Valve is gearing up to release the Valve Index 2 codenamed Deckard, the next generation of the all-around great Valve Index PC VR headset. While information is sparse, here is all you need to know about the impending Valve Index 2.
What we will go over in this article:
No one officially knows the release date Valve has in mind for the Valve Index 2 (Project Deckard), nor do we have reliable rumors we can go off. The best we can guesstimate is based on three factors: (1) the cyclical time between headset announcements, (2) supply chain bottlenecks caused by Covid, and (3) Steam’s focus on the Steamdeck.
Headsets are usually announced two years apart. However, if this was the case, then we would already have an Index 2 announcement out, as Valve Index launched in 2019. At the same time, Valve is known to not follow industry trends, especially when it comes to hardware launches.
Additionally, as noted by Brandly Lynch, Valve supplies room-scale tracking API called Lighthouse VR headsets use. In updates to this tracking software, a headset codenamed “Deckard POC-A” in January 2021, “Deckard POC-C” in June 2021, and “Deckard Mini-D” in March 2022 was found in its compatibility. Note POC likely stands for proof of concept. The change in name to Deckard Mini-D could indicate that the Valve Index 2 is maturing and gearing up for a release.
Many other technology manufacturers have been affected by the supply chain bottlenecks caused by Covid and other factors. For example, Apple’s premium mixed reality headset, N301, is said to have been impacted by these supply chain complications.
The Steamdeck is a marvelous and industry-transforming device. With Steam’s focus on the Steamdeck, it is unlikely that they will cannibalize attention away from their handheld console onto an Index 2 in 2022.
This means that we could get an Index 2 announcement next year, likely during E3 2023 or Techtober 2023.
Pricing is speculative at this point. But it is likely Valve will be keeping the pricing premium for Index 2, which similarly must be reflected in its hardware and features.
So expect somewhere around $999. This is further based on Valve likely won’t be subsidizing Index 2 to increase sales.
While PC VR is still niche, a new Index 2 headset will have to compete with Meta’s upcoming Cambria headset and PlayStation’s VR2. It is therefore likely that we will see novel technologies that these two headsets offer to compete with them.
Standalone and wired PC VR
One of the divisive points of the Index was its lacking standalone feature. Some PC VR gamers didn’t mind, while others would have liked the choice of going wireless. As a result, and from a patent Valve filed in 2021, it is likely that we will see a similar solution to Index 2 that Oculus Quest has for both a tethered and wireless option.
Similarly, it is said that in standalone mode, Index 2 will be powered by the upcoming chipset and platform from Qualcomm and AMD APU for graphical processing.
Whereas Valve released a patent on “split rendering” – a technology where a compressed feed is sent to a device, similar to how Quest Link or Virtual Desktop work. All in all, Valve Index 2 will be a standalone and tethered PC VR headset.
It is unlikely that we will see any exclusive first-party VR games specifically for Index 2, as Steam doesn’t have a reputation for doing this. The reasoning is also grounded in that some games – such as Half-Life: Alyx is a SteamVR platform exclusive. When that is said, more first-party virtual reality games must be developed to cement Valve’s VR headsets.
With the coming release of PlayStation VR2 and its introduction of eye tracking and dynamic foveated rendering to VR gaming, we can expect Index 2 to deliver the same. The reason is that gamers will soon realize the profound graphical impact foveated rendering will have on VR games. While this also will assist Index 2’s performance in standalone/wireless mode.
Similarly, we will likely see a mix of capacitive buttons, thumb and finger detection, dynamic resistance triggers, and trackpads with haptic feedback. Additionally, we would like to see the innovations from their sadly discontinued Steam Controller in the mirroring of mouse and keyboard controls on a controller for the new Index 2 controllers.
Additionally, with the likely introduction of both a standalone and wired Index 2, we are likely to see integrated tracking cameras for the headset. So the headset both has an inside-out and outside-in tracking option.
The same goes for hand tracking as well. Since Meta rolled out their software update introducing hand tracking to Quest headsets, it would be neat with the Index 2 also would feature hand tracking to be seen more in VR games.
The Valve Index 2 needs to step up its resolution game together with its industry-leading 144Hz and 130° FoV. In this case, tech leaker Brad Lynch tweeted that Index 2 will have dual micro-OLED with a 4K resolution.
The reasoning goes back to the likely collaboration between display maker eMagin and Valve. Valve released a patent on an innovative 4K by 4K microOLED (uOLED) display with an incredibly small size delivering mind-blowingly dense pixels per inch. At the same time, eMagin developed a prototype display similar to Valve’s patented uOLED solution, which, on it, says “STEAMBOAT”. In an interview with eMagin’s CEO Andrew Scully, Bradly Lynch asked about this likely Steam collaboration, and Andrew neither confirmed nor denied the potential partnership. While nothing is substantiated, it seems Valve Index 2 will feature an extraordinary visual experience with the benefits of uOLED.
To keep size slim, weight low, and improved ergonomics, a Pancake optics design could be imminent as this optics type is becoming the industry standard amongst recently released VR headsets. Furthermore, the pancake lens stack also will dictate the design shape of Valve Index 2, making it adopt a skiing goggles design as seen on Pico 4 and Meta Quest Pro.
From SteamVR metrics, Valve Index, even after three years, is solidly placed at second place for market cap and sales to the Oculus/Meta Quest 2. It is therefore likely that Steam will keep pushing their VR hardware, capitalizing on their brand recognition, and link it further to their popular SteamVR platform.
All we can do now is wait for more information about the Valve Index 2, and see how new VR trends such as dynamic foveated rendering will shape the headset. And if it will gain a better standing against the ever-popular Quest 2.
Jakob Pii is Writer at VR Expert and currently lives in the UK. He started his career in VR gaming in 2015 and has stayed in XR since, from exposure therapy in VR to 360-degree video documentaries. He is fascinated by how emerging technologies change how we live, play and work.