Last week, news that the PlayStation VR headset will only cost $400 was warmly received by consumers looking for a budget-friendly way to gain access to VR content. However, Sony isn’t the only company eager to serve that audience, as evidenced by comments made by Valve’s Alex Vlachos while speaking at the Game Developers Conference.
Vlachos announced that Valve is working on a plugin for Unity that makes rendering VR content more efficient, and in turn, less demanding of hardware resources. The plugin and its source code are set to be made publicly available in coming weeks, according to a report from Upload VR.
The benefit of the extra efficiency is that they might make it possible for older graphics cards to run VR content. According to Vlachos, Valve’s goal is to ensure that any GPU that can hit 45Hz is sufficient, which should help make this kind of tech a little more cost-effective.
The biggest barrier between players and VR experiences is the fact that most forms of the technology require an expensive headset as well as a potent computer. If the bar for the latter’s minimum specs is set a little lower, the cost of new hardware can be offset by less pressure to upgrade individual PC components.
Vlachos’ GDC talk also delved into other methods of reducing the hardware requirements of VR. One proposed technique prioritizes rendering detail in central areas of the screen, taking advantage of the way that players tend to direct their gaze while wearing a headset.
It’s clear that Valve is eager to remove any threat of Vive hardware being priced out of the nascent VR market. Sony’s aggressive pricing of PlayStation VR certainly seems to have ruffled some feathers — but it remains to be seen whether its technology can compete with more expensive competition.
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