After months of speculation, Valve has finally officially confirmed a new VR headset called Index that bears the company’s own name and will presumably be a first-party product. A teaser image for the headset may indicate a release date of May.
A new page posted to Valve’s Steam website revealed the Index headset today; only a photo with the text “May 2019” is shown. We expect that May would be the release month, but it could also just be the month that the company provides a full reveal of the headset.
From the photo we can infer a few things. First, the angle of the headset prominently shows a hardware IPD adjustment on the bottom of the headset, and we’d be surprised if this wasn’t specifically chosen to highlight the fixed IPD of the Rift S. Second, faint cricles on the underside of the headset are the signature mark of IR-transparent plastic which would indicate that the headset will be compatible with Valve’s outside-in SteamVR Tracking tech. The cameras clearly seen on the front of the device may indicate that the headset will also, optionally, support inside-out tracking. Either that or they could be used for passthrough video, controllerless hand-tracking, or AR.
From the photo we also see that the headset itself prominently bears ‘Valve’ branding. This is significant because it suggests that Valve will be manufacturing this headset itself, a departure from its prior VR R&D efforts which had tapped HTC to handle hardware manufacturing (which became HTC’s own ‘Vive’ brand).
And last but not least, the “Upgrade your experience” tagline in the photo suggests that this isn’t a dev kit, but rather a full-on consumer product. It seems quite likely that the Index headset will be shipped with Valve’s next-gen Knuckles controllers, which the company has been much more public about.
The reveal today ends months of rumors swirling around the company’s hardware plans, and confirms the legitimacy of photos of the headset leaked back in November of 2018.
Thus, those photos may give us some hints about what else to expect from the headset come May, unless the design has changed significantly in the months since they were taken. From the photos, we can expect a headset with built-in over-ear headphones and a rigid head-mount with an overhead strap.
We would certainly expect higher resolution panels than the original Vive, but exactly how high is anyone’s guess, though at least matching the Vive Pro’s 1,400 × 1,600 per-eye displays seems likely. What appears to be larger lenses could also indicate a wider field of view, but there’s really no telling at this point.
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