Valve gives developers and hobbyists a peek behind the scenes of ‘The Lab’

valve the lab behind scenes steam
Over the course of its ongoing relationship with HTC, Valve has made no secret of its ambition to facilitate virtual reality development for independent studios and hobbyists. Now, the company has released a set of tools that should allow anyone with a capable rig to see what goes into a high-quality VR experience.

Valve has released The Lab Renderer as a free download for use with Unity 5.4. This package contains all the scripts, shaders, and source code used to create The Lab, a series of experimental experiences set in the Portal universe that illustrate the capabilities of VR tech.

The Lab Renderer was used to create all the experiences contained in The Lab, with the exception of Robot Repair, according to a blog post published by Valve’s Aaron Leiby. However, the package isn’t intended to be a replacement for the rendering features already available in Unity.

Instead, it’s meant to demonstrate just what can be done with the technology at this point in time. “We are shipping this for free to Unity developers as an example of how we think current-generation VR rendering can provide the highest-fidelity experience with the best performance,” Leiby wrote.

The features included span from an adaptive quality algorithm that can dynamically change rendering quality, to a single-pass forward rendering solution that allows developers to utilize MSAA — currently the preferred method of anti-aliasing for VR content. There’s also a GPU flushing technique intended to help improve performance.

Valve is supplying full source code and shader code so developers can chop and change various elements as they see fit. Given the relatively recent creation of many VR development techniques, access to these resources could give scores of greenhorns an opportunity to learn from experts working on the cutting edge.

The Lab Renderer is available for free via the Unity Asset Store.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

Nvidia introduces its eighth-generation ‘Turing’ design, but not in gaming cards

Nvidia revealed its new graphics chip design called “Turing” during SIGGRAPH 2018. Rumored to be the foundation of Nvidia’s next family of GeForce cards, the company instead showcased Turing in Quadro RTX-branded cards for pros.
Computing

Pricing and lack of content are still barriers against the adoption of VR

A recent survey questioned 595 VR and AR professionals about business growth in the consumer and enterprise markets. Only 24 percent report strong sales in the enterprise while 18 percent show strong sales in the consumer market.
Virtual Reality

Magic Leap One no longer asks for a leap of imagination. Here's how it works

The Magic Leap One AR headset is now available for a rather hefty price. Here's everything you need to know about the device including the price, where it can be purchased, the hardware powering Magic Leap's goggles and more.
Gaming

‘Hellblade’ comes to VR, free for those who own the game on Steam

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is already an incredibly immersive game, and it will become even more so when it comes to HTC Vive and Oculus Rift on July 31. The VR version will be free for those who own the game on Steam.
Virtual Reality

YouTube VR gets bolder with the Gear headset and communal experiences

Exploring the world through YouTube VR just got a little bit easier, or at least, a little more inclusive. On Wednesday, July 25, the video platform announced that its VR experience is coming to Samsung Gear VR.
Virtual Reality

HTC says ‘it takes time to launch a new technology,’ claims lead in VR revenue

HTC posted a response to a Digital Trends editorial charting VR headset sales on Amazon. The company said "it takes time to launch a new technology," and posted data showing it makes the most revenue among its peers.
Computing

Reality shines into your ‘Minecraft’ escape via Windows Mixed Reality Flashlight

What’s great about VR is that you can get the full building experience in Minecraft. The drawback is that you don’t have visual access to the real world without lifting or removing the headset. Microsoft has a fix for Windows.
Photography

Adobe’s next big software secret? An augmented reality tool called Project Aero

Itching to create an augmented reality object? Adobe will soon have software to help. Adobe recently teased Project Aero, an upcoming software that helps design AR objects, including support for Apple's ARKit.
Virtual Reality

Daydream VR users can browse with Google Chrome in virtual space

Tired of browsing the internet in boring regular reality? If you're a Daydream VR user, you no longer have to, as Google has just announced the ability to use Chrome from within your Daydream VR headset.
Computing

Magic Leap’s augmented reality interface floats wherever you want it

New screenshots of a potential user interface for the Magic Leap augmented reality headset give us a firmer grasp of what the AR world inside the goggles might actually look like during day-to-day use.
Mobile

Google Home too boring? You want Gatebox’s cute virtual character in your life

Want to share your life with a virtual character? Then your dream is closer to reality thanks to Gatebox. It will control your smart home, and the character that lives inside the Gatebox can recognize and interact with you.
Deals

The Google Daydream View, one of the best VR headsets, is now on sale for $30

If you own a compatible smartphone, the Google Daydream View is one of the best vVR headsets money can buy. If you've been looking to dip your toes into the world of VR, Verizon has slashed the price of the headset down to just $30.
Emerging Tech

IrisVision uses VR to help people with fading eyesight to see again

A smartphone-based VR system can now help people with severe macular degeneration see better. While it doesn’t cure blindness, it does enable users with this vision disorder to carry out tasks they would otherwise find impossible.