Valve is working on a standalone VR headset to rival Oculus Quest

YouTuber Brad Lynch discovered multiple references to the new headset in SteamVR's file system.

Young adult Afro American woman using Virtual Reality headset with both hands holding it at night wi...
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A file hidden in SteamVR’s system files has revealed what might just be Valve’s next flagship project: a new virtual reality headset with built-in wireless functionality. YouTuber Brad Lynch found a handful of references to the device in his latest deep-dive of the SteamVR file system, and Ars Technica later confirmed with its own sources that the VR headset is, indeed, in development at Valve.

Little is known about the updated VR headset other than its code name, which is “Deckard,” a clear reference to Blade Runner protagonist Rick Deckard. The device is referenced under this name in Steam’s publicly available SteamVR file system all the way back in January of this year. It’s been sitting under our noses for quite some time.

Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner.Warner Bros./Moviepix/Getty Images

Valve has been working in the VR space for quite a while now, but its high-end hardware has struggled to find a foothold in a market dominated by entry-level standalone options. Deckard could be just the boost Valve needs to really dig its feet in.

A standalone device — The big news from Lynch’s investigation is a new proof-of-concept version of the headset, referenced as recently as June. The new version includes two new SteamVR menu options, “prism” and “standalone system layer.”

Truth be told, these words could mean anything at all. But the mention of “standalone” has been enough to send up some bright-colored flags. A standalone VR headset would be quite a departure from Valve’s Index hardware, which requires a wired connection to a high-powered PC for operation.

An Oculus competitor — The consumer VR market has changed a lot in the two years since Index was released. The overwhelming success of Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 has really pushed for products with low startup costs — one that can play games without any outside help. Now we’re seeing similarly low-overhead VR headsets popping up at every corner. VR has gone mainstream.

If Deckard ever does see a real release — which it may not, given Valve’s propensity for scrapping developmental products before they see the light of day — it probably won’t be for quite a while. Valve is full steam ahead on the Steam Deck’s release, right now, and early interest shows that one piece of hardware will keep the company plenty busy for the foreseeable future.