LG today announced a new collaboration with Valve; much like HTC, LG is making a new VR headset utilizing Valve’s SteamVR platform. This headset will join the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as a third option for those seeking something at the higher-end of the VR spectrum.
The Virtual Reality space is still in its infancy, but it’s growing at its pace. Whilst Valve’s Gabe Newell has voiced some concern regarding the VR industry; the growth and effort from Valve and its partners have not slowed down.
Today’s announcement by LG at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is yet another step in making VR a more open industry.
LG’s prototype revealed at the GDC show floor relies on the same SteamVR tracking as HTC Vive. In fact, these two headsets are inter-compatible. It is, for example, possible to use the HTC Vive’s hand controllers in combination with the LG headset.
SteamVR is an open platform, and anyone can develop for it. This inter-compatibility between devices is what consumers have been demanding ever since the launch of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
As Valve and Oculus haven’t been able to create a solution for compatibility between their platforms; Valve is simply growing its platform with more devices.
This is also important when things move on to Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform. Microsoft intends to flood the market with cheaper VR headsets developed and sold by its army of OEMs. The strategy is similar to Valve’s, except Microsoft has more resources to pull the market towards itself.
However, there is a conflict: Windows Mixed Reality and SteamVR are not compatible with each other – not yet at least.
LG’s decision to go with Valve rather than Microsoft is noteworthy. It’s perhaps because LG wants to focus on the high-end of the market, rather than focusing on making VR affordable.
LG’s headset improves on top of the work established by HTC with the Vive headset.
There are two OLED panels – one for each eye – manufactured by LG running at a resolution of 1440 x 1280 each. That’s higher than the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. These panels have a 90Hz refresh rate, and an 110-degree field-of-view, which is again, higher than the HTC Vive.
LG will start shipping these headsets as dev kits to select developers by the end of this week. However, these dev kits are using standard OLED panels that LG manufactures for their other products. LG says that the final product will use custom OLED panels designed specifically for VR.
As far as the technology is concerned – it’s the standard SteamVR setup. There are base stations – much like the HTC Vive – that bombard an area with lasers which then get reflected. That’s how these headsets can precisely tell their location in 3D space.
LG’s hand controllers also look identical to HTC Vive’s but come with an extra button for the developers.
The LG headset is still a prototype – so much so that it doesn’t even have a name yet. LG isn’t committing to any roadmap or release dates for now. That’s fair – the folks at LG need to gather feedback and data from developers who will be testing these headsets over the course of next few weeks or months.
LG, however, has confirmed that the headset will be at a “similar price” as HTC Vive. How much effect the Oculus announcement has over that remains to be seen.