New Valve patent teases a possible wireless VR HMD with inside-out tracking

Valve's latest patents seem to signify that it has interest in developing a wireless version of the Index VR headset with self-contained tracking.

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If anyone has been making strides in the top end of what VR gaming and application can be, it’s Valve. Not only is the Valve Index one of the most powerful (albeit expensive) VR HMDs out there, but Valve’s absolutely stellar work on Half-Life: Alyx was a masterpiece of VR design and interactivity. It would seem Valve is not finished with innovations in the VR space, though. Recent patent filings seem to suggest that Valve would like to build a wireless version of the Index with inside-out tracking that eliminate the need for peripheral placed sensors.

The recent rumblings of Valve VR patents first appeared over on the Valve Index subreddit where links to several documents and images were shared. In the first, it seems as though Valve is pursuing the design and concept of a wireless VR headset. A further patent suggested that Valve is also pursuing new tracking technology that would eliminate the need for room sensors to be placed separate from the headset, making it a self-contained VR experience much like the Oculus Quest 2.

Valve's designs and diagrams suggest external HMD-mounted tracking devices alongside internal eye-tracking solutions to provide movement accuracy and interaction without peripheral sensors.
Valve's designs and diagrams suggest external HMD-mounted tracking devices alongside internal eye-tracking solutions to provide movement accuracy and interaction without peripheral sensors.

However, where the Oculus Quest 2 stores its tech in the display casing itself, the wireless Valve wants to place this gear behind the head.

"The back of the HMD may include a compartment having wireless transceivers, a battery, microphones, input/output devices, and/or other components to permit operation of the HMD," the patent reads.

This would redistribute a lot of the weight of the headset. Of course, one of our problems in the review of the Oculus Quest 2 was how front heavy it was (without a good strap built in to accommodate no less). That said, this new wireless Valve Index would also feature straps and a pad to balance things out and provide further head comfort to the overall device.

The original Valve Index was a stellar device, but featured the limitations that come with most HMDs of the time in which one had to establish a “VR room”. The Oculus Quest 2 offered an excellent solution to this with its inside-out tracking, but still isn’t perfect. If Valve were to marry its high quality with the self-contained features of the Quest, it could be one of the best things to happen to VR technology. Then, all that’s left to worry about is the price. Stay tuned as we continue to follow this story for further news and updates.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

From The Chatty
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      March 19, 2021 9:18 AM

      So in theory inside out tracking should be just as good as using external trackers, right? I guess it was just more complex and expensive before?

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        March 19, 2021 9:58 AM

        It takes time to develop the software to make it work. I would bet that Valve has been working on it for a long time and just didn't feel like it was ready when they started development on the Index.

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        March 19, 2021 12:57 PM

        A lot of it has to do with dead zones and algorithms to best guess where your controller is after the last time the headset saw it. I’m sure valve is coming up with something innovative there. The only one who has so far is oculus, and even so, I believe the game needs to be coded in a way to leverage that technology.

        Tracking with the lighthouse I would say is noticeably better than any inside out tracking I’ve used. Not to say inside out is bad, because it’s not at all. But the lighthouses are way more accurate, way more responsive, and you can position them in a way where you’ve got zero dead zone.

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          March 19, 2021 1:01 PM

          I 100% agree with your last paragraph. Quest is definitely good enough - it's a very good experience. But lighthouses are better accuracy and responsiveness hands down.

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        March 19, 2021 1:00 PM

        Inside-out tracking is much more technically complex to get as good an experience as mounted stations. It can be done and it'll become just as good. Biggest limitation right now is controller tracking when it's not in front of you

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        March 19, 2021 1:01 PM

        It's just as good as long as the cameras can see everything, and so sometimes it can be an issue tracking controllers in certain positions.

        For instance in a Star Wars game where you may hold a lightsaber down by your side for long enough for inertial tracking to start to drift.

        The headset it always fine unless you're actively covering the cameras.

        There are ways to mitigate any of this, it's just down to the cost of all your sensors and how much redundancy you think is really needed. Already things like the Quest offer a really good experience most of the time.

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      March 19, 2021 12:06 PM

      Cool! I'll take one.

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