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Valve to reveal virtual reality prototype, big plans for Steam support

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If the Steam Controller and Steam Machine don't have you convinced that Valve's serious about getting into the gaming hardware business, how about throwing in a virtual reality headset as well? The company's Steam Dev Days event, scheduled for mid-January in Seattle, includes the tantalizing promise of debuting "a prototype which demonstrates ... what affordable Virtual Reality (VR) hardware will be capable of within a couple of years." A dedicated session about VR in general, and the kind of experiences this new hardware will make possible, will be hosted by Mike Abrash — who is already deeply involved with Valve's wearable computing efforts.

Abrash will be immediately followed by Joe Ludwig heading up a "Virtual Reality and Steam" session, wherein Valve will detail its plans to both support and promote VR gaming through the Steam store. The company behind the hallowed Half-Life series has already added support for Oculus Rift gameplay to Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, and Ludwig describes Valve's relationship with Oculus as friendly and collaborative. Still, much as with the Steam Machine itself, Valve appears unwilling to sit back and let all the hardware design be done by others. While Valve will only be showing off its prototype headset to a selection of developers and publishers, it does mark an effort to expand the VR development and support ecosystem.

Giving the Oculus Rift some healthy competition

Valve's prototyping efforts have been famously varied over the past couple of years, but whereas the company was talking about VR gaming in a speculative fashion this time last year, today it's heading up its talks with bold proclamations like "What VR Could, Should, and Almost Certainly Will Be within Two Years." If there's been one major change internally during that time, it's perhaps Valve's commitment to virtual reality — to the detriment of its augmented reality project, which spawned a splinter company to continue independent development — and we may soon be seeing the fruit of this renewed focus.