IPD slider to adjust for the distance between your eyes and lenses that Valve says offer a 20-degree larger field of view than the HTC Vive “for typical users.”
Most interesting in Valve are the built-in headphone images shown on the website which aren’t actually headphones — but they’re speakers. And they are designed to not touch your ears, instead firing their sound toward your head. It is similar to how Microsoft’s HoloLens visors produce audio, which means that while people around you could theoretically hear what you’re doing, there’ll be less fiddling with the mechanism to get that audio aligned with your ears. They have also provided a 3.5mm headphone jack if you want to plug in your own headphones.
Another interesting part of the Valve Index is it can be purchased separately for $279. The Valve Index Controllers, formerly known as Knuckles, might be the most intuitive way to get your hands into VR yet. While a strap holds the controller to your hand, 87 sensors track the position of your hands and fingers and even how hard you’re pressing down.
Theoretically, you could easily reach, grab, and throw virtual objects with such a setup, something that wasn’t really possible with the HTC Vive or Oculus Touch controllers.
Here’s one gameplay example that Valve is showing off:
Source – Valve website
Another small improvement is the company’s Lighthouse base stations. Since they only use a single laser now, and no IR blinker, Valve says they play nicer with other IR devices, which mean you can turn on and off TV without needing to power off them first.
According to the reports by Polygon which got an early hands-on with the Valve Index, they say the Knuckles feel great, the optics are sharp, and that it may be the most comfortable way to wear a VR headset over a pair of glasses yet.
Polygon also further explained the $999 price point. They said, during Valve’s demonstration, a spokesperson said that Index is the sort of thing that is likely to appeal to a virtual reality enthusiast who (a) must have the latest thing and (b) enjoys sufficient disposable income to satisfy that desire. It’s an interesting contrast with Facebook’s strategy for Rift, which is pushing hard for the price tipping point when VR suddenly becomes a mass-market thing, like smartphones did a decade ago.
Get to know about pricing details of Valve Index kit on its official page.