Valve's Steam Deck is a great bit of gaming hardware, but can you strap it to your face? Not comfortably. So it's interesting to see a newly unveiled Valve patent for what appears to be a stand-alone VR headset. The device, codenamed Deckard after the character in Blade Runner, could be the firm's next hardware release.
As ever with patents, it's important to curb your enthusiasm: a patent filing may be an indication of a real product, but it can just as easily be something that the owner will decide not to go ahead with. But as it's three years since Valve's previous VR headset, the Valve Index, a new Valve VR device would be warmly welcomed by gamers and an interesting alternative to Sony's PSVR 2 and the still unconfirmed Apple AR/VR headset too.
What Deckard reveals about Valve's VR plans
In all honestly, not a lot: most of the patent bangs on about the head strap and how users can both tighten it and loosen it. Comfort is important, of course – the Index was criticised for feeling like you'd strapped a full wheelie bin to your head – but it's hardly exciting. However, as The Verge reports, YouTuber Brad Lynch has been hunting down Deckard data inside the latest SteamVR beta and it seems that the dev tools and other features for a new headset are already largely in place.
I'm not desperately over-reaching here. Last year, The Verge's Sean Hollister asked Valve whether the custom AMD-based processing unit of the Steam Deck would work in a standalone VR headset. "We're not ready to say anything about it," Valve's Greg Coomer replied. "But it would run well in that environment... it's very relevant to us and our future plans." The Steam Deck isn't optimised for VR, but Valve boss Gabe Newell told Edge magazine earlier this year that it's a "stepping stone" towards a high-spec standalone VR headset. "We're not really there yet," he added. Perhaps Valve is a lot closer now. I hope so.