NYT: Valve working on augmented-reality glasses

It’s no secret that Valve is quietly working on some kind of hardware project—the company’s latest job posting was quite direct about it. But what exactly is that project? The answer, believe it or not, may have come from the unlikeliest of places: a profile piece by the New York Times, which went up this past Saturday.

In the piece, New York Times reporter Nick Wingfield writes, “Now Valve executives think they may be onto the next big thing in games: wearable computing. The goggles I’m wearing — reminiscent of the ones Google recently unveiled to much hoopla — could unlock new game-playing opportunities. This technology could let players lose themselves inside a virtual reality and, eventually, blend games with their views of the physical world.”

Sound familiar? id Software tech guru John Carmack has also been experimenting with virtual-reality glasses. He demonstrated a VR-enabled version of Doom 3 BFG Edition to The Verge a few months ago, and he’s thrown his support behind an open-source VR hardware venture dubbed Occulus Rift. That venture went on to secure a whopping $2.44 million in Kickstarter funding—nearly 10 times the $250,000 goal.

Valve isn’t being quite as overt about its plans yet, but the Times story does reveal a fair bit. It brings up a recent Valve hire, inventor and chip designer Jeri Ellsworth, who “gave a tour of Valve’s hardware laboratory, proudly showing off 3-D printers, a laser cutter and other industrial tools used to cobble together hardware prototypes.” The story also quotes Michael Abrash, an industry veteran who worked on Doom and Quake at id. Abrash leads Valve’s wearable computing endeavor—reportedly the “most far-out hardware project” at the company—and he believes augmented-reality glasses may be “three to five years away.” According to Abrash, Valve isn’t sure whether it will mass-market glasses itself, but the company ultimately intends to “share its designs freely so other hardware companies can make glasses, too.”

In that job posting we saw last week, Valve said it was frustrated with the “lack of innovation” in PC hardware. “Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years,” the company lamented. Augmented-reality glasses could be a solution to that particular problem. I don’t doubt Valve has other projects simmering away in its hardware labs, though.

Comments closed
    • TurtlePerson2
    • 7 years ago

    I attended a panel at Quakecon with a Valve employee who told us that Valve was working on VR and AR systems. I didn’t think this was a secret.

    • gmskking
    • 7 years ago

    If it was up to Microsoft, we would all be using standard keyboard and mouse forever. I blame Microsoft. For everything.

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      I’m guessing Microsoft abused you as a child?

        • Grigory
        • 7 years ago

        It was his uncle in a penguin costume.

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      is this l33t’s alt account?

    • Silus
    • 7 years ago

    Cue the Valve fanboys that criticized every form or attempt with VR in the past, to praise Valve for its try!

    Virtual Reality CANNOT be intrusive or done using utensils that one uses/wears. That’s one of the reasons why people avoid 3D in the theaters and also why 3D without glasses has been pushed forward.
    Virtual Reality, in the only concept that makes sense and that will be popular (if it ever gets made), is the holo-deck. No more no less. Everything else will fail completely.

      • lilbuddhaman
      • 7 years ago

      From what Carmack said in his talks, we’re just not there YET with headsets, but we’re really close. Maybe Valve will get us there….

        • Duck
        • 7 years ago

        I predict VR headsets need some tiny little OLED 120Hz HD panels before it really takes off.

          • lilbuddhaman
          • 7 years ago

          Screw it, I’mma tape two Ipad 3’s to a cardboard box, make a headstrap setup and sell it for 50k a pop.

      • sschaem
      • 7 years ago

      Avoid 3D? A large number of movie goers prefer 3D, check the gross. 3D is massively profitable for one reason only : allot of people like go see movie in 3D.
      More like 2D, but this is not a democracy. if 52% dont like 3D… the other 48% dont have to be forced to go watch a movie in its 2D version.

      Freedom! And the same thing should happen with gaming. If you personally done like VR ? dont use it. simple ?
      If you think Valve , Id, Epic, etc.. are wasting their time, vote with your wallet dont play their products?

      Also, untill the holo-deck is created: people invented books, phonograph, BW TV, color TV, etc…
      Allot of people have to wear glasses to read book (paper or e-readers) and that haven’t stop them.
      “Man this is stupid.. I have to wear glasses to read a book? this is lame man, you wont catch me looking stupid, hell no. Where is my audio book ?”

      you could say books are still the ultimate form of virtual reality and we should have never bother with all the rest until we get a holodeck… But that a freaking stupid argument, isn’t it ?

      etc…

        • Silus
        • 7 years ago

        Wow, from me saying that VR isn’t going anywhere until a holo-deck exists, you assumed lots of things I didn’t even say…whatever, can’t be bothered…read what I wrote, not what I didn’t write…

        As for the 3D argument, no, people don’t like 3D. Sometimes they watch a movie in 3D because there’s no other version to watch, but the majority will complain about its problems. Most of the movies are also not filmed for 3D purposes and the “3D effect” is added in post-production. 3D is nothing but a gimmick to raise ticket prices. Only a handful of movies out of hundreds, actually use 3D to enhance the viewers experience.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          [quote<]the majority will complain about its problems[/quote<] Citation needed. 3D has been a huge money maker to Hollywood because people are choosing 3D over 2D.

            • lilbuddhaman
            • 7 years ago

            They’re choosing the 7pm showing on the main good screen over the 2pm showing on the small corner screen.

            • Silus
            • 7 years ago

            Precisely!

      • Sahrin
      • 7 years ago

      > That’s one of the reasons why people avoid 3D in the theaters

      I love how when someone opposes something they sometimes invent new facts to match their version of events.

        • Silus
        • 7 years ago

        Go ahead, prove me wrong then. I’m a regular movie goer and I know what I’m talking about.
        People don’t like 3D. Sometimes they watch it because there’s no other version to watch. But the majority complains about the glasses and the problems it causes for some people, even if it’s just making the image darker. Not to mention that most movies don’t even use it to enhance the experience. It’s just “phoned in” 3D i.e. the movie wasn’t filmed thinking about 3D…it was just a post processing thing.

          • Liron
          • 7 years ago

          “People” love 3D. They stood in huge lines to watch 5-minute pseudo movies in Disney World before 3D movies made a comeback. If people complain about the darkened image it’s because your theater is too cheap to increase the brightness to the levels recommended for 3D viewing and/or they’re using a poor 3D system, like Dolby. Of course people are disappointed when the movie is not really 3D and they used the post-processing trick, but that is because they love 3D, not because they dislike it, and the post processing method is not enough like real 3D for them.

          In the multiplex I go to, the 3D screen is not bigger than any of the other screens and it has the same showings (roughly) and it -always- sells out first.

            • Silus
            • 7 years ago

            As was already mentioned, people go to 3D viewings because they have no other choice! There’s either no 2D screening at all, or they are relegated to very small rooms with a small screen…They don’t “love” it”…they just have no other option…

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Valve Time…

    Believe it when you see it folks.

    Sorta be funny if Valve actually comes up with something like this that works when the US army spent hundreds of millions on the land warrior program and nothing really came of that.

      • just brew it!
      • 7 years ago

      Getting glitch-free low-latency head tracking is tricky even in a controlled environment (like, say, inside a vehicle). Getting it to work for someone running around on foot is even harder.

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        EXCUSES ARE FOR LOSERS. WINNERS JUST DO IT.

    • Kaleid
    • 7 years ago

    “My vision is augmented”

    • liquidsquid
    • 7 years ago

    Anyone see that commercial where Sonic-like coins show up all over the neighborhood and the kids start running to gather them? Obesity problem solved. That looks like so much fun that you may have a little trouble getting the kids back inside.

    Now DOOM in your tract? Capture the flag, virtual in a field with tactical maneuvering and deployment? OMG that would be a riot!

      • khands
      • 7 years ago

      Imagine all the people running into each other and the incredibly high motor vehicle/pedestrian accident rate spike immediately after release.

        • SoM
        • 7 years ago

        was gonna say about the car accidents, but you know, at least that would rid the world of alot of idiots

          • khands
          • 7 years ago

          Just helping darwinism out a little bit 🙂

    • luipugs
    • 7 years ago

    While reading the piece I thought that they were working on the Oculus Rift, but I guess it’s a different VR headset?

      • Arclight
      • 7 years ago

      Augmented reality:
      [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality[/url<] Virtual reality: [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality[/url<] Tl:dr Virtual reality completly recreats a the "world" while augmented reality only enhances the real world.

    • Arclight
    • 7 years ago

    Regarding augmented reality – can you imagine a fps game within the confinements of your living room? I certainly don’t find that exciting.

    Regarding VR, how will they counter cybersickness?

    Note:

    [quote<]Cybersickness is a term to describe motion sickness experienced by users of head-steered Virtual Reality systems. In a typical Virtual Environment, users often view moving scenes while they remain physically stationary. This situation can cause a compelling sense of self motion. Examples of cybersickness symptoms include nausea, eye strain,and dizziness.[/quote<]

      • Applecrusher
      • 7 years ago

      I imagine the first wave of games to be like time crysis…

      You would get to use your couch as cover and shoot up all the badies in the book case.

      I am truely curious how they would implement games where you would need to walk around… Maybe just have us sit in a chair with a Wii mote nunchuck like thing for walking?

        • Arclight
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]You would get to use your couch as cover and shoot up all the badies in the book case.[/quote<] Srsly? That game could only entertain a kid. Screw dat. The only place it would work would be a new age arcade with a big indoor room with all kinds of objects that could be used with the augmented reality. Think indoor paintball only that the weapons and "player skins" are all augmented.....

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]can you imagine a fps game within the confinements of your living room? I certainly don't find that exciting.[/quote<] I think Gabe is encouraging you to build a blanket fortress.

        • travbrad
        • 7 years ago

        Does Blanket Fortress have HATS?

          • Chrispy_
          • 7 years ago

          Blanket Fortress warfare 101:

          [quote<]All cadets must strap a pillow to their head using the regulation standard belt-under-the-chin. Any cadet participating in a live fire excercise without headgear will face a court-martial and a possible dishonourable discharge[/quote<]

      • Grigory
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]Regarding VR, how will they counter cybersickness?[/quote<] Virtual barf bags?

      • Phishy714
      • 7 years ago

      [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg8Bh5iI2WY[/url<] Skip to 9:30

        • atryus28
        • 7 years ago

        That is pretty cool. I think the fact of getting shot and it actually hurting is a VERY good idea. It will make people realize what it really means to be in war. If you want realism then having it actually hurt when you get shot will make you a better player a minimum and respect war and guns a little more.

        • Arclight
        • 7 years ago

        That’s neither VR nor augmented reality. It just replaces monitor screens with projectors. The only cool thing was that gun. The omnidirectional tredmill though……have fun using that system for online gaming. Just think walking the distance of a BF 3 map…..or using vehicles. Yeaaaah, thanks but no thanks. Notice i haven’t said anything yet about price….which would be ridiculous, not to mention you need a whole room dedicated just for that. This is impractical on so many levels, plus subpar visually compared to VR, which would be far more immersive.

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 7 years ago

      I think augmented reality games would be more akin to running from zombies chasing you to exercise. The zombie is right behind you. You can hear him in your earbuds, you turn and he’s right there, swinging. You feel the vibration, perhaps in a buzz in some part of the glasses, etc. So you run faster. Then you want to improve your stride, so you start dodging clawing hands of zombies trying to bust out of the ground to get you. After you run past, you hear them erupt from the earth and you turn your head to see they’ve joined in.

      Or you look at someone and you see their avatar instead of themselves. You take out some kind of bluetooth/wireless peripheral and sword fight (like when you were kids with cardboard tubes) and as you fight, you can see a life meter next to your opponent in your display. Etc. Then there are the practical applications, of course. You see road signs digitally, you see stop lights in advance of you’re getting to them, you see traffic congestions of multiple routes automatically displayed in your view as you drive, you see the overall congestion of your local McDonalds as you approach, you see digital signs of different restaurants nearby and directions to each without having to dig around for a smartphone in your pocket.

      For gaming, imho Oculus is more interesting to me in that it’s going to be cheaper and an alternative to buying something like Eyefinity/nVSurround. Plus, I suspect it’ll be a whole lot easier on the system requirements than Eyefinity or nVSurround due mostly to the resolution of the panels probably being lower than most displays we’re accustomed to using. When it’s right next to your eye, it probably won’t matter so much.

      I think Augmented Reality will have its day, but I think that day is a lot farther away than these initiatives seem to imply. And I happen to think, sadly, it’ll have to be Apple who really puts out some shades that do AR justice and I’m not sure if the new Jobs-less Apple has the imagination and courage to make that happen. It takes courage to thumb your nose at convention and redefine the way things work. Jobs could make that happen because he was in complete control of Apple and he could make a decision to focus on the iPhone where another exec might have stuck with the safe bet. He was the rare hybrid of artist and executive and Tim Cook is not him. And using three men to replace one Jobs is still leaving the “not product guy” Tim Cook in charge of letting the design guy Ives run amok. How many AppleTV’s or MobileMe’s or Ping’s will Cook let the crazy people at Apple do before they stop trying crazy things, swinging for the fences, and instead stick to what they know works? Two? Five? Ten? That’s how long Apple has before they turn into MS. Looking at their treatment of the Apple stores and how they are turning them into mini-Best Buy’s with employees being taught the importance of replacement plans, I suspect it’s not going to take very long.

      Other than Apple, I’m not sure who else can make this kind of thing work. Google hasn’t done enough with Android to make me think they’re capable of more than aping others’ designs, so I don’t think they can really make the glasses work on their own. MS is just not the company they once were. Kinect is sad compared what the technology is actually capable of, so I doubt they could do much with glasses with AR even if they had the inclination to do anything.

      Who else is left to shape such a technology? Valve, the undisciplined company that can’t release a third title to any franchise they have? Valve, the company that supported that force feedback orb and the magnetic PS3 Move-like controller by Razer? Valve’s hardware initiatives are usually failures. In fact, I can’t think of one that’s actually succeeded.

      Oculus has the best chance of success and they only have peripheral connection to it. Eh, Valve won’t be the one to make AR work. So it has to be Google or Apple and I’m not sure either company has the imagination reserves to do it.

        • Arclight
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]I think augmented reality games would be more akin to running from zombies chasing you to exercise. The zombie is right behind you. You can hear him in your earbuds, you turn and he's right there, swinging. You feel the vibration, perhaps in a buzz in some part of the glasses, etc. So you run faster. Then you want to improve your stride, so you start dodging clawing hands of zombies trying to bust out of the ground to get you. After you run past, you hear them erupt from the earth and you turn your head to see they've joined in. [/quote<] Would you trust yourself to do that on the street? In the school court yard? Would you trust your future kids to run around with AR glasses that could distract them on the road home from school let's say and not pay attention to traffic? No my friend, this tech needs and has to be used in a controlled evironment, meaning indoors. Also to run around and dodge zombies you need a lot of indoor space that average Joe doesn't have. Thus the indoor space is futhur reduced to an average livingroom. It has to be if the gaming aplication of the device wants to become mainstream. So now, what kind of "cool" games do you think you can have in the living room? Imo only the kind that would satify kids or people that do not qualify as hardcore gamers, hell not even as normal gamers....just casual players like your mom and dad. So yeah, thanks but no thanks. VR is the only hope left for big shifts in gaming gear.......but as it is now it still lacks a few features (like high def screens, high refresh rate, etc) plus they are still soul searching for the best input devices to be used with the VR glasses...we are still a long way from the next big thing in gaming. I'd rather have devs go back to offering decent support for their sh*tty PC ports or bland crossplatform games. I mean check this out: [url<]https://techreport.com/news/23544/couch-friendly-big-picture-ui-comes-to-steam[/url<] "You could bring even your mouse and keyboard if you like. But oh well f*ck that, it was designed for a console controller anyhow" I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

        • travbrad
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]I think augmented reality games would be more akin to running from zombies chasing you to exercise.[/quote<] Have you been playing [url=http://lifehacker.com/5892625/zombies-run-turns-your-exercise-routine-into-a-game-of-survival<]Zombies, Run![/url<] ?

      • sschaem
      • 7 years ago

      People also get sick in the passenger side or a car for the same reason. This is not cybersickness, its motion sickness.

      Unless we all play rollercoaster games, this is not an issue.

      The issue that will persist is focus… (lag should be solved, the #1 motion source of sickness)

      And, I can tell you that you greatly under estimate the technology.
      A second generation VR headset will be mind blowing,

      • bhassel
      • 7 years ago

      [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galvanic_vestibular_stimulation[/url<]

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