#137: Joe Ludwig on the HTC Vive & Valve’s SteamVR, OpenVR, & Lighthouse

Joe_LudwigJoe Ludwig is on the VR team at Valve, and was part of the original group with Michael Abrash that initiated the experiments into virtual reality and wearable technologies at Valve around January 2012. Joe says that Valve’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the gatekeepers in VR, and to foster a more open ecosystem like PC gaming. While Valve would love if VR developers use Steam to distribute their VR apps and experiences, there’s no requirement that force Vive developers to distribute only via Steam.

Joe talks about the different terms that Valve uses to describe their VR initiatives and products:

  • SteamVR is the umbrella term for all of Valve’s VR efforts.
  • OpenVR is the API, SDK and runtime that “allows access to VR hardware from multiple vendors without requiring that applications have specific knowledge of the hardware they are targeting.”
  • HTC Vive is the virtual reality head-mounted display
  • And the Lighthouse technology is the tracking solution that they hope becomes an open standard for tracking

Joe says that will not be a lot of time between Vive’s developer edition and the consumer release, and so his expectation is that most of the developers not initially selected will not be able to start developing on the Vive until the consumer release comes out in the Winter of 2015.

Some of the other topics covered by Joe include:

  • SteamVR Plugin for Unity
  • Valve’s goal is to eliminate the gatekeepers in VR to make it more open like PC gaming
  • Developers will not be forced to distribute their VR apps via Steam
  • Best-case scenario for Lighthouse is to open it up, and have other hardware manufacturers start to have it available in public spaces.
  • Some challenges for large spaces with Lighthouse
  • The Demo Room at #SteamDevDays and how Valve worked over the past year to turn that into the Vive product
  • Michael Abrash and a few other people at Valve started working on wearable displays around January 2012
  • Place Illusion & Plausibility Illusion within VR. “The VR Giggle”
  • Some of the more popular Vive VR demos: Job Simulator, Tilt Brush, Google Earth demo
  • Application process for Vive dev kits. Not much time between the developer edition and the consumer release, and so that their expectation is that most of the other developers will start with the consumer release.
  • Everything that Valve builds is iterated on with monitored play tests, and so that’s their hardware QA strategy
  • Joe is looking forward to being places that he can’t be and do it with other people and going through rich and adventurous experiences
  • Joe hopes that interactions between humans will become more positive with VR and that it’ll change online behavior because it’ll communicate more of our humanity

More information about applying for a Vive dev kit can be found here.

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