It’s raining VR headsets these days and the big players are pushing out products in both old and new product segments. Valve is of course famous for its collaboration with HTC and the Vive. The two companies worked together to develop some pretty amazing technology, including the first practical commercial room-scale VR system.
While we eagerly anticipate the Vive Cosmos, Valve is launching their own headset without the HTC brand attached. It’s known as the Valve Index, and it’s up for pre-order right now, with deliveries shipping at the end of September. So Valve is ready to sell us a product, but what exactly makes the Index worth your hard-earned cash?
Putting Our Finger on the Index
The Index is a premium HMD that tethers to your computer. The full kit consists of the HMD ($499), the controllers($279) and the second-generation Base Station 2 ($149). You can buy this as a complete kit or mix and match parts as you need. For example, if you have the Vive or Vive Pro, you can use the new Valve Index controllers with it.
According to the product page, the Index is a next-gen high-fidelity HMD that pushed visual and audio quality in the VR space. Valve claims that when it comes to fidelity and ergonomics, the Index will be best in class. They’ve experimented with new pixel layouts, can push the refresh rate to 144Hz (with 120 being the norm) and promise the lowest display persistence seen so far. Five times less than first-gen HMDs like the Oculus. The optics and audio are similarly overkill, with a combination of several cutting-edge consumer technologies.
While the index has front-facing cameras for mixed reality applications, there is no explicit mention of inside-out tracking. Given that the Index relies on the Valve Base Stations, it seems they aren’t offering this functionality directly, but that developers can still use the hardware for this is they wanted to. Interestingly, the Index also has a USB-based front expansion slot. So upgrades and third-party mods are also on the table.
The new Index controllers are also deserve a special mention. These things seem like sci-fi right now. With enhanced sensors that use proximity to know where your fingers are. This makes it possible to use individual fingers for grip and gestures. It’s not quite the same as having dedicated VR gloves, but approximating some of that tech using a controller that you grip is amazing and much more convenient.
So to summarize, Valve is bringing us premium VR, with top-tier specs and next-generation controllers. The price is about the same as the previous generation of flagships and they are keeping it open so that other developers can mod it and use it for everything. That sounds good to us!