Today’s world of virtual reality is getting bigger by the year with numerous hardware and software technologies being dished out, such as the likes of full-body haptic suits to replicating natural wonders in the virtual world – VR is setting itself up as the next generation of technological digitalization. However, just as the future of VR is becoming all the more enticing, the present virtual reality experience is in itself already a joy to experience.
One of the latest and technologically-impressive VR platforms globally is the Valve Index created by Valve Corporation. It has made headlines for its accessibility, hardware, and software improvements over previous VR platforms. This article will discuss the Valve Index in 2022 and all the things you should know about the platform.
The Valve Index
The Valve Index was released in mid-2019 and gave way for a much more in-depth experience in the VR world. While sure you’re not going to be like the technicians at Ford experiencing virtual reality racing simulations, it’s still going to introduce you to the VR world in a much more impactful and comfortable way.
I'm in love!!! #vr #valveindex pic.twitter.com/CsJuQ3sPgI
— Z3R0exe – Hack The Planet (@Z3r0Official) January 28, 2021
If you compare the Valve Index to its nearest competitors, it still stands out with its display capabilities, knuckle controllers, wide-field of view, ergonomics, and active tracking of each individual finger. There’s no VR headset at the moment in the market that can come close to how the Valve Index performs.
What you can do with the Index
Now, if you’re thinking of grabbing an Index for your personal use or maybe even professional use, you might ask yourself what it can actually do? The most obvious answer would be gaming, as it is primarily made for that industry, but there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
You can use the Valve Index for professional use. If you are a software developer and would like to start developing virtual reality software, then grabbing the best platform available in the market would be a good call. Take, for example, VR software developers from Aloa.
The same can also be said for creative minds. With the active tracking of each individual finger that the Valve Index has, it’s no doubt a step-up when it comes to realizing the visions of creative minds onto a 3D space.
We’ve also mentioned before how Ford is applying virtual reality to their vehicle technicians. This certainly rings true to many specialized industries that are applying VR to their business concepts, but it’s not really accessible as of the moment.
However, if you want to start a project around the Valve Index and its hardware, you have that option. It’s not only accessible on the software part but also on hardware. The Valve Index features a moddable “Frunk” or front trunk, which is the front part of the headset. It includes a compartment for hardware to be connected to the headset, so if any tinkerers out there are interested in modding with hardware, they can definitely do so with the Valve Index.
Where to get a Valve Index?
Getting a Valve Index is a bit easier said than done. It’s only available in 30 countries, mostly in the US and EU but also available in Japan, Australia, Canada, and more. There is a complete list available on the website. However, if you search for Valve Index, you might directly get sent to the landing page of Steam, and it can be hard to navigate, so here’s a direct link to the full list.
You primarily can order from the Steam Website itself, and it’s highly recommended that you stick to that site. External areas such as Amazon can get you exposed to scalpers who jack up the price to insane levels. Keep in mind that the Valve Index is strictly priced at $999 (shipping fee included). Also, Steam doesn’t function like other eCommerce websites with carts and the like, so don’t expect to receive a cart abandonment email if you decide not to go through with your purchase or opt for another package instead.
For this article, we’ll be talking specifically about getting the full VR package to cover all of the most important setups that you need further into the article. But before that, some essential details for you to know after deciding to purchase. Once you’ve ordered, you’re promptly put into a “queue” for your hardware. If your Valve Index is ready-to-go, you will be sent an email from their email sales automation software asking for your payment and address details to ship your product finally.
Valve Index shipping
After you’re done with the entire process of purchasing your Index, you can proceed with actively tracking how long your shipping ought to take. Luckily, Steam has that as well, and you don’t need to transfer to third-party sites to check on your product. From the site, you can go to this link and view your tracking data and even purchase history if you want to take a look into everything you’ve spent on your account. You will have to wait within a week from your Valve Index being ready to ship until you receive a final check for your financial and address details. After that, all you have to do is wait until it comes knocking on your door.
Starting out with your Index
Once you’ve received your Index at your doorstep, it’s time to get ready for unpacking. The most long-awaited and exciting part of the journey. Ensure that everything looks good on the packaging once it arrives and inspect the box for any damages, just for safe measure. Start unpacking the box, and you’ll be met with the following:
- Base Stations
- Power Adaptors
- Power & Display Cabling
Get all of these parts situated in one clean spot to make sure that everything is accounted for and to ensure that you won’t accidentally damage or misplace important parts such as cabling and adaptors.
Setting up your Valve Index base station
Now, the first thing in your list of things to do is to set up your base station, which are the two square-like boxes that come along with the platform. But before that, make sure that you have a determined “play area” to install your base stations and also an area where you are sure that you won’t face any obstructions during use, such as walls, ceilings, and furniture.
Valve recommends your play area has the dimensions of at least 2m x 1.5m for your VR experience. If you are most likely to use the platform for sitting or standing up without any other movement, you would certainly require much less space. Now, going back to setting up your base stations, there is one crucial aspect that you need to remember when it comes to installing these – always make sure that they are centered. It’s most preferred to install these at your ceiling and tilt them facing downward towards your designated play area.
If you install them at knee height, then tilt them upward, centering around your play area as well. The base stations come alone with a wall-mount and brackets for easier installation. Make sure that the wires on the base station do not have to go through your play area for safety once you’ve started using the headset. For more details and even videos on setting up your base stations, take a look at this official guide by Valve in setting up your base stations.
Hooking it up
Hooking your Valve Index is relatively easy once you have your base stations all set up. You’re provided with everything that you need in the box when it comes to cabling and connecting. So first, you have to look through the cables that you have.
You should see the following:
- USB 3.0 Connector
- DisplayPort Connector
- 12v Power – Through The Provided Power Adaptor
It’s important to note that the cable to connect to your PC is almost 6 meters long, so it should give you enough leeway to provide a safe distance from other objects in your play area. Once installed, you can now go ahead and install SteamVR to your desktop and run it from there. SteamVR will basically help you set up your play area and configure your VR room setup. You will be given a certain amount of instructions ranging from placing your controllers on the floor to tracing the perimeter of your play area.
After this, you’re basically all set. Ready to go ahead and start with your VR experience. But the article’s not done yet. We’ll still be talking about some critical details on the headset and controller, as these will help you comfortably integrate with the platform.
The VR headset
The Valve Index headset is perfectly comfortable and accessible for any head size as it features a head strap that is quite similar to its predecessor – The Vive Deluxe Audio Strap, which was highly regarded as comfortable and ergonomically perfect. It also has a ratchet gear system to help with tightening the platform around your head. The material located around the gear from the facial interface to the rear cushion is microbial fabric which is very soft to touch.
If you find yourself having a smaller head that the ratchet gear wouldn’t suffice or would want to have your kid use the headset, then worry not as Valve has also provided a rear bumper pad to compensate, making the headset extremely accessible for anyone. The Valve Index also features a manual physical IPD adjustment which allows users to experiment with the spacing of the lenses that fits comfortably to the location of the eyes.
Basically, it allows you to put the lenses directly where your eyes are for a much more comfortable experience. As mentioned before, the headset also has extra space in the trunk of the Index, which allows users to modify and add additional peripherals or accessories to the Index itself.
The built-in headphones of the Valve Index are very soothing to the ears as it doesn’t necessarily touch the ears of the user but instead float near it to provide a much more leisurely experience. It is also an open-back design that makes air pass through the hardware. You won’t have much discomfort in having your ears heat up or sore in long play sessions.
The Valve Index also has a microphone that is of superb quality. This is highly important if you want to record videos while playing or simply talk with your friends during gaming sessions. You can still use your own headphones if you prefer, as the Valve Index also has a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack hidden in the front interface just next to the headset cable. You can even remove the built-in audio system by unscrewing them from the head strap.
Overall, the Valve Index doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the audio, and you can rest easy knowing that if you don’t like it, you’re still able to change to your preferred audio gear.
The Valve Index’s controller, otherwise known as the “knuckle controllers,” is unique in itself as they are firmly attached to your hand instead of just manual holding compared to other platforms. Even if you accidentally let go of your grip by chance, be it because of a jumpscare from playing video games, or you’re feeling lazy, and you don’t want to hold anything. You easily have that option without damaging your gear.
What’s great about the controllers is that they feature individual finger tracking giving users the ability to do a whole range of actions. It also has capacitive touch sensors which track the proximity of each of your fingers without having to touch the grip. Alongside this, the controllers also have a grip sensor. This allows users to “grip” on particular objects in-game and have excellent interactions with their environment.
The controller itself has a touchpad, thumb grip, and two buttons. The attached strap can easily adjust the controller near the thumb grip to accommodate the size of your hands. In addition, the controller has around 7hrs of battery life and can be charged through a supplied USB C cable.
Recommended VR apps and games to try
Now, you’ve got everything set, and you’re ready to start diving into the world of VR, but where to start? Well, you can easily browse Steam’s online catalog of VR-supported games and applications. They have an entire app and game libraries, and you can filter through the apps based on the types you want. If you wish to play VR adventure games, then go on ahead and pop that filter onto the search results, making it much more convenient to browse through possible choices.
If you want specific tools such as FPS stats, video players, or even web browsers to visit your favorite sites, you can do that through third-party applications that you can find in the steam store. Now, onto some recommendations that you should try out.
Half-Life Alyx is perhaps the most impressive AAA to come out for VR. It was specially catered for the Valve Index. You can even say that the Valve Index was made just for the game itself. An important addition to the Half-Life universe, one of the most acclaimed titles in gaming history, Half-Life Alyx revolutionizes the world of VR with its immersive environments, interactive gameplay elements, and memorable storylines.
What’s excellent about Half-Life Alyx is that the game already comes along with the Valve Index for free, so you’re not only buying for the Index but also an entire triple-A gaming experience. Starting your virtual experience with Half-Life Alyx is highly recommended.
For those that want to move and groove in virtual reality, Beat Saber is the top-tier solution for that itch. If you’re going to listen to music, exercise your hands, and face challenging levels. Beat Saber has all that in one package.
It has 126 total music packs from numerous artists and an active modding community for custom songs. It goes without saying that if you want to experience the entirety of what virtual reality games have to offer, beat saber is a must to grab.
Another app that you should consider using is VRChat. It’s a social media platform but in the world of virtual reality alongside custom avatars, interactable environments, modding, communities, and even personal worlds. VRChat is the place to go in terms of creativity as you can make your worlds (although this can require some technical expertise) and even create your own custom characters.
VRChat really is a great way to create or bond with communities and friends in real-time voice chat from all over the globe. It’s a fantastic VR multiplayer experience with high customization in all forms. Hell, even some users have managed to create and host an entire nightclub in VR.
General tips to remember
Do you have a phone charger? You can use that for charging your controllers! They’re even affected by quick charging, so if you’re in a pinch and forgot to charge your controllers but want to use the platform as soon as possible, then use your phone charger that supports quick charging.
Don’t use glasses
If you have bad eyesight, you might use your prescription glasses inside the headset, but it’s entirely best to avoid that thought. The reason being is that it can potentially scratch the Index or the lenses during rough play, and you might not even notice it at first.
Today, my #ValveIndex arrived. Two things I noticed:
A) VR is awesome. Incredible. I had absolutely no idea where I was in relation to the real world at times.
B) I am soooo incredibly out of shape. I was sweating after an hour of #HalfLifeAlyx. pic.twitter.com/jHlkPFhFUD
— Cifer (@teskariel) October 12, 2020
However, that doesn’t mean you need to suffer from poor eye conditions. You can still get prescription lenses from third-party manufacturers that can help with your eyesight problems.
If you’ve ever heard about the other famous platforms in VR, such as the oculus, you might have encountered the issue regarding privacy and data ethics concerns. This is an entirely valid point, and you should look up the privacy policies of the Valve Index first. Primarily, they do collect data on your desktop specifications and information about your environment for future research purposes on improving their product.
Note that if you use third-party software, their data policies might differ, so keep that in mind whenever you are using external software. If you’re using a third-party web browser and checking websites like High Desert Pure, then some of your data might be collected as well.
Never expose to sunlight
Always keep in mind where you place the headset as you might put it somewhere it can get in direct contact with sunlight. This is very dangerous for your Index as the heat can damage the lenses. Try to keep your Index at a safe spot, such as inside the box that comes along with it.
Overall, the world of VR is rapidly improving, and with more technologies being introduced by the day, you can even say that they’re growth hacking their way to access a broader range of markets in the future.
Grabbing your very own Valve Index might just be the headstart that you need to get accustomed to the world of virtual reality, as it surely will be an eventual norm in the near future.
YouTube: Maybe VR isn’t dead after all… – Valve Index Review (Linus Tech Tips)
Photo credit: The feature image is symbolic and has been prepared by Leika Production.This guest article has been submitted by Burkhard Berger. We appreciate all guest contributions but the opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of TechAcute.