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Valve's weird, old VR headsets are on display at GDC

A rare peek into a legendary program

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This week, Valve announced that it was partnering with HTC for the Vive headset, a virtual reality display that Valve co-founder Gabe Newell promised made "zero percent of people" motion sick. Very little was known about the Vive before release, but Valve's virtual reality prototypes have been something of a legend in the VR community — especially the "VR room," a room covered in barcodes that created a precise location-tracking system.

While it wasn't as exciting as the actual Vive, Valve had a few pieces of its history on display at the 2015 Game Developers Conference. Turns out it took a lot of experimentation to get from barcodes to lasers.

Valve VR timeline


Valve's first efforts at motion tracking involved putting QR code-like tags all over a room's walls; a camera on the headset read the codes, got a precise location, and moved the wearer accordingly.