The Valve Index is a new high-fidelity VR headset from the people behind the Steam game store and video games like “Left 4 Dead” and “Half-Life.” The new headset, which hits in July for $499, features improved visual and audio fidelity and $279 controllers that can track individual finger movement.
Valve Software detailed the headset on Wednesday along with the knuckles controllers and a VR kit that will include controllers, headset and improved tracking base stations for $999. The headset and controllers are compatible with all Steam VR games and all of the items detailed will be sold individually and in various combinations when pre-orders open on Wednesday, the company said.
The Valve Index’s head-mounted display features two 1440×1600 custom LCD panels that make use of custom pixel layout designed to minimize the “screen-door effect” found in most displays by using 50% more subpixels than OLED displays.
Valve also says that the panels have a persistence of .330 milliseconds which improves the sharpness of images by as much as five times during motion.
The panels are paired with improved optics that feature a dual-element lens which Valve says both increases clarity of the LCD images and provides a field-of-view that is 20 degrees larger than the original Vive.
In designing the overall shape of the headset, Valve said it worked to add optical canting — essentially tilting the lens to better meet a users gaze — to the Vive Index which the company says allows the lenses to sit as close as possible to the eye. This both provides that increased FOV, but also makes for an experience that is literally easier on the eyes.
The headset delivers a 120Hz refresh rate, which the ability to jump it up for an experimental 144Hz refresh rate. That’s compared to the 90Hz found in the Vive. The headset will also be fully backward compatible with 90 Hz.
The Valve Index completely changed the way it delivers audio, both to increase the fidelity of sound, but also to make for a more comfortable experience.
The new headset now uses nearfield off-ear speakers, which essentially provide sound around your ear instead of into it. The change provides not just for an increase in comfort but much better spatial presence, according to Valve. The company calls it a more natural way to experience audio. It also has the added benefit of not needing to have anything touching or covering your ear while using it.
Noting that input is just as important as the head-mounted display, Valve also finally fully detailed its Knuckles controllers.
The Index Controllers, which strap to a user’s hands, look a bit like the hilt and guard of a sword with a disc on top that features three buttons, a depressed trackpad button, and a thumbstick. The underside of that disc of interfaces features a trigger. As if all of those buttons weren’t enough, the controller has embedded in it 87 sensors including optical, motion, capacitive, and force.
The controller’s design tracks individual finger and hand movement in real time, so players can use typical button pressing to play a game or simply use their hands and fingers in the virtual world like in the real world.
Valve notes that this is important not just for an increase in immersion and presence, but also in terms of long-term comfort.
The controllers’ 1100mAH Li-Ion batteries are charged via USB C and support 900mAH fast charging. Valve says they will last seven hours between charges.
The controllers and the Index headset will work with both first and second generation base stations.
Base Stations 2.0
The Vive Index is compatible with either the original base stations or the new base stations 2.0. The new base stations have a longer range, wider field of view and work with both the Index and the Vive Pro headsets.
They’ll cost $149 a pop. Or you can purchase the full VR kit, which comes with the Index headset, two controllers, and two base stations, for $999. A kit with just the headset and two controllers will cost $749.