The valve index is the latest VR headset and controllers from Valve. Now previously Valve partnered with HTC to make the Vive and the Vive pro headsets and the wand controllers which used Valves lighthouse tracking system but this new headset is made by Valve alone.
The tracking system for the headset and the controllers is the same Lighthouse system as used in the vive or vive pro and it is backwards compatible with the original lighthouse mk1 system that came with the original vive or the lighthouse mk2 which came with the vive pro.
The index is basically two different things the head mounted display and then the knuckle controllers which have been floating around in prototype for ages.
One great thing is that because the headset and the controllers all use the lighthouse system they are compatible with the existing Vive products and they will be selling all the bits separately. So if you have a Vive (like I do) and just want the new controllers those are available separately for 279 dollars. If you just wanted the headset to use with the old wand controllers and existing lighthouse setup you can do that and it's $500 for just the headset. You can also get the lighthouse 2 base stations separately but there isn't much difference in most cases to version 1 lighthouse (bigger rooms are supported I think)
They also offer the headset and the controllers in one package for $750 or if you want the full setup with lighthouse 2 base stations for $1000. The ability to upgrade piecemeal and compatibility with existing stuff is great, I really want the knuckle controllers but I'm not sure I'd want to buy the headset as I already have the wireless vive and I already have lighthouse mk1 stations. So being able to just get the bit I want is nice.
It features two 1440x1600 RGB LCD panels with 120hz refresh (and an experimental 144hz) over the ear built in headphones as I said it uses the existing lighthouse room scale tracking system.
The Knuckle controllers strap to your hands but leave your fingers free to grip and it senses finger movement and has a trigger button. They've replaced the big touch pad with a smaller vertical one and a thumbstick and a few buttons it's a bit more conventional and more like the rift's touch controllers but taken a step further.
It looks like a compelling upgrade with better resolution higher refresh rate some new controllers but with backwards compatibility so existing vive owners can upgrade piecemeal if they want. Pricewise I thing it's a little on the high end their major competition is going for the 400 dollar mark for their various products some of those are less powerful and feature more restricted tracking systems but still for someone coming in fresh 1000 dollars vs 400 is a bit of a jump.
There are a lot of VR systems coming up with the revamped Rift S the new standalone Rift Quest and a few other things floating around. VR is still a high end somewhat niche thing and it's interesting that the two major players seem to be going in opposite directions with Valve focussing on the higher end pc stuff and then Oculus pushing into the mobile space more and more. It's also interesting that Valve are pushing this one themselves rather than going with someone like HTC.
One other thing I've seen mentioned is Valve are promising a full VR game sometime later this year but details on it are absent except that it will presumably be tailored for the Index. Portal 3 vr maybe? Half Life 3 VR? Left 3 dead? One can dream
So I ordered the index controllers and after a bit of soul searching also the hmd and both arrived in the mail earlier today.
Fedex decided to just leave the box on my doorstep so I headed home at lunch time to retrieve it.
Installation was pretty easy just plug in the power connect the headset usb and displayport and away you go the controllers connect to the system via bluetooth and because I'd already got a vive and the lighthouse system was setup it worked right away.
I only had time to have a quick go but right away the differences were apparent the display is quite a bit sharper and the hmd feels a touch lighter it has a comfortable head strap similar to the advanced audio strap the vive had as an upgrade with solid back piece that cups the back of your head and a ratcheting tightening mechanism to keep it on. Lots of padding and an optional pad that goes on the back of the thing for different sized heads (I found I didn't need it). The increased refresh I enabled but didn't notice I think I've got it on 120Hz not the experimental 144 the thing is capable of. The cable setup is fairly light I'd been getting used to wireless vr on the vive so I was a little annoyed to have to go back to tethered but it's well setup I didn't have any tanling issues that the vives original cable was notorious for. I hope that they will perhaps offer an update for the vive wireless to support the index as it should be capable as it supported the vive pro although the increased frame rate may wreak that.
The controllers are pretty interesting you just shove your hands in and a strap grips across the back of your hand holding them on. There are various adjustments to get the fit right and once you have them on you don't have to hold them like the vive wands or the oculus touch controllers they are nice and securely attached to your hands and in my short playtest I didn't experience any discomfort. I'll have to try them with a hectic action game like beat saber to see if they stay attached when flailing but they have a wrist strap you can slip on to prevent them being hurled across the room.
The finger tracking is pretty impressive it uses what I believe is capacitance tracking to determine finger bend on all four fingers with the thumb bend being linked to the touch pad (still capacitive like the wands but now a vertical oval design rather than the big round one) it seems fairly accurate and isn't just a binary open closed sort of thing. It can also measure how much force you are gripping with to some degree.
To test the thing I ran up the free Aperture Hand Lab which has a short fun demo using the new hand presence with a portal theme. You go through a short set of interactions to show the capabilities so waving then high fiving then a game of rock paper scissors some hand shaking and a couple of other simple demos of the system. It's very brief not much more than a tech demo but it does show the possibilities that the new knuckle controllers offer.
All in all I'm tentatively impressed but will need to try it out some more to see if I've just wasted more money on vr nonsense