What is the Valve Index?
It's been quite a while since the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift and the PSVR have been released and the VR industry still continues in it's upward evolutionary climb through time. Several developments have come and gone but both Valve and Oculus continue to be in the forefront of this amazing technology. With Oculus-Facebook recently announcing their newest HMD, the Oculus Quest, Valve is of course not far behind.
Scheduled to be released around June this year Valve is coming up with its very own HMD, the Valve Index VR. Valve however hasn't been quite forthcoming with the details as much about the headset seem to be still shrouded in secrecy. Whether it be a marketing strategy or Valve is still in the process of development this has led to much online speculation about the headset.
However, with the current information that has been leaked online, VR users and game fans alike can somewhat expect a few things about the HMD with features which would no doubt be a step above the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift as Valve will have to present a VR headset that would be able to compete with it's current major competitors recent releases. Note however that anything can change at this point as Valve hasn't announced anything definitive as yet even the expected release date may even be tentative at best.
In order to stay competitive, the Valve Index will also have to use Inside Out tracking to eliminate the need for external cameras or laser tracking room scale sensors to track both HMD and Controller location. However, base stations have been mentioned in the information given which suggest a strong possibility that Valve would probably stick to its original room scale base station design or release a hybrid variant which could utilize both base and Inside Out tracking as well. Since the HMD itself is shown to have it's own camera(s), one can simply guess that these could either be used for tracking, as a pass through device to see the current environment or a combination again of both.
Again, based on the image of the HMD released by Valve, an adjustable lense control has been spotted on the unit itself. An inclusion of something like this would be an interesting development as most of the preceding high-end HMD's have dropped this feature for some time now. Also, the released image shows the use of a head strap and a couple of headphones built into the HMD's configuration as well.
There where a couple of connectors mentioned as well as spotted on the Index such as a USB port and a 1.2 display port. Controller wise, Valve has been working for some time now on it's knuckle controllers so using these for the Valve Index would be a very likely and advantageous prospect. The beauty of the knuckles is that it can be strapped to your hand allowing you to release hold of it. Grabbing it once again would be tantamount to grabbing an object or weapon in VR.
The released specs for the Valve Index suggests that the HMD will require a high-end PC with a minimum operating system of Windows 10. A memory of about 8GB and high end graphic cards like an AMD RX480 or NVIDIA 970, 1070 or better may be needed for the Index to operate. As for pricing, Valve hasn't released any information yet.
As to whether the Valve Index will operate as a stand alone, tethered or a hybrid variant of both, it will have to deliver a considerable advancement compared to it's current predecessor, the HTC Vive. Valve will have to attract third party VR content developers as well to take advantage of whatever new features and advances the new headset will be able to provide. Considering that Oculus has been making great strides with every new HMD release, Valve will have to come up with a new awesome way to provide VR experiences that can be maximized on it's own Steam VR platform. Being able to run apps and games that where intended for the Vive as well as new content specifically for it would definitely be a plus. After all, a possible VR version of the Steam Orange Box as well as the current cadre of existing games for the Vive would strengthen Valve Index in terms of marketability as well as Steam itself.
As of now, there is still no announcement as to what VR apps and games will be coming out with the headset except probably the drivers necessary for it to operate. Whatever Valve has in store for its users and the VR gaming community at large, as far as the Index goes, we shall definitely find out in the coming months.