As of its latest beta release, Valve’s SteamVR software can add floating desktop windows inside VR games, letting you keep an eye on other apps without leaving VR. It’s a helpful addition, allowing players to keep an eye on anything from Discord, to a Twitch chat, or Netflix during a lower-intensity game. Road to VR suggests you could even watch YouTube during longer flights in Elite Dangerous.
The ability to interact with the rest of your desktop from within SteamVR’s dashboard is not a new feature, but recently Valve has been making the system more flexible. Earlier this year it added the option to view individual application windows in the dashboard, and to be virtually attached to VR controllers ingame. This made apps viewable at a glance, but until now it lacked the ability to float windows persistently ingame.
Windows are view-only when the SteamVR menu is closed
With the latest release, you can still opt to have a window attached to your controller, or pull it off to have it float in virtual space. The windows are view-only while you’re actually playing a game, but you can open up the SteamVR menu to interact with them using a VR controller as a mouse pointer.
The new floating windows are available as of version 1.19.6 of SteamVR. This version of the software is currently available in beta, but it’s relatively easy to opt in via SteamVR’s properties window (accessible by right clicking it in your Steam games list). Despite all the new features being added to the VR platform, there’s still no sign of version 2.0 of SteamVR that Valve teased early last year.